If you child has low vision, it means he or she has partial vision loss that can’t be corrected with glasses, contact lenses or surgery. Conditions that can cause low vision include juvenile cataracts, glaucoma and problems with the retina or optic nerve. To check for low vision, an ophthalmologist or optometrist completes a variety of tests on the child such as visual acuity (how small of an object you can see) and a test to check the child’s peripheral of side vision.
It’s important to know that people with low vision aren’t usually completely blind (no light perception) and can usually complete everyday tasks with some basic interventions. Ways to make life easier for children with low vision include special glasses and using adaptive tools like magnifiers and binoculars. Kids can also benefit from books with larger text, closed-circuit television or the use of tablets.
Because of the effect on academics, many children with low vision receive special education support from their local school district. The school’s vision specialist will assist with many lifestyle considerations based on an assessment of the child’s visual capability in each area of her/his visual field.
Understanding Low Vision
The World Health Organization has defined the variations of visual impairment using the Snellen eye chart for visual acuity testing and loss of visual field.
- Moderate Visual Impairment = 20/70 – 20/160
- Severe Visual Impairment = 20/200 – 20/400 or visual field of 20 degrees of less
- Profound Visual Impairment = 20/500 – 20-1000 or visual field of 10 degrees of less
Find more details about Snellen testing at medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003396.htm
Resources for Kids with Low Vision
Michigan children with ocular and genetic disorders often need services related to these conditions. Physicians, parents and educators continually report that they are not well-informed about finding appropriate services for infants, children and youth with visual impairments. The goal of this guide is to fill this gap and provide families a roundup of some of the key resources they may need to give their children every advantage.
The special services that are needed for low vision assistance in school are handled at the local level by Intermediate School Districts (ISDs) and Regional Educational Agencies (RESAs). Low vision services fall under the umbrella of special education even if your child has no other impairment.
What can you do? As a parent, you must contact your local school district’s special education dept. and ask for a vision assessment. Even if your child is an infant and not currently going to school, the ISD provides the assessment and services.
The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act states that all eligible children with a disability are entitled to a free and appropriate public education. Parents with children of any age should get in touch with their local school district to initiate an evaluation for special education.
If the child is found eligible for special education, parents then work with the school district to develop an individualized educational program (IEP) for the child that sets goals and provides any necessary supports, aids and services.
If you have trouble accessing services for your child with visual impairment or need additional information, contact your intermediate school district. You can also seek out advice and support from an advocacy organization.
- Early on Michigan: Young children from birth to age 3 are served by Early On Michigan for early intervention services for developmental delays or disabilities. Services address the child’s social, health and educational needs. Parents can contact the agency anytime to start the process for an evaluation. 240 S. Bridge St, Suite 250, DeWitt, 1-800-327-5966, 1800earlyon.org
- Genesee Intermediate School District: Educational programs and support services are provided for students with disabilities, their families and local districts throughout the county. 2413 West Maple Ave., Flint, 810-591-4400, geneseeisd.org
- Lapeer Intermediate School District: Provides services, support and specialized placements to ensure students’ needs are met. 1996 West Oregon St., Lapeer, 810-664-5917, lcisd.k12.mi.us
- Livingston Educational Service Agency: Delivers various services to students with disabilities in Livingston County through programs in local districts and in programs operated through the intermediate school district. 1425 W. Grand River Ave., Howell, 517-546-5550, livingstonesa.org
- Macomb Intermediate School District: Find resources and special education information, including a Parent Advisory Committee comprised of local parents of children with special needs. 44001 Garfield Road, Clinton Township, 586-228-3300, misd.net
- Michigan Alliance for Families: A statewide resource that connects families of children with disabilities to resources to help improve their children’s education. 1325 S. Washington Ave., Lansing, 800-552-4821, michiganallianceforfamilies.org
- Monroe Intermediate School District: Supports local schools and operates specially-designed classrooms for students with disabilities. 1101 S. Raisinville Road, Monroe, 734-242-5799, monroeisd.us
- Oakland Schools: The Oakland Schools Department of Special Education provides services to help schools, families and communities support students with an IEP. 2111 Pontiac Lake Road, Waterford, 248-209-2000, oakland.k12.mi.us
- Saint Clair County Regional Educational Service Agency: Works with its seven local school districts to develop, implement and coordinate special education services and programs for eligible students. 499 Range Road, P.O. Box 1500, Marysville, 810-364-8990, sccresa.org
- Washtenaw Intermediate School District: Its special education department supports the efforts of countywide schools and implements direct services for approximately 300 students with disabilities. 1819 South Wagner Road, P.O. Box 1406, Ann Arbor, 734-994-8100, washtenawisd.org
- Wayne RESA: Provides support and assistance in the development, implementation and evaluation of special education programs and services offered in the county. 33500 Van Born Road, Wayne, 734-334-1300, resa.net
Metro Detroit Schools’ Professionals for the Visually Impaired
Each school district has professionals for the visually impaired (VI) to assist with children with visual impairment. Teacher Consultants of students with visual impairments (TCVI) and Orientation and Mobility Specialists (O&MS) have specialized training, certification and experience that allows them to provide direct instruction, accommodations and modifications for the unique learning needs created by a visual impairment.
