A child with low vision has decreased vision in the better seeing eye (20/70 or less) that cannot be corrected with glasses and/or contact lenses, a decreased field of vision (such as impaired peripheral vision) or both. Visual impairment is a spectrum from children that are visually impaired to blind. Whether blind or visually impaired, it can be a challenge for them to perform daily tasks.

For instance, a child with low vision may have difficulty recognizing a familiar face, reading or even seeing steps, curbs or walls. Low vision can be the result of childhood vision conditions, such as cataracts, glaucoma, retinal and optic nerve abnormalities and others.

A pediatric low vision-trained doctor should perform a low vision exam to fully assess a child’s visual function. This exam will include tests on visual acuity, refractive error, visual field, eye muscle function and color vision, among others.

Treatment for low vision may include glasses or contact lenses, as well as magnifiers, binoculars, telescopes and tinted lenses. Adaptive technology, such as closed circuit TV’s and large print books, may be recommended to help the child adapt to his or her special need.

Resources for the Child with a Visual Impairment (aka ‘low-vision’)

Physicians, parents and educators continually report that they are not well-informed about appropriate services for infants, children and youth with visual impairments. The special services that are needed fro 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 I 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.

This assessment, along with your ophthalmologists report, will verify your child’s eligibility. A low vision specialist (VI) will complete a functional vision evaluation with your child, and schedule an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) with your VI specialist, your child’s teachers and the parents. The purpose of this meeting is to determine what services are best for your child as well as creating an action plan to put those services in place.

What can my doctor do? Your ophthalmologist will send a vision report to the low vision specialist once you have contacted your local school district.

Birth to Three Years of Age – “Early on Michigan”

Early On Michigan offers early intervention services for infants and toddlers (birth to three years of age) with developmental delay(s) and/or disabilities, and their families. Research has shown that by addressing delays early on – especially between birth and age 3 – we can more effectively impact a child’s development, even into adulthood.

What can I do? The family can call them at 1-800-earlyon (1-800-327-5966), or they can complete the “Referral Form” found on their website at www.1800earlyon.org.

Early On will forward the completed referral form to the family’s local school district for a referral to the correct agency. A confirmation of the referral will be sent to the family. The local school district office will contact the family to set up an evaluation.

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
Email: pmaraone@livoniapublicschools.org

Wayne County: Lincoln Park Public Schools
(all districts in Dearborn and most Downriver communities)
Office: (313) 389-0210
3301 Electric, Lincoln Park, MI 48146
Email: deborah.polisuk@lpps.info

Macomb County: Macomb Intermediate School Districts (MISD)
Office: (586) 412-2601

Oakland Schools
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
Web: mdelio.org

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
Marston Optometry
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

Family Connect
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.