8 literacy resources for children with CVI

Every child with CVI has a right to an assessment-driven, dynamic, and student-centered approach to literacy.

A little boy practicing his words at home.
All children with CVI can be readers, writers, and problem solvers.

All children with CVI require every opportunity to develop literacy skills presented in an assessment-driven way: methodical, intentional, and accessible. Every child with CVI is ready for literacy instruction.

Make sure to explore how CVI impacts the reading process.

Here are eight resources that offer various ideas and approaches to support literacy for kids with CVI. There is no one-size-fits-all approach for children with CVI, but there is always a path to literacy that meets the child’s unique needs.

  1. Making literacy decisions for children with CVI
  2. CVI considerations and research-based practices in reading
  3. All children can read: Steps to literacy
  4. How clutter and crowding of text on a page might affect a reader with CVI
  5. Ideas for adapting worksheets and other 2D literacy materials
  6. Reading with visual field loss
  7. Use of color to support recognition of 2D and print
  8. Strategies to develop visual-spatial skills for writing letters
1.  Making Literacy Decisions for Children with CVI

If you’re wondering what the process is like from assessment to implementing a dynamic and student-centered literacy approach, dive into this must-watch resource!

Tammy Reisman, M.Ed., TVI, C.A.E.S., presents two case studies of students with CVI (elementary and high school) to show how she used assessment to determine literacy access and examples of literacy instruction and materials. The result was both students became more confident in themselves as learners and readers.

Core beliefs:

Assessment drives instruction. The optimal assessment of literacy access includes the Learning Media Assessment (LMA) using a CVI-lens, which means considering possible improvements in visual attention and recognition, along with the child’s compensatory skills use. The LMA is a process to help the provider figure out what learning media children will use, which is anything the student uses to access communication and symbols: pictures, tactile, print, Braille, auditory, and digital. Reisman’s LMA process also includes Matt Tietjen’s 2D Image Assessment. Additionally, she looks at how a student uses compensatory skills to access information, current reading skills and writing skills, and assistive technology.

Why should TVI’s conduct a learning media assessment? IDEA requires the LMA for all students with visual impairments.

Take me to this webinar: Making Literacy Decisions for Children with CVI

2.  Ideas for how to use research-based practices in reading, the child’s strengths and motivations, and CVI considerations to develop literacy approaches and materials

Check out this resource if you’re looking for guidance on reading instruction, ideas about tapping into your child’s interests, and adapting print literacy strategies and materials.

Judy Endicott, former reading specialist and current CVI Grandmother, shares how she used a “CVI overlay” centered on her grandson’s CVI visual behaviors and interests when teaching reading skills—phonemic awareness, word families, sight words, reading comprehension, and pre-teaching vocabulary in a story. Endicott shares ideas about how to use color, reduce clutter, incorporate movement, introduce new images and words, and present materials in an accessible visual field. Children with CVI must have access to evidence-based reading instruction and grade-level curriculum.

Take me to this webinar: Our CVI Literacy Journey. You can also read highlights from the presentation.

Boy with CVI touching the letter
3.  No child with CVI is too anything to keep them from becoming readers. All. Children. Can. Read.

If you’re looking for a resource to help understand the steps to literacy and begin or enhance literacy instruction for your child with combined vision and hearing loss, complex needs, or other complex learning challenges, keep reading!

Steps to Literacy, created by the National Center on Deafblindness, is an interactive document filled with links to dozens of resources. It begins with a literacy skills checklist to help understand where your child is in the literacy process—and all of our children are somewhere in this literacy process. Literacy is rooted in the experiences and concept development that begins early in life. The document provides a list of skills for each stage of literacy—building a foundation, early emergent literacy, emergent literacy, and expanding literacy—along with resources for reading and writing strategies. Additionally, there are links to resources for comprehension, vocabulary, and fluency.

Yes! Take me to Steps to Literacy.

4.  An example of how clutter and crowding of text on a page might affect a reader with CVI.

Interpreting two-dimensional images and symbols can be incredibly fatiguing for children with CVI. A page of text is a heavy visual load to process. If your child gets easily tired, has trouble staying focused, loses their place on a page, or misreads words while reading, check out this article from CVI Scotland.

The article offers a case example of Sean, a high school student struggling to read the assigned novel in class. He can only visually attend to a word or two at a time, and sometimes words are cut off. He reads with his finger to help track along a line of text, but he also loses his place easily, and it’s near impossible to find his place again. There are pictures of simulations of what a page of text might look like to Sean. At the end of the article is a link to CVI Scotland’s free reading tool called Look, which displays text one word at a time with options to customize the display, size, and speed. With any literacy tool, it’s important to match approaches and strategies to assessment results.

