It can be challenging to understand how a scotoma – a blind spot – impacts a young student in the classroom. A young student or a student with multiple disabilities is typically unable to understand and/or verbalize their unique vision issues. A student may have one scotoma or he/she may have multiple scotomas. Scotomas can range in size and shape.
The first step is to identify the functional impact of the scotoma(s). One traditional way for a teacher of the visually impaired (TVI) to learn more about the young student’s blind spot is to scatter small interesting items on a table top. (Typically 1” objects are used; however, this size may vary depending on the student.) The student is then asked to find these items while the TVI notes if the student misses items in a particular area, if color, contrast or clutter has any impact, and if the student tilts his head or uses eccentric vision. Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialists (COMS) often scatter small, interesting items on the floor to observe the same things as the student is moving.
Another way to help identify the blind spot and to help the student learn to compensate the blind spot is to use an iPad and a tracing app. WhizzyKids is an iOS app with multiple educational games designed to prepare students for reading and writing. The Finger Mazes game has the student use his/her finger to trace a designated path to guide the boat/car/roller coaster ride to the end point. The game includes fun sounds as the vehicle is moved along the path and children cheering when the path is completed. The game has different levels with paths curve, peak, and even loop!
Once the student demonstrates knowledge of how to trace a line, information about the student’s vision can be gleaned as the student plays the game. Does the student consistently struggle with staying on the line at a particular spot? Often students with a blind spot will continue in a straight line (through the blind spot) even though the path changes directions. Watching the student’s head position and eye position can provide important feedback on where the student’s visual “sweet spot” or preferred visual field.
Tracing games can help a student figure out where his/her best vision is to avoid the blind spot. The student will learn how to hold his/her head and the best eye position. As he/she practices finding and using his/her sweet spot, which is often eccentric viewing, the student will be able to maximize his residual vision.
The WhizzyKids app (Finger Mazes game) is a simple, uncluttered tracing game. Additional tracing games can include learning to write letters, such as:
Ollie’s Handwriting and Phonics: This preschool app first traces the letter then the student traces the letter. Choose between capitals, lowercase, and words. You can also select which letter to trace.
Little Writer by Alligator Apps: This preschool app shows the letter and a starting point and pictures to show where to draw the first line. Choose between capitols, lowercase, numbers, shape and words.
There are a number of Maze Game apps; however, these apps are typically more challenging.
Maze Game 2: A traditional maze app that has smaller (tight areas) to navigate and less color contrast.
ToddlerMaze 123: A preschool app with a wide “road” to trace. The background is interesting but visually cluttered.
For more information, see the Using iOS Tracing Apps: Part 2, O&M post.