This study is the first to investigate the effect of prolonged reading on reading performance and visual functions in students with low vision. The study focuses on one of the most common modes of achieving adequate magnification for reading by students with low vision, their close reading distance (proximal or relative distance magnification). Close reading distances impose high demands on near visual functions, such as accommodation and convergence. Previous research on accommodation in children with low vision shows that their accommodative responses are reduced compared to normal vision. In addition, there is an increased lag of accommodation for higher stimulus levels as may occur at close reading distance. Reduced accommodative responses in low vision and higher lag of accommodation at close reading distances together could impact on reading performance of students with low vision especially during prolonged reading tasks. The presence of convergence anomalies could further affect reading performance. Therefore, the aims of the present study were 1) To investigate the effect of prolonged reading on reading performance in students with low vision 2) To investigate the effect of prolonged reading on visual functions in students with low vision.\ud \ud This study was conducted as cross-sectional research on 42 students with low vision and a comparison group of 20 students with normal vision, aged 7 to 20 years. The students with low vision had vision impairments arising from a range of causes and represented a typical group of students with low vision, with no significant developmental delays, attending school in Brisbane, Australia. All participants underwent a battery of clinical tests before and after a prolonged reading task. An initial reading-specific history and pre-task measurements that included Bailey-Lovie distance and near visual acuities, Pelli-Robson contrast sensitivity, ocular deviations, sensory fusion, ocular motility, near point of accommodation (pull-away method), accuracy of accommodation (Monocular Estimation Method (MEM)) retinoscopy and Near Point of Convergence (NPC) (push-up method) were recorded for all participants. Reading performance measures were Maximum Oral Reading Rates (MORR), Near Text Visual Acuity (NTVA) and acuity reserves using Bailey-Lovie text charts. Symptoms of visual fatigue were assessed using the Convergence Insufficiency Symptom Survey (CISS) for all participants. Pre-task measurements of reading performance and accuracy of accommodation and NPC were compared with post-task measurements, to test for any effects of prolonged reading. \ud \ud The prolonged reading task involved reading a storybook silently for at least 30 minutes. The task was controlled for print size, contrast, difficulty level and content of the reading material. Silent Reading Rate (SRR) was recorded every 2 minutes during prolonged reading. Symptom scores and visual fatigue scores were also obtained for all participants. A visual fatigue analogue scale (VAS) was used to assess visual fatigue during the task, once at the beginning, once at the middle and once at the end of the task. In addition to the subjective assessments of visual fatigue, tonic accommodation was monitored using a photorefractor (PlusoptiX CR03™) every 6 minutes during the task, as an objective assessment of visual fatigue. Reading measures were done at the habitual reading distance of students with low vision and at 25 cms for students with normal vision. \ud \ud The initial history showed that the students with low vision read for significantly shorter periods at home compared to the students with normal vision. The working distances of participants with low vision ranged from 3-25 cms and half of them were not using any optical devices for magnification. Nearly half of the participants with low vision were able to resolve 8-point print (1M) at 25 cms. Half of the participants in the low vision group had ocular deviations and suppression at near. \ud \ud Reading rates were significantly reduced in students with low vision compared to those of students with normal vision. In addition, there were a significantly larger number of participants in the low vision group who could not sustain the 30-minute task compared to the normal vision group. However, there were no significant changes in reading rates during or following prolonged reading in either the low vision or normal vision groups. Individual changes in reading rates were independent of their baseline reading rates, indicating that the changes in reading rates during prolonged reading cannot be predicted from a typical clinical assessment of reading using brief reading tasks. Contrary to previous reports the silent reading rates of the students with low vision were significantly lower than their oral reading rates, although oral and silent reading was assessed using different methods. \ud \ud Although the visual acuity, contrast sensitivity, near point of convergence and accuracy of accommodation were significantly poorer for the low vision group compared to those of the normal vision group, there were no significant changes in any of these visual functions following prolonged reading in either group. Interestingly, a few students with low vision (n =10) were found to be reading at a distance closer than their near point of accommodation. This suggests a decreased sensitivity to blur. Further evaluation revealed that the equivalent intrinsic refractive errors (an estimate of the spherical dioptirc defocus which would be expected to yield a patient’s visual acuity in normal subjects) were significantly larger for the low vision group compared to those of the normal vision group. As expected, accommodative responses were significantly reduced for the low vision group compared to the expected norms, which is consistent with their close reading distances, reduced visual acuity and contrast sensitivity. For those in the low vision group who had an accommodative error exceeding their equivalent intrinsic refractive errors, a significant decrease in MORR was found following prolonged reading. The silent reading rates however were not significantly affected by accommodative errors in the present study.\ud \ud Suppression also had a significant impact on the changes in reading rates during prolonged reading. The participants who did not have suppression at near showed significant decreases in silent reading rates during and following prolonged reading. This impact of binocular vision at near on prolonged reading was possibly due to the high demands on convergence. \ud \ud The significant predictors of MORR in the low vision group were age, NTVA, reading interest and reading comprehension, accounting for 61.7% of the variances in MORR. SRR was not significantly influenced by any factors, except for the duration of the reading task sustained; participants with higher reading rates were able to sustain a longer reading duration. In students with normal vision, age was the only predictor of MORR. \ud \ud Participants with low vision also reported significantly greater visual fatigue compared to the normal vision group. Measures of tonic accommodation however were little influenced by visual fatigue in the present study. Visual fatigue analogue scores were found to be significantly associated with reading rates in students with low vision and normal vision. However, the patterns of association between visual fatigue and reading rates were different for SRR and MORR. The participants with low vision with higher symptom scores had lower SRRs and participants with higher visual fatigue had lower MORRs. \ud \ud As hypothesized, visual functions such as accuracy of accommodation and convergence did have an impact on prolonged reading in students with low vision, for students whose accommodative errors were greater than their equivalent intrinsic refractive errors, and for those who did not suppress one eye. Those students with low vision who have accommodative errors higher than their equivalent intrinsic refractive errors might significantly benefit from reading glasses. Similarly, considering prisms or occlusion for those without suppression might reduce the convergence demands in these students while using their close reading distances. The impact of these prescriptions on reading rates, reading interest and visual fatigue is an area of promising future research. Most importantly, it is evident from the present study that a combination of factors such as accommodative errors, near point of convergence and suppression should be considered when prescribing reading devices for students with low vision. Considering these factors would also assist rehabilitation specialists in identifying those students who are likely to experience difficulty in prolonged reading, which is otherwise not reflected during typical clinical reading assessments.\u
To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.