The classroom teacher picked up this blowup snowman after the holidays last year. This child, Jim, needs movement and light to draw visual attention to his weaker right visual field. In this inventive activity, the snowman is connected to a switch using a Powerlink environmental control device interface. When Jim hits the switch, the snowman slowly inflates and lights up. After 30 seconds, it shuts off and slowly deflates. Jim needs to visually locate the switch to watch it re-inflate. He increasingly accesses the weaker right visual field in this fun activity! The Powerlink can be controlled and the individually set for every child in the classroom matched to the assessed processing time, visual field, switch color, distance, and complexity needs. Fantastic visual and visual motor activity! I love activities like this for home as well. Children can engage and play in a meaningful way while parents cook dinner, do laundry and all the other household tasks. I can’t think of a child who wouldn’t love this!
I am working with a child to build understanding of 2D photographs. I first needed to make sure he visually recognized the 4 target items in 3D. Since he could prove solid visual understanding of the 3D items for snack (he had used these for 2 years, everyday in snack so they were familiar). The strategy we developed used exact photographs of these familiar items. He struggles with increased display of too many materials presented at once so his speech therapist created this flip board so each one can be displayed individually. Notice the addition of the favorite yellow strip to indicate where to grab. This flip board is his organizational schedule so he can gather the materials he needs for his snack everyday to build increased independence.
Educational Programming for CVI simply must be embedded into all activities of the child’s day. There is no such thing as “Vision Time”. I do see students for direct service but that is to know and understand them, to make a relationship with them and to continuously assess their vision skills. If I do not consult with the team and parents and infuse the needed educational programming throughout the day, there will be no progress.
When I am talking to teams and parents of children with CVI and discussing embedding educational programming for CVI into the entire day, I use the analogy of learning to play soccer. If, when trying to learn to play soccer, a child only had one hour per week with me kicking a ball back and forth on an empty soccer field and kicking a ball into an empty soccer goal, the child would certainly learn some elements of the game of soccer. The progress for learning these elements would be slower and muscle memory for actions would be weaker. That learning would not translate well to a real soccer game with multiple players, complex array of movement and sound, and multiple distractions.
If I practiced these skills everyday in a soccer routine-based routine, the skills would be stronger, more functional for a soccer game and skills learned quicker. The same is true for building visual skills. Practiced everyday, all day, in predictable routines, vision skills will be stronger and grow quicker.
Using educational programming matched for a child’s distinct visual needs then embedding them into daily routines is the only way to provide access to the learning, to practice the access with familiar materials and events, to build function and to connect that function with generalized skills. Visual pathways are strengthened with use. Strengthened pathways connect with other pathways to ensure generalization of skills across environments.
Building Visual Attention: Placing materials with the bright colors at near within the child’s visual field at all times through the day on materials that appear again and again in routines, will build an understanding of the material’s function. “I see that red spoon coming, I smell food. This red thing is a spoon”.
Strengthening Visual Attention and Building Visual Recognition: Placing materials of bright colors at near and moderate distance within the child’s weaker and stronger visual fields at all times through the day on materials in routines, builds faster visual connections between events, materials, environments and people accessed daily. “I see Ellen in the yellow shirt at 4 feet, I hear the drawer opening, I hear the microwave, I smell my oatmeal, I am going to eat”.
Increasing and Solidifying Visual Recognition: Using familiar layouts for materials for my newer learning, allows me to learn the task rather to need to learn the new layout materials and the new task. (think about a math lesson introducing subtraction. Best to use the Unifex cubes (familiar materials) that we used for learning addition.