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Low Vision and Monoculars
by Edith Ethridge
Reprinted under the title “Problem Solving” from the Spring, 2001, issue of Parents’ Writes, the newsletter of the Kentucky Parents of Blind Children, a Division of the NFB of Kentucky.
Editor’s Note: If you have a partially-sighted child or student, I think you will find the following article about using a low vision device delightfully practical and non-sentimental. Edith Ethridge is clearly one expert who understands that visual aids or solutions are not the answer to every problem encountered by a person with low vision. Her advice is sensible and well-grounded in an understanding of the importance of efficiency and effectiveness when making choices about low vision devices or techniques. In a field that is notorious for pushing the use of vision to the point of inefficiency and discomfort, Mrs. Ethridge offers a positive approach to making decisions about low vision devices. Here is what she has to say:
Our 12-year-old son will not use his monocular at school when needed. He attends half-day at the Kentucky School for the Blind and the other half-day in the public school. He admits while attending public school that instead of using the monocular, he will ask someone sitting next to him to tell him what he needs to write down. He has told us that the other students think his monocular is cool, but still he worries about ridicule from the other students. As a self-advocacy skill, we know he needs to overcome this, but we’re running out of ideas. Would love to hear any suggestions!
Carol, Taylorsville, KY
Reluctance to use monoculars may be due to a variety of factors. Consider some of these questions:
it make a significant difference
¨ Is there a social issue?
¨ Is it difficult to use?
¨ Is the task interesting or motivating?
¨ Is the child aware that other people use monoculars and binoculars for a variety of recreation and career activities?
Be sure the monocular improves vision enough to make a significant difference. If just moving a few feet closer can provide the same amount of improvement, most children will just want to move toward the activity. The monocular restricts the field of view and some kids don’t want to miss out on other visual interests.
Be aware that the type of visual condition may affect the benefit of the monocular. Central vision loss may make using it more difficult.
Be sure the child has had appropriate instructions in how to spot, focus, scan, and track using the device.
Prove the difference. Have the child use unaided vision for a task and then try the same task using the monocular. Let him prove to himself just what it can do and the differences in detail that can be observed.
Model it. Use binoculars and monoculars with your child. Create an environment where classmates and playmates use the same or similar devices for fun activities. Have toy binoculars available near the window or door for preschoolers and younger children.
Provide evidence that other people use vision devices for recreation and in their careers. Keep a scrapbook of pictures of vision devices being used and discuss them. Highlight pictures of surgeons, jewelers, and people at sporting events such as the racetrack, football games, and baseball games using vision devices. Look in advertisements for pictures of the monoculars used by golfers, and binoculars used by bird watchers.
Take the monocular and binoculars on family outings and trips. Use it with your child, have other family members use it, too. Keep a journal of time that it is used. Use stickers on a chart or other rewards to show just how many occasions you have used it.
Attend High Vision Games where other children are using monoculars. Find an older child who is a successful monocular user to act as a mentor and describe how useful it is in mobility.
Have realistic expectations. Remember that the monocular is just one device used to increase distant vision acuity for short tasks. It would be difficult to watch a movie using a monocular, try it! Although the monocular may not be an equalizer for all demands on distant vision, it is portable, relatively inexpensive, and doesn’t require batteries!
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