Five things you probably don't know about CVI

Cortical Visual Impairment is the fast-growing (and perhaps most complex) cause of visual impairment in the U.S.

A teacher shows a sparkly gold pom-pom to a young girl in a wheelchair.

Cortical Visual Impairment is a brain-based, not vision-based, condition. As a result, children can appear to see some things but not others, and may have a preferences for certain colors or lights.

July 11, 2016

The second week of July marks Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI) Awareness Week in the United States. Many vision organizations, educators and families will join together to teach others about this complex visual impairment through social media. Join the conversation using #CVIAwareness on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Cortical Visual Impairment is a brain-based – not vision-based – condition. Children with CVI can receive visual input, but their brain can’t make sense of that information. As a result, children can appear to see some things but not others. Some children with CVI may also have an additional ocular impairment.

A Cortical Visual Impairment diagnosis is frequently suspected when a child shows signs of having a visual impairment but may, for example, pass a routine eye exam. Unfortunately, many doctors and teachers are still not familiar with CVI, and countless children go undiagnosed today.

Here are five essential things you should know about this complex condition:

  1. Cortical Visual Impairment is the fastest growing cause of vision impairment in developed countries. CVI is a neurological-based disorder that can be the result of a number of different medical conditions. Possible causes include developmental brain anomalies, a prenatal lack of oxygen and head injuries.
  2. CVI is a complex diagnosis. The fact that many children have other disabilities in addition to CVI, including ocular visual impairments, can make diagnosing CVI difficult. Each child has a unique combination of visual behaviors with preferences for color, light and more. Individuals who work with children with visual impairments can now apply to the Perkins-Roman CVI Range© Endorsement Program to become recognized experts in the CVI field.
  3. CVI requires a different approach than other visual impairments. CVI requires unique assessments in order to effectively adapt a child’s home and school environment, including daily activities like getting dressed, navigating complex routes, reading and more. Functional modifications of the environment are important to help the child achieve greater progress and independence.
  4. Our knowledge of CVI is constantly evolving. As research continues among the CVI population, scientists are learning more about the characteristics of this condition. Theories once believed to be true have been proven false in recent years, causing confusion among parents and teachers of the visually impaired. WonderBaby has compiled a list of the Top 8 Misconceptions about CVI.
  5. There are many resources to find out more about CVI. With a surge in the amount of information available about Cortical Visual Impairment, there are plenty of places to learn everything you need to know. Here are a few resources to help get you started:
    • Perkins eLearning: Offers online CVI courses for teachers, parents and others.
    • Paths to Literacy: Promotes literacy for children who are blind, with specific resources for kids with CVI.
    • WonderBaby: Provides information and support for families with children with a variety of visual impairments, including CVI.
    • American Printing House (APH): Produces braille materials and accessible items, including products designed for kids with CVI.

As with every other type of visual impairment, knowledge is power when it comes to helping children with CVI learn, grow and thrive.

Hillary Kleck is the web content coordinator for the Information Technology department at Perkins School for the Blind. She is also on the board of directors of We Perceive, Inc., a nonprofit organization promoting a fully accessible world for children with visual impairments.

Infographic on 5 things you probably don't know about CVI

Read more about: CVI Spotlight, Advocacy, CVI, Low Vision