Families should coordinate an assessment with Visually Impaired Support Staff in their local school districts’ ‘Special Education Services.’ Otherwise, they can also contact their local school districts’ Board of Education’s office to find out how that specific school district handles special assistance for the visual impaired.
If you are have questions about initiating services, are not receiving the care your child needs, or are having any problems with your VI services that your local school district is not addressing, contact your county’s ISD below:
Wayne County: Detroit Public Schools
(includes Detroit, Highland Park, Harper Woods):
MARISA LAZICH: New Student Intake & Youth Low Vision Supervisor
Office: (313) 263-2896
Fax: (313) 263-2910
Western Wayne County School District
(all districts west of/including Romulus, Inkster, Livonia)
Office: (734) 367-3856
Fax: (734) 744-2748
Wayne County: Lincoln Park Public Schools
(all districts in Dearborn and most Downriver communities)
Office: (313) 389-0210
3301 Electric, Lincoln Park, MI 48146
Macomb County: Macomb Intermediate School Districts (MISD)
Office: (586) 412-2601
Contact your local school district and ask for VI evaluation.
If you still have concerns after contacting your county’s IDS, please contact the Michigan Department of Education Low Incidence Outreach (LIO). LIO provides educational materials and support to students who are visually impaired, their families and school district personnel.
Michigan Department of Education, Low Incidence Outreach
Phone: (517) 373-2887
Toll Free Phone: (888) 760-2206
Doctors and Organizations That Can Assist Outside of the School Environment
Youth Low Vision Program
School age children with low vision are eligible, even if they are on Medicaid. This program teams the patient, visually impaired specialist from the school district, and a low vision specialist together to help the child with functional vision. The program also helps the parent with the cost of low vision glasses, magnifiers, and other assistive devices recommended by the low vision specialist.
If your child participates in this program, we stress the importance of seeing both your pediatric ophthalmologist along with your low vision specialist. This will ensure that your child has the best care possible.
Why are both necessary? Your Pediatric Ophthalmologist follows your child’s eye health, progression of any disease and any treatments or medications available. They are the medical doctor (MD) responsible for your child’s health. Your Low Vision Specialist (Optometrist) will help your child make the most of the vision that they have, allowing them to perform the best they can in school and other activities.
Metro Detroit’s Doctors for the Pediatric Visual Impaired
Low vision specialists provide comprehensive eye evaluations, assessment for and provision of low vision devices, assistive technology evaluation, orientation and mobility screening and recommendations for classroom adaptations. Children with vision impairment usually require a referral from educators or health care providers in order to be accepted for evaluation.
Elizabeth M. Becker, OD
Walton and Becker Eyecare
837 S. Lapeer Road, Oxford, MI 48371-5084
Office: (248) 628-3441
Web: Walton and Becker Eyecare
Note: Per their office, they will see all ages of low-vision patients.
Susan R. Gormezano, OD, FAAO
Low Vision Associates
26771 W. Twelve Mile Road, Ste 102, Southfield, MI 48034
Office: (248) 827-3670
Fax: (248) 827-3675
Web: Low Vision Associates, PC
Note: Per their office, they will see all ages of low-vision patients.
Susan Hahn, OD
Beaumont Eye Institute
3535 W. 13 Mile Rd., Suite 555, Royal Oak, MI 48073-6704
Office: (248) 551-2020
Web: Beaumont Eye Institute
Note: Per their office they will see low-vision patients ages 4 and up
Carol Marston-Foucher, OD, FAAO
32037 Plymouth Road, Livonia, MI 48150-1908
Office: (734) 421-5454
Web: Marton Optometry
Note: Per their office they will see school age children and older unless a “Visually Impaired Teacher” from the pre-school requests sooner.
Lylas G. Mogk, MD and Ramanpal Deol, OD, FAAO
Henry Ford Health Systems
15401 E. Jefferson, Grosse Pointe Park, MI 48230
Office: (313) 824-2401
Web: Henry Ford Health System Low Vision
Note: Per their office they require children to be able to verbally communicate.
Various Types of Low Vision Resources
Parents of Visually Impaired Children
Office: (313) 272-3900
On Family Connect you’ll find videos, personal stories, events, news and an online community that can offer tips and support from other parents of children who are blind or visually impaired.
Little Bear Sees
Little Bear Sees is a nonprofit organization whose goal is to provide information for families who have children with cortical visual impairment. Their website has links to support groups, blogs, websites, books and courses that families can utilize to learn more about CVI.
Penrickton Center for Blind Children
Penrickton Center (located in Taylor, MI) is a private, non-profit five day residential and day care agency serving blind, multi-disabled children, ages 1-12. There are no fees charged to families. Developmental programs are designed to meet the individual needs of each child.