One common distinct feature of children with albinism or albino children, is the abnormal fairness of their skin, hair and eyes.
Albinism is a group of inherited conditions that causes insufficient production of melanin (dark pigment) in the hair, skin and eyes.
The lack of melanin in the body causes increased vulnerability towards damage of the sunlight.
While ocular albinism only affects the eyes, oculocutaneous albinism affects the skin, hair and the eyes.
However, other than coping with vision and skin problems, albinos also face social and emotional perils.
This is especially prevalent in scenarios where they get to meet new people such as starting of school.
It is painful to see as children with albinism have normal IQ and psychomotor skill.
They can develop normally and contribute productively to society.
They do not deserve to be treated like an outcast. They should be helped and loved like all other children.
Other than parents, teachers are great allies in helping albino children to cope with the disorder and also keeping them safe in school.
However, they need to be equipped with all the necessary knowledge.
Here are some recommendations to help children with albinism.
Understanding Albinism - Talk to your child about her condition, help her understand and let her know what is going to happen.
Most importantly, make her understand that you are always going to be there for her.
Reassure her that she will grow up into an adult like other children and become a competent adult.
Seating Plan - Ask the teacher to let your child experiment and seat where she can see the black or white board best.
Try to position her away from the windows to avoid sunlight or any bright lights.
Larger Font - Ask your child’s school to order large-print textbooks. Such books usually can be obtained from the direct publisher.
Seek assistance from the teacher to enlarge and darken the font of all reading material or activity sheets.
You can consider photocopying the textbooks in larger fonts.
If enlarging the fonts is impractical, encourage the child to use hand-held magnifier.
Higher Contrast - For many children with albinism, increasing the contrast in print is even more effective than increasing the size.
Black on white is usually the most useful. Ask your child’s teacher to use high-contrast written materials.
A plain blackboard is better than a green one and often, contrast can be greatly increased by frequently washing the board with plain water.
Extra Copies - Ask the teacher to make copies of all board notes so that she can read up close while the rest of the class read from the blackboard.
Also request copies of overheads that are used in the lessons (most albino children cannot read due to the bright light that is deflected).
Visual Aids - Low vision tools such as telescopic lenses mounted on eyeglasses, hand-held monoculars and video-enlargement machines can help make reading easier for your child.
Work with low vision specialist, teachers and vision-resources teacher to find out the most appropriate tools for your child’s condition.
Request the school to purchase such optic devices so that it can benefit other albino children also.
Acquiring Skills - Teach your child keyboarding skills early, since computer with software for large character screen display can help greatly with reading, learning and writing projects.
Outdoor Protection - Allow the child to wear dark sunglasses and sunscreen (minimum SPF 20) whenever she is outside.
This is essential to protect her eyes and skin from further damage from sunlight.
Adjust Outdoor Schedules - Albino children are just as physically strong as normal children.
There is no need to let them feel ‘alienated’ by excusing them of physical education classes.
Change the venue to somewhere indoor or where there is shade.
If they have to be outside, permit them to cover themselves by wearing long sleeves, long pants and brimmed hat.
Normalizing - Apart from extra protection from sunlight, albino children should be integrated into all school activities as any other child would.
Encourage normal children to include albino children into their circles of friends and activities.
This is extremely important for their self image and emotional development.
Prohibit Name-calling - Children with albinism are often misunderstood as having a contagious disease or being cursed.
Educate the other children to remove such nonsense and ignorance.
Albino children are just normal children with special condition who need to be socially accepted and loved just like any other child.
Please do all you can to protect these children from teasing and ridicule born out of ignorance.
Name-calling in particular should not be permitted in the school. It is disastrous to the child’s self image and confidence.
Educating Albinism - Spend some time in school assembly or in class talking about albinism.
Educate the children about what is albinism and remove stereotyping or cultural belief.
Keep repeating things, like “Albinism is not a disease. Albinos are not dangerous. They are not cursed but a blessing just like all other children that are born.”
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