The teaching of salient features begins at birth. It should be a strategy suggested to parents and teams whether a child is in Phase I, Phase II or Phase III. In Phase I and II, we would be careful to limit the auditory distraction of salient feature discussion to before a child looks at materials and would support again after a child looked at the material due to the issue of complexity.
Incidental Use of Salient Feature Discussion:
Narration of the salient features regarded by the child becomes a philosophy of instruction throughout the day. This would provide salient language around items that a child can see at near and distance regardless of the CVI Range phase. If the child is looking at materials, these materials are important and often the most familiar to the child. “That’s your Elmo. He is red with white round eyes.”
Planned Use of Salient Feature Discussion:
I love to use attribute trays to discuss salient qualities. If the child likes balls, I would create a salient feature tray of balls. This allows discussion of the favorite colored ball and salient language.
- The first kind of tray would contain all the same colored, favorite balls. The number presented would depend on how many items in an array a child can tolerate as determined by assessment using the CVI Range. “That’s your favorite red ball. Its round. It is small and fits into your hand. Its lightweight. Oh, you dropped it, and it rolled”. There is another one. It is red too. You dropped it and it rolled”.
- The next kind of tray would include several favorite balls and one added item that was very dissimilar in shape, size and color. Discussion would include: “That is a spoon. It is silver with a long handle. It is not red. It is not round. It does not roll when you dropped it. It is not a ball.
- The next kind of tray would include multiple kinds of balls of various sizes, weights, textures and colors. Discussion could focus on the similarities and differences of the balls.
It is important to understand the medical history of all conditions affecting the children you serve. It deepens your knowledge of symptoms, learning profiles and places behaviors in context.
For children with CVI, increasing your own understanding of the causes of brain based CVI exposes you to information and terminology about the brain structures and function. You should understand the structures of the brain as well as you know the structures of the eye. This is where CVI abnormalities and difficulties are located. I want to learn about the unique brain based damage and the location of those problems. I hope in the future with increasing understanding of the brain through newer imaging methodologies, I will be ready to understand how damage exactly affects learning. I’m getting ready!
I always ask for eye reports and neurology reports from parents. These are equally important to understand whether the eye is healthy and providing the information to the brain and whether the brain is healthy enough to receive it. Keeping the brain as a focus of my discussions with teams and parents help drive home the location of the visual problem (the brain), the possibility of improvement, importance of assessment and the importance of targeted interventions to increase access and provide a learning platform for visual skills to grow for children with CVI.
If I understand, I can explain. If I explain well to parents and teams, they become my partner in the assessment and interventions for children. This is the primary job of a TVI. Teams and parents that can observe the CVI characteristics they see everyday and understand the functioning are better ready to create and provide accurate environmental supports for learning and for charting progress.
We should increase out understanding of the brain as we think about children with CVI. The more we know, the more critically we can evaluate theories and interventions. We can understand the medical information we receive in reports. We can begin to understand the latest brain research and it is sure changing quickly! Even texts and articles about the brain from 5 years ago may contain disproved information.
David Eagleman explores the brain in this new series “The Brain”. This looks like a wonderful series from PBS (Public Broadcasting Station).
Here is his website: http://www.pbs.org/the-brain-with-david-eagleman/home/
I just ordered his new book The Brain. I’ll let you know what I find out about the visual system!
We have a new occupational therapy student working in our program. It didn’t take long for him to see the successes in visual motor function when CVI strategies were used to reduce complexity with black tape and to highlight the opening snaps with red tape. This child in the occupational therapy session worked so hard to open the container to get out a favorite lighted toy. Now we can move that skill to the lunch table for true function: opening his sandwich container. As understanding of this visual task improves, the highlighting can be made smaller and smaller. We need to remember to generalize this skill to other containers now that it has become familiar.
I found this lecture so interesting! It is one hour long but worth the time.
Looking Inside the Adaptive Brain of the Blind
Dr. Merabet speaks at the National Institutes of Health in Washington DC about the team’s work on plasticity, ocular blindness, and CVI. As usual I have more questions!