The Importance of Predictability: Seeing What You Expect to See

With no well established visual attention, there will be limited visual recognition if any. The “visual library” is sparse due to the inability to look and shift attention to the parts of the item for the details of that item. For children with CVI who have limited visual attention, there may be visual attention to color, light or motion, but we can not assume this is visual recognition.

To assess visual recognition for these children who briefly attend to “favorite toys” that are bright colors, lighted or moving, we must be very clearly diagnostic about what we are observing. Is it only visual attention to color, light or motion or some level of recognition?


If you think the child attend to and recognizes the red stuffed dog, present that and record the reaction. Do they smile or reach excited towards it? Now present another red toy of a similar size. If the reaction is the same, it is likely that child is heavily coding his or her world by using color not recognizing that item by shape or detail. The object itself has no meaning. It is a just a red “thing”.

Our goal for students with such limited visual attention is to create environments that support visual attention by controlling distracting light, noise, clutter and motion. We foster that visual attention and strive to create object meaning, object recognition.

To create meaning and to foster visual recognition, we want to create a predictable world where the same objects are used in a meaningful routine. In this meaningful routine, the repetitive use of the same objects in combination with the smells, tastes, tactile input and sounds clue the child’s understanding and therefore provide access to the visual information connected to meaning. It is this predictability in meaningful contexts that allow our children with CVI to begin the visual recognition journey and to begin to build that visual library.

It is no surprise that when we provide the adaptations to the environment to foster visual attention, most children begin to recognize predictable items in the meaningful routines of mealtime. Mealtimes happen predictably three or more times per day. Parents report cups, bottles and spoons as the first kinds of recognized items. If you use the same mealtime objects with a child in a predictable and repeated routine such as mealtime, the child hears language about eating (auditory), smells the cooking or preparation of food in the context of the kitchen (context and smell), sits down in the highchair or dining chair (tactile and proprioception), and feels the bib being placed on (tactile). Those visual materials in context and with the other sensory information give visual meaning. It is no wonder these items are the starting points for visual recognition skills.


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