In 2017, Dr. Greg Waldorf, through a partnership between INSIGHT and the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (MCPHS), provided low vision exams for eighty-nine Rhode Island children between the ages of six months and fourteen years old. The information from these evaluations helps those who work with these children to understand the child’s level of vision (acuity), their visual field (peripheral vision), and modifications that should be made to the child’s environment to promote better vision and stronger visual responses.
Providing pediatric low vision evaluations can be challenging however. For instance, many of the younger children we evaluate are non-verbal making it difficult to objectively determine what the child sees. Additionally, if a child is not feeling well, if the exam is around their naptime, or if they are anxious, performance falls and the results can be less reliable.
Thanks to a generous grant from the Champlin Foundation though, INSIGHT was recently able to purchase a Tobii Pro eye tracker which is helping to elevate the accuracy and effectiveness of these pediatric low vision evaluations.
The Tobii Eye Tracker is a small, unobtrusive unit attached to a computer monitor that measures where the child is looking and how steady their fixations are. The unit does not touch the child and it is so compact that the child does not even know the measurements are being taken. The information that is generated allows Dr. Waldorf to review the child’s normal visual behavior and represent how they naturally use their vision. The Tobii Eye Tracker is helping Dr. Waldorf to better evaluate fixation preferences, preferred object placement, color preferences, size preferences, and visual fields in an objective and non-threatening way independent of head movements, blinks, pupil size, and room lighting variability.
Once results are obtained, the information is shared with the child’s family and early intervention team so that they can understand how the child see’s best so that they know where to place objects. This in turn increases the likelihood the child will see the object and start developing reaching skills which in turn leads to crawling and other developmental milestones. Currently, we have to estimate where we think a child’s best vision (or visual preference is). Sometimes this is very clear, but usually it is more difficult to determine. In a similar way that we successfully measure visual acuity when a child is crying, this technology provides the same level of standardization for visual field preference.
We are grateful to the Champlin Foundation for their generous support of this valuable program!