Getting started with CVI assessments

Know these key points for CVI assessments, and what needs to happen once your child is diagnosed with CVI.

A young girl sitting with a female teacher

Getting proper CVI assessments and evaluations for your child might seem overwhelming. Are you doing enough? Who handles what? Here’s a thorough primer on what needs to happen once your child is diagnosed with Cerebral/Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI), derived from your child’s CVI visual behaviors.

The role and responsibility of the teacher of the visually impaired (TVI) is to lead your child’s educational team by sharing essential information from specialized assessments and to assist in the development of the Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) or Individualized Education Program (IEP). TVIs should conduct:

Each of these assessments examines the visual and behavioral features of CVI that uniquely impact your child. The goal is to integrate these findings into the whole picture of your child’s educational needs. Collectively, these assessments provide information that’s needed for successful program planning, intervention, environmental changes and service delivery.

Understanding your child’s functional vision assessment

The ocular functional visual assessment (FVA) looks at any possible eye conditions that might also be impacting some children with CVI. This is an additional consideration for how well your child uses his vision to perform everyday tasks. It evaluates how and what your child’s eyes see and what supports will create better access to the visual world. It’s conducted by a TVI, who specializes in evaluating kids with CVI and who can consider the impact of both ocular and cerebral/cortical difficulties. It targets the impact of ocular, not neurological, impairments.

A TVI must understand that traditional ocular assessments are unlikely to adequately assess the unique aspects of functional vision that are indicative of CVI, and therefore must use CVI specific tools to evaluate the impact of CVI on functional vision. Your TVI should:

When conducting the FVA, your child’s TVI must gather data from a variety of perspectives in order to fully understand her needs. The teacher must understand the ocular conditions and conditions that may lead to a diagnosis of CVI. Valuable data points when completing the FVA include:

Understanding your child’s learning media assessment

Your TVI must also complete a Learning Media Assessment (LMA) to evaluate media needs (visual, tactile and auditory) and sensory preferences for your child. The TVI will understand how information gleaned from the FVA should inform how the LMA is conducted. This assessment should be administered simultaneously each time an FVA is administered, due to the fact that the primary learning media modality may change at different stages of development in kids with CVI. The LMA results must be considered in the context of possible visual change. The results often direct instruction towards multisensory media learning: employing learning through hearing; learning through touch; learning through smell; and learning through vision.

Here are some CVI specific tools:

Why environmental assessments matter

The TVI, with an orientation and mobility (O&M) specialist, must also complete environmental assessments to evaluate the environment’s impact on your child’s learning and to determine which supports will help your child to move through her world safely. Information from the FVA and LMA will inform the environmental assessment and should be shared with your child’s educational team, along with other assessment results. This assessment determines possible environmental modifications to your child’s surroundings and learning materials as well as those for O&M. For example, the environmental assessment must take into consideration your child’s experience related to sound, sight and safety.

These assessments can each go a long way toward making sure that your child gets the support she needs, tailored just for her. Learn more about effective and accurate FVAs and LMAs on Perkins eLearning.

Explore CVI Promising Practices, including a multisensory approach for children with CVI.


Dutton, Gordon, N. “Assessment of Functional Vision: History Taking for Children with CVI”. Contained in A. Lueck & G. Dutton: Editors, Vision and the Brain: Understanding Cerebral Visual Impairment in Children. 2015, New York, New York: American Foundation for the Blind Press. Chapter 11

Roman-Lantzy, C. (2018). Cortical Visual Impairment: An Approach to Assessment and Intervention. 2nd ed., New York, NY: AFB Press.

Roman-Lantzy, C. and Tietjen, M. (2020). Sensory Balance: An Approach to Learning Media Planning for Students with CVI. Watertown, MA: Perkins School for the Blind.

Teach CVI (2017). Screening lists for children with suspicion of CVI. Retrieved from:

Tietjen, M. (2019). The “What’s the Complexity?” Framework. In Roman-Lantzy, Christine. (2019) Cortical Visual Impairment: Advanced Principles (pp. 92-150). Louisville, KY: APH Press

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