Vision Impairment

From a functional standpoint, a child or young person can be considered to have a vision impairment if this interferes with optimal development, learning and achievements unless adaptations are made in the methods of presenting learning experiences, the nature of the materials used and/or the learning environment (ref. Barragan's definition cited in Flanagan et al, 2003, p 497). This definition includes children and young people with other disabilities/impairments in addition to vision, including those with profound and complex needs.

The term 'learning' includes not just academic learning but the acquisition of mobility, life, independence and social skills that, in the case of a child or young person with a vision impairment, would be provided through specialist input from a habilitation officer or QTVI.

The following classification applies to corrected vision with both eyes open. Acuity criteria are for guidance purposes only. The professional judgement of a Qualified Teacher of the Vision Impaired (QTVI) should be applied as necessary to decide on the classification. For example, a child or young person may have a mild reduction in visual acuity but be functioning within a different visual category due to an additional ophthalmic condition, e.g. an oculomotor disorder such as nystagmus, visual field reduction, cerebral vision impairment, and/or additional learning difficulties).

In the case of a child or young person undergoing a patching programme, the framework can be applied whilst the child or young person is patched, with further vision assessment carried out following the programme.

Distance vision:

   Mild vision loss Within the range 6/12 - 6/18 Snellen/Kay (LogMAR 0.3 – 0.48)

   Moderate vision loss Less than 6/19 - 6/36 Snellen/Kay (LogMAR 0.5 – 0.78)

   Severe vision loss Less than 6/36 - 6/120 Snellen/Kay (LogMAR 0.8 – 1.3)

   Profound vision loss Less than 6/120 Snellen/Kay (LogMAR 1.32+)

Near vision:

Refer to standardized tests such as Kays, BUST, Maclure at 33 cms.

   Mild vision loss N14-18

   Moderate vision loss N18-24

   Severe vision loss N24-36

   Profound vision loss Educationally blind/Braille user/can access small quantities of print larger than N36

Key facts:

There are around 34,500 children and young people with VI aged 0-25 across

At least 50% of children with VI have additional needs.

In 2019, DfE statistics recorded 17,771 pupils with VI as their primary or secondary SEN. The number with VI as their primary SEN was 12,687. In contrast, more than 30,000 children and young people were on VI service caseloads, or known to services, in 2019 (this is an under-representation as data was missing from 18 of the 152 LAs in England) RNIB FOI (2019) Left out of Learning.

The majority of children (around 70%) with VI attend mainstream schools, where they may be the only child with a vision impairment. Government figures indicate that just over 7,000 schools have a child with VI as their primary SEN on the school roll and that 62% are the only VI child enrolled in that school. Only 2% are educated in specialist schools for vision impairment

Approximately 5% of children and young people with vision impairment read Braille as their sole or main literacy format

Children and young people with sever vision impairment/blindness may have particular difficulties in their use of language for social communication.

Vision impairment in UK children with learning disabilities very high. The prevalence rate for this cohort aged 0 ‐ 19 is 5.6% (Emerson and Robertson, 2011).

The number of children identified with vision impairment is increasing. New registrations each year have doubled from 1981 to 2011 (Mitry, Bunce, Wormald and Bowman, 2013).

   The population of children with vision impairment falls into two distinct sub‐populations:

       those without additional impairments/disorders

       those with additional impairments/disorders.

There is a marked difference in need and outcome measures for both these groups (Rahi et al, 2010; Harris et al, 2012).

Your local Sensory Service should be able to provide accurate numbers of CYP with sensory loss including level of need, level of loss and placement.