The second cohort for the UMASS/Perkins CVI Certification will begin in the fall 2020. Here is a link to the information and factsheets.
Watch your children with CVI move to get into a chair. So often I see this done tactilely. They turn and backup slowly until they feel the chair seat against the back of their legs. I believe this is due to the difficulties judging distance, the visual complexity of this task and visual motor difficulties.
I have had great luck working with the PT and OT to help children understand where the chair is in space and how to move their body into the seated position.
Here is one example. Just by placing red tape on one arm of the modified toilet we could teach the child to find the highlighted armrest of the chair, cross midline, hold the red highlighted area to stabilize their body and to turn to sit. As they improved their skills, we were able to reduce the size of the color highlighting and finally remove it. This provided safe and more independent toileting.
Please watch these important webinars about teaching reading to children with CVI. Pay especially close attention to the fact that the methods are not uniform. They are in consideration of the visual behaviors of CVI of individual children. No reading approach is for every child. That “visual brain” and that “reading brain” are different in every single child.
The first webinar is by a parent of a child with hemianopsia, Monika Jones of the Brain Recovery Project. Although the webinar is not about reading specifically, there are some important considerations for reading presented. Those reading considerations match the visual abilities of the children with CVI impacted by this brain based visual impairment.
The next two webinars are by Judy Endicott. Judy is the grandmother of a child with CVI. Using her expertise in reading and her building understanding of CVI, Judy embarked on a journey to teach her grandson to read. What I love is that Judy was wonderfully diagnostic of her grandson’s abilities and needs. Her approach to teaching reading followed her grandson’s lead. She developed each step in the reading journey based on his successes and difficulties. If something didn’t work, she moved on to try something else in partnership with her grandson. Like any great teacher, she has understanding of the different developmental levels of learning, how the child with a neuro-typical brain learns, and that all learners have individual abilities that require instruction matched to those abilities and needs.
Neuroscientist Vilayanur Ramachandran created this Ted Talk to discuss mirror neurons. Mirror neuron’s role in the brain was recently discovered and research about the function of mirror neurons continues. As Dr. Ramachandran mentions in his talk, he believes mirror neuron use is one of the foundations of human interactions and cultural growth.
Mirror neurons, activated by visual observation, allow us to imitate and practice observed actions and to take the perspective of another person as they operate in the world. I couldn’t help but think of mirror neurons in the context of CVI and visual impairments.
For children with CVI, that lack of essential visual access would make mirror neurons function impossible and this must impact the development of all skills and knowledge, all imitation and the development of all social skills. The role of mirror neurons, it seems, is essentially intertwined with incidental learning and perspective taking, the basis of social skills.
A vast amount of information that a child learns about the world is through this visual incidental learning. If I watch a person eating, I am learning through visual skills alone, how people eat. I know the position for eating, the social skills of eating, and the tools used for eating. My brain, using mirror neurons, is practicing eating long before I ever use a spoon myself. I am exposed to this kind of incidental knowledge all my waking hours from birth and I am learning without being directly instructed.
After watching this Ted Talk, ask yourself these questions:
- Does this not support the need for careful evaluation of what children with CVI really understand and how they understand it?
- Does this not caution us to think about why children with CVI might struggle with imitation and pretend play? (and caution us to be careful to never use this imitation and pretend play criteria for cognitive assessment)
- Does this not justify all direct instruction to students with CVI?
- Does this not justify the repeated need to practice all skills directly taught?
- Does this not justify the Expanded Core Curriculum for students with CVI?
- Does this not justify a TVI who understands visual inaccessibility on a child’s educational team?