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Happy CVI Literacy Awareness Month!
When it comes to Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI) and literacy, it’s important to understand that anything we do to promote looking, visually recognizing, and interpreting what the eyes are seeing is creating a path to literacy.
What do I mean by this?
To briefly summarize: CVI is a brain-based vision impairment. The eyes are healthy and function normally, but the brain has difficulty processing and understanding what the eyes see. But, how an individual with CVI uses and functions with their vision can improve as the brain makes new connections, learning to recognize and better interpret more visual input.
So, if you think about it, literally any time we get a child with CVI “looking” we are working towards literacy. A child must be able to look at something, maintain visual focus, and begin recognizing and interpreting what they are looking at in order to achieve literacy.
Keeping this in mind, I am always looking for creative ways to increase my daughter’s opportunities to use her vision throughout our everyday routines. Right now this means creating additional ways to get my daughter, Rosalie, looking at (and recognizing) more 2D images.
A recent strategy I’ve been using to promote extra 2D processing is: using wall decals around the house!
I began with just a Big Bird decal, because Big Bird is a favorite doll and visually familiar image for Rosalie (novelty). I placed him on a wall in Rosalie’s bed room, a couple feet off the floor so he was visible if I sat her down and let her crawl around. She had just started regularly noticing (and recognizing) him in that spot when we shifted around our kids’ bedrooms. Her old room became her brother’s room, so I wanted to move the Big Bird decal to a place she would see it more often. Instead of putting him in her new room, I decided to put him in a spot she would see him with greater frequency: the play room!
Having moved Big Bird to the play room, I began searching for other decal ideas to put in her new room and – you can probably guess based on the photo above – I settled on horses!
Why horses? Well, Big Bird, Elmo, and Cookie Monster are already incredibly familiar and Rosalie has recently started branching out with different picture books, so I wanted something that would be an appropriate new challenge. We’ve begun working on lots of animal books, Rosalie knows a lot of animal sounds, she loves to bounce and rock on her yellow Rody horse, and she is obsessed with not one, but TWO songs that mention horses. So, I purchased this set of 24 realistic horse picture decals for about $10.
I decided to place a couple of large horse decals on the wall beside her diaper changing table, which is where I also get her dressed.
I intentionally chose large decals (easier to notice) that have horses facing different directions and standing in different poses. Why? Because I’m working on teaching Rosalie the salient features of horses and how to recognize them – so I do not want her to think an image of a horse always faces one direction in a standard pose. This variety allows me to point out differences while teaching what makes a horse “a horse.”
I always strive to use realistic 2D images since it makes it easier for Rosalie to learn and recognize the real-life object (real pictures are better for people with CVI than cartoons).
I seriously love the detail on these decals! The set came with a variety of horses in different sizes and colors, so I gave the more visually complex stickers (featuring groups of multiple horses running together) to my other kids to decorate the walls above their beds. I kept the less complex stickers (with single horses) for Rosalie and decided to add a few to the play room wall with Big Bird. Note that this is an appropriate level of visual complexity for my daughter, but might be too cluttered for others; always refer to a child’s CVI Range Score and consider their visual strengths and weaknesses!
Rosalie is becoming increasingly mobile and I’ve been implementing strategies to help orient her within our home (like highlighting certain objects with colorful tape). So, In choosing a location for the wall stickers, I wanted to draw her visual attention to areas that might help serve at landmarks. For this reason I placed the Big Bird and horse decals on the wall that exits the play room (she used to never leave the play room on her own, but is starting to independently venture further and further).
My thinking was to use the familiar Big Bird to initially grab her attention, then transition to showing her the horses near him. So far this is exactly what has happened! Big Bird catches her eye, she wants to go to him, then I can point out the horses (which she probably wouldn’t pay much attention to on their own right now due to the CVI characteristic of “novelty”).
I love that the decals are always there, which means Rosalie can practice looking and processing them without waiting for me to pull out a book or set up the light box. 🙂 So, if you’re looking for a fun way to incorporate more 2D images into your every day, you might want to consider wall decals!