If your child has low vision, you may be anxious to know what he can see. Can he see you from across the room? Can he see the smile on his grandmother’s face as she watches him play? Can he see the detail of the rivers on the map he’s looking at? To answer questions like these and understand what your child is seeing, you may want to simulate his visual impairment.

It’s possible for you to simulate your child’s visual impairment, but it’s important for you to keep in mind that because you have “normal” vision, you already understand the world visually. Therefore, you may not exactly be duplicating your child’s experience. If your child was born with a visual impairment or acquired it before age two, he has never been able to see “normally,” and his sense of the world may be very different from yours. (If your child has lost vision later in life, he may have some visual memory that he makes reference to when he uses his vision today.)

Getting a Sense of Your Child’s Vision

If you are interested, ask your child’s eye doctor to recommend a way for you to simulate your child’s vision. The doctor may be able to put special lenses in a pair of eyeglasses and have you put them on to get an idea of what your child is seeing.

Your child’s teacher of students with visual impairments (TVI) or the orientation and mobility (O&M) specialist may also have a simulator kit. These kits have a variety of lenses that simulate different types of visual impairments, visual acuities, and visual field losses. The teacher of students with visual impairments or O&M specialist might be able to lend you a pair of simulators that approximate your child’s vision to use for a short time. If your child is blind or has very low vision, covering or closing your eyes will give you an idea of his visual impairment.

What You Can Learn

When wearing simulators or covering your eyes, try doing activities you typically expect your child to do, such as finding a toy on a shelf, locating an item in a drawer, or looking for a specific picture in a book. Note the strategies you use to accomplish the task—do you:

  • Tilt your head?
  • Hold objects closer?
  • Move closer to an object or person?
  • Use your hands to get information?
  • Use your hearing?

You’ll want to pay attention when you watch your child doing the same activities, and if you think any of the strategies you discovered may be helpful to him, show him how to do them.