Look at this series of pictures. (From American Printing House for the Blind website)
How can very young children with intact visual skills understand that these are all ducks?
They understand “Duckness”.
They have a keen understanding of the visual attributes that make up this “Duckness” because of shared visual experiences with others and with access to pictures, TV and movies that feature ducks. This develops effortlessly for children with intact visual skills. Without direct instruction, they understand that real ducks are different sizes, colors, and ages. They understand that ducks can be seen in different perspectives depending on where and how they are standing. They understand that ducks can be flat in pictures. They understand that ducks can be symbolic in toys, signs, pictures, colored cartoons and in black and white drawings.
Our children with CVI lack this visual access to “duckness”. They lack the expanded and repeated knowledge about ducks. If they have seen a duck, their idea of “duckness” is limited to that one duck. Due to reduced eye contact with people and with reduced eye to object abilities, adults do not explain the shared salient features that all ducks share.
As adults serving children with CVI, we should be aware of this limited access and limited understanding that can occur in 3D and 2D. We must create opportunities to expand children’s access matched to their assessed functional visual skills. We must evaluate all our materials with this visual access limitation considered. We must adjust our own interactions and instructions to include visual attribute language of the same and different visual feature of items.
It can be a real challenge to adapt learning environments for our students with CVI. Of course, one adaptation suggestion is never the answer. The environment must match the child’s assessed functional needs around CVI. Children must have distinctly unique adaptions for their environments and for their learning based on a complete CVI assessment. These distinct needs can only be identified with assessment of the individual child’s CVI.
For a child with an ocular impairment like retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), we would never say “Oh, this child has ROP? Here are the environmental needs and the learning material needs.” We would assess functional vision to identify the unique visual needs of that individual child. Our children with CVI deserve the same respectful and accurate assessment of their functional vision. They deserve accurate environmental supports and adaptations to learning that match that assessment.
In several classrooms where I serve children, the reduction of visual and auditory complexity and controlling access to light are the most challenging environmental adaptations. The solution we have used was to create learning centers in the classroom using cubicles.
These cubicles were donated by a business that was renovating their offices. The donation was a free and effective environmental support for many of my students. The cubicle walls are large and sound reducing. They tend to be tall which blocks distracting light. Perfect for so many children. Call your local Chamber of Commence or contact your local Rotary Club. I’m sure businesses would be so happy to help and to see these cubicles recycled and put to good use!
This article comes from work being conducted at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). They are studying how humans process visual information for recognition so they can design artificial visual systems. It seems vision is such a complex process! I think parents and teacher have understood this for years!
This great article that drives home the brain’s need for repeated experience to build visual understanding. The brain must have repeated experiences with objects in different kinds of positions, perspectives, lighting, size and distance. It reminds me to provide my students with real objects in repeated, predictable routines to build familiarity. It reminds me not it only present iPad visual targets that can’t be manipulated. The child builds visual recognition from the presentation of objects in multiple positions to view multiple perspectives. If the child is not able to manipulate material themselves, we must provide that varying visual perspective.