Near Visual Acuities
By: Carmen Willings
As part of the Functional Vision Evaluation, it is necessary to assess the students near visual acuities. The technique used will vary depending on the students cognitive abilities.
Near Visual Acuity
Assess the student's near vision using a combination of informal and formal devices. Near acuity allows the student to perform visual tasks needed to succeed in academics such as reading, writing and fine motor activities. Take note of the students working distance. Include reading, sewing, stamp collecting, artwork, electronics or other preferred near vision hobbies. Observe the student reading not only typical school materials, both silently and aloud, but materials that vary in contrast and format.
A notebook can be assembled that includes samples of these items; in addition the evaluator can use a selection of age-appropriate books that include various typographic and picture formats. Observe the student's ability to read environmental print including: telephone books, maps, menus, price tags, clothing labels, comic books, medicine bottles, comic books, classified advertisements, game tickets, bus schedules, magazines, TV guide, catalogs, food labels, recipe, coupons, music and newspaper articles. Measure the student's reading speed under various conditions because many students with low vision use large or standard print for years without any comparison being made of their efficiency in various print styles. It is also important to observe the student after sustained silent reading. Some students can read efficiently for short periods, but their speed and efficiency decrease after five or ten minutes. Also observe the student performing math problems and reading diagrams, charts, maps and graphics. The student who fatigues easily when reading silently will need alternative approaches for longer tasks: audio taped materials, readers, and Braille in combination with print.
The formal assessment of near vision can be made using a standard near point card that includes a variety of sizes of print. This assessment is typically administered at 14 or 16 inches, and the teacher records the smallest line of print that can be read at that distance. When the student is unable to read a line of print, the evaluator can ask the student to move the card closer until the line becomes visible. Any changes in the administration of the test should be clearly indicated in the written report. Although the formal testing of near point visual acuity can provide information about the smallest-size letter a student can see, measured visual acuity should be considered in conjunction with informal methods, since eye charts consist of individual, separate letters that are easier to distinguish than are words or various print styles.
A variety of charts are available for pre-readers. I have used the LEA symbols, Sloan letter chart and Sloan number chart based on the students abilities. Not all students will be able to participate in this type of a formal assessment. I have included a page on print comparisons when assessing students who are pre-readers.
Depending on the results of the Near Visual Acuity, the following strategies, recommendations, and accommodations may be necessary to meet the students unique visual needs:
This Near Acuity Equivalent chart, available on the Printables page, can be used to help show a comparison between a student's near acuity, font size and print examples.
This presentation provides a walk-through of the process and steps of conducting a Functional Vision Evaluation and Learning/Reading Media Assessment. Key points include interpreting the eye report, materials to use in the assessment, conducting interviews and observations as well as strategies for direct assessment and writing a professional and thorough report that is informative to all audiences. Next steps are also covered including the importance of a low vision assessment, determining the need for additional assistive technology and implications for service.
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