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Steven A. Greenburg, Education Law
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Santa Cruz, CA 95060-4567

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A look at optic nerve atrophy in the classroom

Out of the five senses, most people would consider vision to be the most important because it gives us the ability to better understand the world around us through visualization. Although people with vision problems generally find visualization to be a challenge or impossible altogether, most find ways of adapting by using their other senses to compensate.

When you are young though, vision is an essential part of acquiring certain concepts. Children who have vision problems because of conditions like optic nerve atrophy often struggle to grasp these concepts, causing their educational growth to suffer down the road as well. But if teachers are aware of the challenges they face and provide them with the tools and help to overcome them, a child just might have what they need to work past these challenges and succeed in school.

Before we get into what teachers can do to help students with visual problems, let's first talk about what optic atrophy is and how it can affect a student's ability to learn.

Optic nerve atrophy is a condition in which damage to the optic nerve causes visual problems such as loss of visual acuity in both central and peripheral vision. Depending on the extent of damage, a child's vision may be partially or completely impaired.

The condition can be caused by a number of things including rare degenerative disorders, tumors, toxins, infections and birth traumas.

If the onset of the condition occurs at birth, a child with optic nerve atrophy may find learning in school difficult without considerable assistance from teachers and optical devices. It is important for schools here in California, as well as across the nation, to be aware of this condition and how it affects a student's ability to learn because failing to provide assistance can lead to legal issues for violating special education laws.

Sources: American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, "Optic Nerve Atrophy," Accessed Oct. 16, 2014

The American Foundation for the Blind, "What You Need to Know About Low Vision," Accessed Oct. 16, 2014

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