What Do Children with CVI See?

(Click to enlarge)

Optical illusion lost cow

It can be so hard to explain what children with CVI see.  This picture is a good way to explain how the world looks to a child with CVI.  You see all the colors.  You see each line and shading but your brain is searching its visual memory for what this image represents.  You can feel several CVI characteristics:

You are experiencing Latency: its taking you a long time to understand this.

This is visually complex (Visual Complexity).

If you were in a loud environment, it would take you longer to find meaning (Auditory Complexity).

If I asked you to look at this while balancing on a thin balance beam, you would take longer to understand the picture (Positional Complexity).

You want to hold this closer to your face to understand what it represents (Distance).

You have never seen this before so it is new to you.  Once you have understood it the first time.  It will take you less time to find it the next time. (Novelty)


    1. Hi Mark,
      This is exactly the point! I’m glad you commented! When children are in Phase II and Phase III, people observe children looking at things and think that CVI has resolved. It is “looking” just as you are looking at this image. You see every line, color and shape but your brain has not recognized the content and meaning of the picture. For many children with CVI, the understanding of what is seen must be carefully built.
      If you look at the series of cow pictures here, in the last one I have added color highlighting to help you find the salient feature, the cow. Once you see it, it jumps out. The next time you see it, the latency period for recognizing will be less from your previous success.
      That is the experience of what a child will CVI might see!


  1. Thank you, I’m going to print what ever I can regarding what my child sees for school. They don’t see much of a problem even though he’s partially sighted, has cvi, nystagmus, myopia and a squint. No depth perception, can’t see faces but he’s got great spatial awareness. They don’t understand at all.


  2. Ellen, once again your blog is such a great resource. My son is doing hippotherapy this summer with a PT who is newish to CVI and I’m directing her to your blog. Keep up this important work!


    1. Yes the black, white and gray. My point in this exercise this that you do not have any problem seeing the very small lines, the black, gray and white color, the card itself. You are struggling with visual recognition and we have the benefit of a huge library of visual images. Most of our students do no have this huge library.


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