“She Sees When She Wants To”

I wish I had a nickel for all the times I’ve heard this comment about children with CVI: “She sees when she wants to.” I would be a rich woman!

Looking is not a choice.  Shown any item, we with typical vision, need to look at things in our world to decide whether we want to interact with it or not. We can decide to grab it, eat it, throw it or ignore it but we must look to determine what it is first!

So why do our children with CVI seem to see some things and not others? Why do they have this inconsistent visual regard to materials in their environment?

I find my students look and look and reach most consistently with those materials that are familiar. These are the materials that my students have formed a strong visual memory of. Its firmly in their visual library. Looking at it and recognizing it are solid skills.

My student, Judy, lacks visual attention for most materials in her environment. She requires the strictest environmental controls for visual location and for sustaining her vision to most materials. Judy does love Goldfish crackers and water bottles. She can find a goldfish cracker on her tray immediately, reach to it and gobble it up. She can spy a water bottle 6 feet away, smile in recognition and cross the room to grab it. She shows no other visual recognition to any item at this 6 feet distance except light.

People who do not understand CVI or understand how important familiar materials are to children with CVI, misinterpret this as a “behavior”. They blame the child for lack of interest. Seeing this ability in the context of the CVI, is the only way to interpret this ability and to expand a student’s access to the world with lateral learning.

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