Now, for those wondering, I don’t have a vision impairment so I don’t claim to know what it’s like from a totally personal experience but I have worked for many years in the field of vision impairment with children from birth to end of school age, and more adults more recently. And there’s always someone with Retinitis Pigmentosa. They may be newly diagnosed or have had it for many years and as they have hit their 40 – 50s, things have started to change.
A student at school with RP is often not wanting anyone to know, reluctant to accept support in class and utilises the vision they have very functionally and successfully. If they have a ‘textbook’ type of RP with only peripheral loss and clear ‘tunnel vision’, reading, writing, observing, is still very possible. Lighting is a consideration to ensure there is enough coming in from around to point directly onto a page or within the environment in which someone is working.
A new school year for the student with RP could have initial issues with the layout of the classroom, knowing the pattern and where the chairs are placed in relation to the tables or desks. If the student sits further back in class and perhaps central to where all the action is taking place, they will be able to gather more visual information as they have a larger ‘tunnel opening’ to do so.
The teacher does need to be made aware of the student with RP and understand a little about requirements in the classroom. Referring to something ‘over there’ is not providing clear and direct information to the student if they didn’t see the teacher pointing at the time to the place of discussion. Landmarks are always good for reference points eg. “When you hand in your work at my desk, place it in the tray marked ‘completed work’”. We all know a teacher’s desk has its own arrangement and different corners could be specific to different subjects, dates, planning, and ‘to do’ piles.
Here are two pictures being viewed - one with full field of vision and the other with tunnel vision. Clearly, we can see that the one with restricted vision does not notice all the information to complete a solid picture that includes a STOP sign or knowledge of a bike in lower field of vision. The pole may not at first be recognised as a pole.
NDIS Registered Provider no. 4050011793
Kerri Weaver is a service provider for children with disabilities.