The Low Vision Clinic at Blind Children’s Learning Center operates as a partnership with the Southern California School of Optometry at Marshall B. Ketchum University . Associate Professor Catherine Heyman, O.D. operates the clinic and shared its origins, evolving purpose, and what visual impairments look like today.
Blind Children’s Learning Center: How did this collaboration begin?
Dr. Catherine Heyman: It began with Elizabeth Caloroso, OD in the early 1990s. She believed children with visual impairments were written off far too often, but that eye examinations and intervention could improve visual processing and efficiency skills.
BCLC: How do children benefit from the Low Vision Clinic ?
CH: Our goal is for children to have as much functional vision as possible, but we can’t achieve that without early intervention. We saw a baby years ago who was initially diagnosed as completely blind, but our exam detected some visual function. With the proper support, he is now a high school student capable of visually processing his environment.
BCLC: How is the Low Vision Clinic utilized as a training facility?
CH: Residents extend their training by one year to specialize in treating children. Residents specifically seek out the Low Vision Clinic at BCLC since experience with this unique population is difficult to find.
BCLC: Have visual impairments changed in the last 25 years?
CH: Yes. Medicine makes it possible to save more premature babies, but they have more complex needs, including vision. Twenty-five years ago, detached retinas were a leading cause of blindness in babies. Improved treatment has
changed that. We are now more likely to see diagnoses like Cortical Visual Impairment, which involves damaged pathways between the eye and the brain. In this case, the visual impairment is not caused by the eye itself, but rather how the brain and eyes communicate.
BCLC: How has the clinic’s purpose evolved?
CH: There is more collaboration. In the Low Vision Clinic, we are the first ones looking at the rehabilitative aspect of a child’s visual impairment. Then, a team of experts work directly with the child to provide direct services and implement recommendations.