By: Carmen Willings
As part of the Functional Vision Assessment, the Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments should assess the student's visual skills. These skills should be assessed after the assessment of the student's ocular skills, visual acuity and visual fields.
Assess the student's perceptual behaviors including depth perception, visual closure, visual discrimination, visual association, visual memory, visual sequencing, figure-ground discrimination, and spatial relationships. Observe spatial orientation including position of objects for viewing, ability to sequence objects and pictures, and ability to organize materials.
Observe how a student reaches for materials, grasps them, transports them, places them, releases them and imitates the movements) Observe the students depth perception and note if there is any overreaching, under reaching, figure-ground discrimination. Assess if the student uses eye-hand coordination to place puzzle pieces in inset puzzle or place objects where they belong. Also observe the student's travel abilities both indoors and outdoors.
Assess the student's abilities to visually search for and identify of objects, colors, and pictures. Observe the students reaction to the disappearance of objects, reaction to differences in objects, recognition of familiar objects, people, and pictures, and ability to discriminate colors. Observe how a student responds to gestures, details and demonstrations. Observe the student's ability to identify common objects, coins and pictures. Assess student's ability to match objects, colors, and pictures. Assess the students ability to locate landmarks and adapt to lighting changes.
Assess if the student orients toward faces or regards faces. Note if the student watches the speaker's eyes and mouth. Observe if the student will establish eye contact or respond with a smile when socially approached. Does the student recognize the caregiver or other familiar adults?
Simply asking a student to identify colors by name is not sufficient to determine his ability to distinguish among colors and shades. You may want to organize a set of cards that include lighter and darker shades of the same hue and ask the student to arrange them from lighter to darker shades or in families of related hues. It is also important to evaluate a student's ability to identify colors in real situations.
For students who are able to identify shapes, I like to use the Color Vision Testing Made Easy by Terrance Waggoner.
Observe whether a student can select an item by color or distinguish between associated colors in following directions in a primary workbook or reading graphs and pie charts in a textbook. For younger students, since many classroom activities depend on the ability to identify color, it is important to notify the classroom teacher, as well as the student, of any differences in color recognition, so tasks that are color dependent can be modified, such as working with a lab partner with normal color vision in chemistry experiments.
While the ability to match a set of colored objects may suggest intact color perception, a variety of different hues or saturation of the same color should be used to assess color vision. For this reason, several different sets of toys and materials should be used. Initially, ask the student to match highly contrasting colors to ensure that the student understands the task and has success between: red/green; red/brown; green/orange; blue/green; blue/yellow; green/yellow; and brown/orange/purple.
Accurate perception of color is important as many activities are oriented toward learning colors and using colors in coloring, drawing, labeling. Often reading materials are color oriented and accompanying workbook activities require accurate color perception. Color is often used to provide emphasis or to clarify instructions.
A student's handwriting abilities should also be assessed in the functional vision assessment. Handwriting can be particularly difficult for students with low vision because it requires hand-eye coordination in a sometimes uncomfortable working posture. Some students can write legibly but have difficulty reading their own handwriting; therefore, students should be asked to read material that they have written, especially material that has been written several days before and is no longer familiar. Tasks such as writing a letter to a friend, making a grocery list, or entering homework assignments on a daily schedule will reflect a student's handwriting skills. Students should be encouraged to select their own handwriting tools and paper, and the teacher should explore the efficiency of these and other options.
Use of Technology
Discuss the technology used by the student. What are the student's skills with keyboarding? What other types of technology does the student use? Include the student's ability to use other forms of technology, word processing, social networking and cell phones.
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Due to the nationwide shortage of vision professionals, it can be challenging to locate personnel. Announce a job vacancy on the Job Exchange of Teaching Students with Visual Impairments, an online listing of jobs specific to the visual impairment field.
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