Nicola McDowell: Adult with CVI

Nicola McDowell is a TVI and O&M Specialist. She also had undiagnosed CVI for more than half her life. She struggled with an invisible disability that she, herself, did not understand.

She describes her experience as living in a “visual wilderness”.

This is her story of her CVI based visual difficulties before and after her diagnosis. This video is about 19 minutes. It is so valuable for us as educators as Nicola clearly describes her visual difficulties and outlines some strategies that help her function as independently as possible. Some areas she describes include:

  • The causes of her visual fatigue.
  • The impact of novelty, new places, people, or materials, that she struggles to understand.
  • The impact of clutter and increased movement in her environment.
  • The ways she uses color to support visual location.
  • The impact of her visual field loss.
  • Her difficulties with facial recognition.
  • Her difficulties knowing where sounds are coming from.
  • Her difficulties in social situations.
  • Her reaction to overwhelming visual and auditory input (the “CVI Meltdown”).
  • How her visual skills masked her cognitive ability.
  • How understanding CVI helped her create strategies for independence.
  • How other people’s understanding of CVI, helped them support her visual needs.

Great food for thought in our service to students with CVI as we provide instruction towards their maximum independence.


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