What nystagmus is, how it affects vision, strategies to support children with nystagmus.

Nystagmus is a condition which causes uncontrolled movement of the eyes.

The movements: 

  • are usually side to side 
  • can be up and down
  • can, rarely, be in a circular motion
  • may be fast or slow 
  • may be with low or high frequency

Most people with nystagmus have reduced vision. 

How nystagmus affects vision

The to and fro movement of the eyes has the same effect as camera shake might have on a photograph: the picture is blurred. 

The amount of eye movement may be less when the eyes are looking in one direction. Many pupils with nystagmus may adopt a head posture, especially when they want to see something small. This way, vision is temporarily improved.

Stress, tiredness and illness often make nystagmus worse and may further reduce vision.

Many pupils will use magnifying aids to read. Most children with nystagmus move around with few problems, giving the impression that they have no difficulty with their vision. 

Strategies to support children with nystagmus

Glasses

Encourage children to wear their glasses if they have them prescribed. This can help them see more clearly and increase the amount of visual stimulation that the eye and brain get.

Tilting head

Don't stop a pupil who chooses to use a head turn or to move the head to and fro to improve vision.

Sitting position

Pupils with nystagmus should usually sit in the front of a classroom. 

Low vision aids

Magnifying glasses, CCTV (electronic magnifier), linking the IWB to an iPad and the use of other devices may be necessary to access curriculum.  

Breaks

Regular short breaks may significantly ease eye movements. 

Further information 

For more information on nystagmus visit:

Contact us
Sensory Support Service
Elmfield House
Greystoke Avenue
Westbury-on-Trym
BS10 6AY

Phone: 0117 903 8442
Text: 07810 506 669
Email: sensorysupportservice@bristol.gov.uk