Take me to this article: Sean Reading at Home.

Boy with CVI look at the words
5.  Why are there so many worksheets?! Ideas for adapting worksheets and other 2D literacy materials.

Worksheets are not accessible for many kids with CVI for various reasons—for example, too much clutter and crowding, unrecognizable abstract black and white images, inappropriate font type and size, and/or difficulty with writing skills. It’s nearly impossible to avoid worksheets in our educational system, so it’s important to figure out how to make the goal of a worksheet into an accessible learning task.

The first step is to understand the learning goal of the worksheet. What are the concepts and skills the student needs to know? How will the student show what they know? Based on assessment and data, how can this worksheet be transformed into an accessible task that meets the student’s visual, tactile, and auditory needs? Are real objects or photographs needed? How does the task incorporate color, light, or the student’s other compensatory skills? “Trust the Process: A Case Study in Literacy and CVI” is one example of how a TVI and Assistive Technology specialist collaborate to adapt worksheets and other literacy materials for a kindergarten student with CVI.

Take me to this resource: Trust the Process: A Case Study in Literacy and CVI, webinar and blog post.

6.  Reading with visual field loss: “Just like you do not see black behind you, but rather lack vision, the child also lacks vision in the lost visual field.”

When our eyes are in a fixed position straight ahead, the area we see is called a “visual field.” Visual field loss happens when a portion of the visual field is absent. Children with CVI can have a range of visual field deficits, depending on where the damage or interruption happens in the brain. Some kids with CVI have homonymous hemianopia or the loss of half of the visual field on the same side in each eye.

The Brain Recovery Project developed a resource about vision after hemispherectomy that includes: explanations for how homonymous hemianopia makes reading print difficult, a detailed list of accommodations, modifications, and helpful strategies, what compensatory strategies look like, necessary evaluations, and other helpful resources. Even if the cause of your child’s CVI and visual field loss is not a hemispherectomy, this resource can still offer inspiration and creative ideas!

Take me to this resource: Vision After Hemispherectomy [Reading with a visual field loss and ideas for accommodations and strategies]

Boy with CVI looking at an iPad with a picture of seahorse with the tail highlighted in yellow
7.  Use of color to support recognition of 2D and print

Many kids with CVI rely on color to support visual attention and recognition. Color appears to be a popular compensatory skill for children with CVI; for example, some will color-code objects or 2D forms to support recognition. When learning print, color can be used in various ways to support visual access. As always, assessment, specifically the Learning Media Assessment (LMA), will help reveal the best way to use color in literacy materials.

Some students with CVI need the letters to be a specific color, presented on a certain colored background. Check out the first resource on this list where Tammy Reisman describes how she learned her student had better access to learning new print words with green, 60 point font on a yellow background. As the student became more familiar with the word, these color supports faded and he could recognize the word in black font on a white background.

For some kids with CVI, their LMA results reveal that they learn a new word by its shape and may benefit from word bubbling (Roman). The crowding of letters in a word might make it difficult for a child with CVI to recognize each letter within the word. The child’s preferred color is drawn around the word, so they learn to recognize the shape at first. Word bubbling is a temporary technique and should fade as the child learns the word. Pediatric CVI Society (PCVIS) has a brief overview of this approach.

Take me to this resource: An approach to literacy.

8.  Strategies to Develop Visual-Spatial Skills for Writing Letters

Writing skills are an important part of literacy. Writing can happen in many different ways: handwriting, typing, and speech-to-text. Our kids with CVI have so much potential when sharing their own stories or what they’ve learned from a book or an experience. The first and fifth resources in this list include ideas about assistive technology that support writing skills, such as an adapted keyboard, iPad apps, and speech-to-text software.

Dr. Roxana Elena Cziker developed a 5-part series of articles that address challenges for children with CVI who have difficulties with visual-spatial awareness and understanding the elements of shapes. These skills are important in being able to write letters, words, and paragraphs. This series includes a mainly 3D object approach and explains how to use attribute blocks to teach visual-spatial relationships, magnetic circles and lines to teach elements of shapes, and pipe cleaners to introduce the configuration of letters.

Take me to this resource: Strategies to Develop Visual-Spatial Skills for Writing Letters

Boy with CVI writing on a slant board with a bright task light

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