Clinical Low Vision Specialist
By: Carmen Willings
Once a person has been diagnosed as having low vision by a primary eye care provider, he or she should be referred for a clinical low vision evaluation, as part of the overall multidisciplinary rehabilitation services, to review what, if any, optical and non-optical devices would be beneficial. Unlike the role of the medical eye care provider whose role is to maximize a person’s visual capabilities through all available medical, surgical, and optical means, the role of the clinical low vision specialist is to maximize a person’s functional vision capabilities.
Students typically see this specialist when someone determines that a low vision device (optical or non-optical) might be helpful. If the student’s vision or educational needs or performance have changed, then they may be referred for a visit (or follow-up visit) to the clinical low vision specialist. Services vary, but many low vision specialists will also instruct the student in the use of the prescribed devices and may also loan devices for a trial period and offer a follow-up visit to review the results of the trial.
Who is a Low Vision Specialist?
A clinical low vision specialist may be an optometrist, an ophthalmologist, or a university-trained professional with special knowledge of low vision and optical devices. They specialize in helping children with limited visual ability optimize their remaining vision. They are specialized in low vision testing, diagnosis, and treatment and is trained to conduct low vision eye examinations and prescribe special low vision devices. The clinical low vision specialist will work with the student to find the best way to enhance their vision – whether through hand-held magnifiers, monoculars (telescopes), special high-powered glasses for reading, or closed circuit televisions which enlarge print onto a TV screen. The clinical low vision evaluation differs from the evaluation of the eye care specialist in many ways:
The Low Vision Specialist uses special charts and materials for the assessment of distance and near visual acuity that are not routinely used in general eye examinations. It goes beyond the prescription of standard spectacles to provide optical, non-optical, and/or non-visual devices to help individuals meet their specific visual needs for distance, intermediate, and near activities. It includes the gathering of information about the individual’s functional use of vision by a clinical low vision specialist, even when optical devices may not be beneficial, to provide techniques for maximizing the functional use of vision.
The Code of Federal Regulations
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