6 considerations for CVI and remote learning

There’s a lot to consider when it comes to your child with CVI and remote learning. Here are six considerations to help set up your child for success.

A young boy remote learning about time with his teacher on video chat

Raising a child with Cortical Visual Impairment/Cerebral Visual Impairment (CVI) is tough and now you have to do it in the midst of a worldwide pandemic.

Since March of 2020, families of children with CVI have had to adjust to many changes, including remote learning. Many families felt the hardship of losing the routine of in-person school and provider services. As parents, you felt the weight of being your child’s entire team on top of your usual responsibilities (working, running a household, or caring for your other children). And your child with CVI also felt this abrupt shift—the loss of routine, predictability, expectations and accessibility.

If remote learning continues to be a part of your life, here are six considerations to help create a strong foundation for your child’s remote learning experience.

An intentional and comprehensive remote learning plan is based on assessment. Your child’s team must center vision-based accommodations, adaptations, modifications, and learning goals on the results of your child’s assessments. These assessments should include the functional vision assessment (FVA) with CVI-specific evaluations (Roman’s CVI Range, Dutton’s Inventory, Tietjen’s Image Assessment) and the learning media assessment (LMA). Even with remote learning, children with CVI have a right to engage with materials and instructional approaches that provide visual and compensatory access to their learning. With the remote learning setting, your TVI will need to evaluate accessibility for the child who is now primarily using this new instructional media: the screen. Remote learning involves a change in environment, learning platform, and routine. And all of this can affect your child’s visual access. What your child can do in the classroom may be different from what they can do at home. Share with your child’s TVI and other providers the visual behaviors you are noticing at home. Help school staff understand your goals for your child. Although this pandemic is a challenge for everyone, it provides us with a unique opportunity to partner on the most vital student-centered functional goals and objectives for life skills and independence.

Each child with CVI has specific and individualized needs. There are no blanket solutions nor one-size-fits-all CVI interventions. There are many CVI applications, videos, YouTube lessons, and paid educational resources out there for children with CVI. But are they right for the specific needs of your child? Instructional approaches and interventions must be grounded in and based on assessment and how CVI visual behaviors and characteristics impact your child.

Core academic curricula and expanded core curricula remain front and center. Instruction must be rich, intentional, sequential, and well thought out. An app or video does not replace your child’s instructional plan. Remote learning must continue to work towards IEP goals. Your child’s educational team might create thematic units or skill development surrounding everyday items’ hands-on use and embed them in routines (i.e., mealtime, hygiene, leisure, chores). Incorporating skills into regular routines allows for increased opportunities to build visual attention and recognition across the day, alongside concept development and functional life skills acquisition. If you’re thinking an app or video doesn’t replace your child’s instructional plan—you’re right!

Children with CVI benefit from predictable routines and environments. Remote learning allows your child to engage with their learning in a very familiar environment: home. Some children with CVI are better able to visually attend and interpret while engaged in remote learning at home. In contrast, others are distracted by the idea of doing school in their home environment. Create a designated remote learning space for your child where school happens. This space will help your child anticipate and transition to being in school while at home. Encourage your child’s educators to consider creating a consistent routine for online learning (clear beginning, middle, end) to support visual predictability and visual memory.

All digital learning is two-dimensional (2D). For children with CVI who are working to establish visual attention or can only attend and recognize three-dimensional (3D) items, remote learning needs to be more than interacting through a screen. Use real objects to support instruction. Even children who can visually attend to and recognize 2D can still experience visual fatigue. Using a multi-sensory approach is paramount.

Set specific and intentional goals and objectives. Ask the team: What’s the goal of this lesson or the materials used? It’s important to understand why your child is doing what they are doing while engaged in remote learning. Ask your child’s teacher/therapist to define the lesson’s goal and explain the use of specific materials. Having this conversation ensures that it matches the child’s need for visual access, concept instruction and independence. It sparks discussion and collaboration, and ideas to expand learning in the home routines.

Read on to Part 2 of our CVI and Remote Learning series: How to set up your child’s remote learning space.

CVI parents: got questions? Join the CVI Now Parent Group to ask your questions, access live virtual events, and connect with other families.

Check out these resources on CVI and Remote Learning:

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CVI parenting with self-compassion

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Math and CVI: Ideas for a multisensory approach

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Low-tech CVI accommodations for a visually complex task