Building Visual Recognition

Over the years, I have begun to think about learners with CVI in terms of visual accessibility with two distinctly different sets of visual skills: Visual Attention and Visual Recognition. When we understand the child’s abilities in these two areas, we can understand how accessible their visual world is and how reliance on compensatory skills is so essential for educational programming.

Visual attention is the precursor to any visual recognition. It must be understood that a child simply can’t have visual recognition (understanding what they see) without visual attention (actually looking, shifting to visual elements and seeing details).  Both visually attending and sustaining that attention are essential first steps before any visual recognition can develop. Check out Jeremy Wolfe’s work on visual attention in his Visual Attention Harvard lab.

When thinking about visual attention in assessment, I am looking at overall visual attention.

  • How often does the child look?
  • What kinds of things do children look at?
  • What is the length of time that children can hold that attention on the object?
  • It that length of time enough for children to see the details and feature of that item beyond just attending to movement, light or color properties?
  • When they look, do their eyes shift to the elements of objects or pictures?
  • What is the child’s visual curiosity for the world around them?

When thinking about visual recognition in assessment, that understanding of the visual attention skills is vital. Visual recognition requires:

  • Frequent and repeated looking
  • Sustained looking
  • Looking with the ability to shift central gaze to all parts of the items
  • Recognition of objects outside context. (Is the spoon recognized as a spoon without the child being told it is time for lunch, without being in the feeding area, without food smells, the bib cueing). 

When children are extremely impacted by CVI, there is simply no recognition because the ability to attend is so very fragile. There is no real visual recognition but isolated attention to certain types of color, motion and light. They may look as if they have “favorites” but really any object of that color, with motion and with light gets the same response. There is no recognition of the object itself.

If you don’t look at items, or when you so look, you don’t look long enough to understand, you don’t shift to the visual elements, the chance of building that visual library is at great risk. It is this visual attention that becomes our focus for creating accessibility.

One comment

  1. My daughter Arianna is 12 yrs old CVI from birth. How do I get the schools to understand?????? Level III 9

    Arianna absolutely needs visual and audio direction/cues.

    She needs to watch a video with audio of literature to “see” the Story.

    She needs video with audio instructions for math, science, etc.

    She needs to be able to refer back to “cue/start” what little retainable memory she has.

    Once she has mastered something she does not forget, but it takes hours/days of review and hours/days/weeks of practice with visual prompts and later video review again to start her recall memory.

    Videos with audio are like a schematic: only she needs video with audio to show the details of how something operates or is put together.

    Some typical people can put a bike together without directions others need explicit direction and maybe even a video. The spectrum is wide and kids like Arianna with CVI need it all.

    This NEEDS TO BE RELAYED TO TEACHERS, for her to become a successful student.

    Like you and I Arianna does not quit, she puzzles things out and usually succeeds.
    The problem is by the time this happens her peers are miles ahead, her teachers are frustrated, and she thinks of herself as a failure.
    She is a very hard worker, her desire to please her teachers is strong, however, at the end of the day she is mentally exhausted – thus homework does not get done.

    This is hard for teachers etc to understand because Arianna appears to be a typical child – they expect other disabilities and find it hard to accept that she is a typical child with CVI.

    With the help of videos Arianna has concurred many physical challenges she can flip on her trampoline, roller skate, swim, ride a scooter, her mobility has rew restricyions – mostly navigating unfamiliar terrain etc.



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