2007 Study:Better Help in Schools for Children with Low Vision
Contact: Heather Woolwine
Aug. 16, 2007
Study Shows Way to Better Help Blind Children in School
Project Magnify offers low vision children chance to catch up quicker to peers
Charleston -- The answer to teaching a legally blind child in a South Carolina public classroom traditionally has been large-print books and materials for that childís use. Results from a study conducted by the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) Storm Eye Instituteís (SEI) Feldberg Center and the South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind (SCSDB) suggests that optical aids work better in improving the reading abilities and skills of visually impaired children than large-print books.
"An optical aid designed for each individual studentís level of impairment seems to hold more promise in helping each student reach his or her maximum level of performance," said Stephen Morse, O.D., Ph.D., SEI Feldberg Center for Vision Rehabilitation director.
Project Magnify tested the idea that visually impaired students who use magnification devices for reading will perform as well or better than visually impaired students using large print reading material. The projectís success in its pilot format has resulted in a commitment from the South Carolina Department of Education to bring low-vision examinations and visual devices, with training in the use of the devices conducted by teachers of the visually impaired, to groups of 20 students each academic year through at least 2010.
Jeanie Farmer, SCSDB Vision Instruction coordinator, said, "Since 2005, 19 students in 11 South Carolina school districts have demonstrated tremendous gains in reading abilities as well as greater independence and confidence in home and community activities. Thirty students will have an opportunity to benefit from the program during the 2007-2008 school year."
In the current study, students in the experimental group had low-vision devices prescribed by a low-vision doctor and read standard grade-level-sized print with their magnifiers. Students in the control group received large print reading materials. All students took oral and silent reading tests at the beginning and end of the 2005-2006 school year, and their reading rates were recorded. Of the students using the magnification devices, all increased their reading rate; approximately half showed an increase in reading comprehension, and most decreased the reading font size required to see the text. Those who did not receive the magnification devices and who used large-print books continued to read at their respective font sizes by the end of the year; no one in that group increased reading comprehension; and only a handful of students increased their reading rate when compared with the experimental group.
The study findings lend evidence to the concept that one size does not fit all when it comes to large-print books. "Large print may be fine for one visually impaired student, but significantly too small for another, and way too big for yet a third," Farmer said.
Books are only part of the everyday struggle for children with low-vision who seek education in the same environment as their normal-sighted peers, as these children often struggle to copy things from the board, find the right bus in the bus line and correctly measure the chemicals in a science laboratory experiment. Inaddition, the costs are high to enlarge color photos, graphs, charts and other instructional tools that teachers provide for their classes. According to Jill Ischinger, the director of the South Carolina Instructional Resource Center, the cost of providing a set of books to students each year is approximately $2,237 per student.
Founded in 1824 in Charleston, The Medical University of South Carolina is the oldest medical school in the South. Today, MUSC continues the tradition of excellence in education, research, and patient care. MUSC educates and trains more than 3,000 students and residents, and has nearly 10,000 employees, including 1,300 faculty members. As the largest non-federal employer in Charleston, the university and its affiliates have collective annual budgets in excess of $1.3 billion. MUSC operates a 600-bed medical center, which includes a nationally recognized Children's Hospital and a leading Institute of Psychiatry. For more information on academic information or clinical services, visit www.musc.edu or www.muschealth.com.