Category: CVI Phase III

CVI Strategies for Reading “Brown Bear, Brown Bear”

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In honor of CVI Literacy Awareness Month, I’d like to share some of the strategies I’ve used to introduce my daughter with Cortical Visual Impairment to the book Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr.

When I added a felt wall to my daughter’s defined play space, my mom gifted me a set of pre-cut Brown Bear felt pieces. I had fun immediately introducing the matching felt pieces to the pages in the story, which provided a fun tactile (and visual, obviously) learning experience.

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Pictured above are all of the animals from the book, but to address the CVI characteristic of “complexity” I present only one image on the felt wall at a time.

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April is CVI Literacy Awareness Month!

Happy CVI Literacy Awareness Month!

The topic of literacy is so important for the CVI community that it needs its own month (set apart from CVI Awareness Month in September) for recognition and awareness. After all, a path to literacy for an individual with CVI must look different than a path to literacy for an individual with any other type of vision impairment. Why? Because CVI is unlike any other vision impairment. With this neurological-based vision impairment, the eyes are healthy and see what everyone else sees, but the brain has difficulty processing, recognizing, and interpreting what the eyes can see.

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In other words, CVI is a disability of visual access. Appropriate strategies that adapt the environment and materials in consideration of the 10 characteristics of CVI and an individual’s unique functional vision are the key to providing access to materials. This is no different when it comes to literacy.

Literacy is defined as “the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate and compute, using printed and written materials associated with varying contexts.” (UNESCO Education Sector, 2004, p. 13)

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“CVI-friendly” Magnetic Stacking Blocks

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Back in the fall, I was thinking about some of the fine motor goals I have for my daughter’s play time. She is 2 years old and very much loves “cause and effect” toys – things where she can push a button and make it light up, sing, dance, etc. These are really fun, rewarding toys (“I make an effort and this cool thing happens!”), but I also want her to be able to move beyond simple cause and effect toys as she grows (something we take for granted with typically-sighted children, but must intentionally teach and/or provide access to for a child with CVI).

When I reflected on this, my mind came up with two major categories of play that I wanted to move towards: “pretend play” and “building.”

Today on the blog I want to focus on “building.”

Do I expect my two-year-old that has physical developmental delays and Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI) to suddenly become a mini engineer building the kind of elaborate Lego Duplo inventions her (typically-developing and sighted) big brothers began creating at age two? NO. But I often look to her typically-developing siblings and/or peers to generate ideas of where I’d like her to be able to go and/or what I’d like her to have access to in play (and life). 

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Highlighting Objects Around the Home

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As my young child with Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI) has become progressively mobile, it has become increasingly important for me to think about what I can do to help her visually orient herself within our home.

You may recall that some months ago I began using washi tape (like this glittery set) to highlight some light switches with pops of sparkly color. This provided a fun visual and fine motor activity of turning light switches on and off while I necessarily carried my daughter, Rosalie, from room to room with me. So, it was only natural for me to start looking around at other things it would make sense to highlight as Rosalie began moving around the house more independently.

Where did I begin? For starters, I gathered my supplies: scissors and tape. Really, that’s all it took!

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Pictured: white scissors and a roll of shiny, red duct tape.

As you will see, I ended up using various kinds of tape on different surfaces – depending on the material, color, and what the purpose of the tape was. Pictured above is a shiny red tape, similar to this one found on Amazon.

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CVI DIY: Adapting Puzzles

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Puzzles are such a great activity! They promote and fine-tune functional vision in conjunction with cognitive and motor skills…and they are never too visually complex for a child with Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI), right?! I mean…wait.

But seriously. Puzzles really are a fantastic activity that can assist with a child’s development (we’re talking visual and shape recognition, concentration, patience, fine motor skills, and more!)…when a child with CVI has access to them.

Every child with CVI has some type of medical history that has caused this brain-based visual impairment (whether that history is fully known or not), so I recognize that some children with CVI may not have physical access to traditional children’s puzzles, but in sharing how I have adapted puzzles for my daughter I am focusing solely on the issue of visual access.

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Tactile Sensory Play Activities

I have never been much of one to label my parenting “style” or “methodology,” but I suppose if I had to I would say I’m somewhat “Montessori-ish” in the sense that I value hands-on learning activities that foster independence and collaborative learning. I also highly value imaginative free play, which means I spent years avoiding (or at least limiting) toys that produce various lights, music (except for instruments, of which we have many), or sounds…. And then I was blessed with a child with Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI).

Rosalie was exiting Phase I CVI and starting to cross into Phase II the first time we got her official “CVI Range Score” from an endorsed professional (find one near you!), but was still a young baby with delayed motor skills so a lot of what I first implemented involved Phase I strategies to get her looking. LIGHTS, SHINY THINGS, and TOYS THAT LIGHT UP quickly found their way into our home as I resigned myself to (and perhaps grieved a little) the fact that Rosalie’s CVI meant she just would not be a “Montessori learner.”

But you know what is super Montessori and arguably MORE important for children with CVI than for their typically-sighted and/or neurotypical peers? HANDS-ON SENSORY PLAY!

These days I find myself being far more intentional about providing tactile, active learning experiences for Rosalie than I ever was for her big brothers (after all, with typical sight they have access to incidental learning). There are so many ways to tap into your inner-Montessori (if that’s a thing?) and incorporate sensory play, so today I will share just three activities we’ve been doing.

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8+ Beginning Books for CVI

I love (good) books. As a child, I was a huge bookworm. As a mother, I could seriously read to my children nearly all day long if they would let me! I think one of the most personally devastating parts of discovering our daughter’s Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI) diagnosis for me was the realization that reading books with her (and teaching her to read) will likely require a great deal of adaptation – and it simply will not be the same experience as I’ve had with her big brothers. Still, I am filled with hope because some children with CVI can become skilled readers – and even fall in love with literature.

In her (new!) book, Cortical Visual Impairment: Advanced Principles, Dr. Christine Roman-Lantzy writes:

“I now know that some children with CVI will achieve the prerequisites for reading and ultimately become competent readers, while others will follow a different path. But I cannot foresee ahead of time which individuals with CVI will read, so I believe that all children must be provided a path to literacy. Some will use symbol systems that are not word based. Others will learn a discrete set of words that can be used for short passages or functional reading. Still others will become skilled readers who will ultimately read fluently, with comprehension and pleasure…. So I encourage my colleagues to take the risk of believing that your students with CVI are capable of literacy no matter what form it ultimately takes….” (p. 37)

Personally, at this point in time I must choose to believe that Rosalie (my daughter with CVI) can and WILL achieve literacy. Right now she is only 16 months old, so we have a long way to go on a path to literacy – but she takes an interest in 2D images (a skill that typically emerges in Phase II CVI) and is at a great age in regards to neuroplasticity. This is a prime time to read picture books with her and focus on building her repertoire of “known” objects!

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