Is CVI permanent?

With a CVI diagnosis comes many questions. There are a few key things to keep in mind, pertaining to brain maturity, neuroplasticity and more.

A focused boy playing with building blocks

Now that you have a diagnosis, you probably have questions. Is CVI permanent? Is CVI curable? Here’s what we know: Cerebral/Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI) is lifelong. But with appropriate  educational supports and specialized learning, kids with CVI can learn to access their world. Some use vision, some use non-visual skills, and most use both. Here are some key things to keep in mind:

Understanding neuroplasticity

As you begin to research CVI, you might hear the term “neuroplasticity” a lot. It’s a key topic as researchers investigate how to treat CVI. “Neuro” references the brain, and “plasticity” derives from plastikos, a Greek word that means to change or mold. Just as plastic can be changed under certain conditions, the brain’s structure and functions can change, too. Your child’s brain is constantly forming new connections as it interacts with the environment. Neuroplasticity occurs throughout our lives, however, when kids are young, the brain is especially receptive to change. This is important, because if we understand how brains adapt in relation to CVI, we can learn how to better educate kids with CVI. It’s also why early intervention is so important.

The promise of virtual reality

Researchers such as Chris Bennett and Dr. Lotfi Merabet are using virtual reality to help test how kids with CVI respond to simulated real-world situations, such as walking down a crowded hallway or reaching for a toy in a toy box. In a virtual environment, researchers can control for things that they can’t in the real world, such as light, color and clutter, helping to pinpoint which environmental modifications might help kids to see better.

What parents can do

You might feel helpless in the face of a CVI diagnosis. It’s natural. But there’s so much that you can do to help your child with CVI to engage all of his or her senses, from walks in the park to blowing bubbles in the backyard. Help them interact with their environment in as many ways as you can. This builds resilience and confidence as he or she explores the world; it also stimulates senses such as touch, smell and sound. Multi-sensory information presented in an accessible manner will support children in connecting these sensory experiences and the building of concepts required for future learning. As Harvard’s Merabet says, “The more the child is engaged and interactive with their environment, the more likely the brain is going to develop and change.”

Go deeper into the neuroscience of CVI in our Q&A with Dr. Lotfi Merabet

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