The second Thursday in October is known as World Sight Day, which is an annual day of awareness hosted by the The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness. The goal of World Sight Day is to bring attention to the issue of eye health on a global scale, and this year’s theme is “Hope in Sight”. The World Health Organization estimates that there are approximately 1.4 million children with blindness living in the world, and the most common causes of blindness and visually impairment vary based on the country and region.
It is estimated that approximately 80% of the information we receive about the world is obtained through vision, therefore making the necessary adaptations for children is integral to their success. In honor of World Sight Day, the New England Consortium on Deafblindness has compiled a list of common causes of visual impairments as well as considerations for parents and educators.
Retinopathy of Prematurity, or ROP, primarily affects impacts that are born prematurely (before 31 weeks of gestation). An infant may be at higher risk for ROP if they had a low birth weight or experienced a form of respiratory distress. The degree of vision loss is dependent on the stage, and Retinopathy of Prematurity may be regressive (resolving itself) or progressive (continuing to worsen).
Albinism is present at birth and is a result of a lack of pigment in the skin, hair, and eyes. Pigment is necessary for retinal development, thus, albinism impacts vision in those diagnosed with it. Children may present with a decreased visual acuity and light sensitivity.
Coloboma of the eye is a physical defect in the eye that is present at birth. Colobomas are frequently seen in children diagnosed with CHARGE Syndrome, and are caused when issues arise during eye development. Colobomas may occur in one or both eyes and may additionally occur within different parts of the eye including the iris, lens, optic nerve, eyelid, or retina.
Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI) is a neurological impairment that impacts a child’s vision. Also known as Cerebral Visual Impairment, CVI is caused by damage to a part of the brain responsible for visual processing. Since CVI is neurological in nature, it is most frequently seen in children with cerebral palsy, multiple disabilities, and developmental disabilities.