Ideas

Central Focus for CVI: “How Does This Benefit Kids and Families?”

I have the pleasure of working at Perkins School for the Blind as the CVI Program Manager. My supervisor, Ed Bosso, has one central question for me every time we meet:

“How does this benefit kids and families?”

I try to take that question into consideration for everything I do.

  • How does this statement benefit kids and families?
  • How does this interaction benefit kids and families?
  • How does this idea benefit kids and families?
  • How does this CVI training benefit kids and families?
  • How does this assessment benefit kids and families?
  • How does this collaboration benefit kids and families?

There is certainly increasing understanding of CVI since I first learned about it in 2002. Now our task is to stay focused and to use that building energy and building understanding creatively, scientifically and collaboratively to move this field forward in all ways.

To support the medical field, the educational field and research field in understanding CVI, that central question, “How does this benefit kids and families?”, should be the first question we ask ourselves. Absolutely nothing else matters…

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Understanding What is Seen

For students with CVI, understanding what is seen is based on previous knowledge and the expanded understanding of salient visual features (Roman-Lantzy).

This wonderful example is from Judy Endicott who has a family member with CVI.

Judy shares this experience:

I asked Johnny (now 8), in grade 2 and 6.5 on The CVI Range, “What do you see?”

Note: (Johnny is not “into” football, and doesn’t recognize the Eagles logo, but Judy is always showing him different newspaper or magazine pictures to gain insight into his visual world, and help him use salient features to identify the image.)

Judy asks: “Johnny, what do you see?

Johnny replies: “A guy in jail.” (Johnny connects the helmet bars with the mistaken salient feature of “jail” that is known to him.)

Judy says: “Point to his head.”  (Johnny does this)

Judy asks “What’s on his head?”

Johnny says: “a helmet” (Johnny understands only part of the image).

 

Then Judy showed him the whole picture:

Judy discussed all the salient visual information more fully.

She talked about body parts, football, uniforms, etc.

Johnny could label all of the parts correctly when Judy pointed to them, but didn’t connect them initially to help him identify a football player wearing a helmet when Judy initially asked, “What do you see?”

The type of questioning that Judy used: “What do you see?”  insured that Johnny truly had access to the visual images and concepts. When it was clear that he truly didn’t have access, Judy knew this was the critical place for more instruction.

Have You Really Controlled the Complexity and Light?

Complexity and access to distracting light and movement can completely overwhelm the student with CVI in the classroom. I have seen teachers work very hard to reduce the complexity of their classrooms. It can be a challenge but well worth every effort for our students with visual impairments due to CVI. Controlling complexity and light effectively creates accessibility to learning.

Take a look at this classroom: (Pinterest)

 

This teacher has covered the shelves that are probably filled with toys and books. The shades are pulled down to control distracting light sources. The floor cover is a nice non-complex background for looking at materials placed on the rug. A nice start!

BUT: look at the shelves in on the left side of the room. The black cover controls the complexity on the shelves but the complexity remains with the many colorful and complex materials stored on top. If those toys were removed, that left side of the room would be a much less complex background against which to learn. (Complexity of Array: Roman-Lantzy). That is, of course, if that is the way the student in facing in the room!

If the student is facing the right side of the room or learning in the middle of the room, that would be completely overwhelming and complex. If the student is facing this way and this is the background, the student would really struggle against this complexity of array. This side of the room is completely inaccessible for learning for the student with CVI.

Here is a challenge for everyone as you return to school from the holiday break. Pick a student in your class who has CVI. Think about every position you place that student throughout the day. Actually sit there. Is the background where the student is facing free of complexity? If not, rethink your adaptations so the whole room is adapted. Would there be a better place to face? Would learning against a wall rather than in the middle of the classroom be best? Accessible learning is from the student’s point of view not from ours.

Color Highlighted Drum for Increased Accuracy

One of my student was having trouble hitting the Paddle Drum with any accuracy. My husband created a red lighted dot in the middle of the paddle with a bright LED light. It worked wonders! The lighted area drew visual attention to the middle of the drum surface and the student could more accurately find and hit the right area. Success was immediate!

         

My husband placed a metal crosspiece across the back of the drum on the outside ring support and placed the LED onto that with a battery pack. It has an on and off switch for ease. Having the structure off the drum surface did not interfere with the created sound. The lighted drum picture example did not transfer so well. In real life, it is a very bright red dot not the white dot in the picture here.

Two Interconnected Expanded Core Curriculum Areas for Children with CVI

As a Teacher of Student with Visual Impairments, I am certainly focused on the improvement of visual skills for my students with CVI. I am also interested in how my students understand everything that is easily understood by their sighted peers due to their incidental learning. These intertwined Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC) areas must be considered for that equal access.

These two important areas of the Expanded Core Curriculum must be considered separately and together. These are:

  1. Sensory efficiency skills
  2. Compensatory Skills, Functional Academic Skills (Including Communication Modes)

Sensory Efficiency Skills: This area is especially important for the child with CVI but in a totally different way than that considered for a child with ocular impairments. We are expecting improvement for student with CVI. Functional visual assessment using the CVI Range (Roman-Lantzy 2007) provides the baseline for functional visual skills and sets the stage for this improvement using strategies and objectives matched to the assessed needs.

Compensatory Skills, Functional Academic Skills: This area must be considered to support the
building functional vision of the student with CVI. Vision is the distance sense that supports what is heard, smelled, felt and tasted.

Think about a classroom where someone drops something. The child with typical visual abilities can turn, look and determine what made the sound and determine that the sound is not a threat. The student with CVI hears the item drop and due to lack of visual location abilities or lack of distance abilities, does not turn, does not understand what made the sound and might remain in a state of stress wondering if this sound is a threat or not. We need to build this understanding of environmental sounds by labeling the sound, bringing the child closer to the sound, bringing the sound to them and allowing them to make the sound themselves for complete understanding. If someone drops a tray in the classroom, I make sure to bring a tray to the child and allow them to see it, feel it and push it off the tray to create the sound. Once understood, the sound will not create stress and allow the child to return to the learning. This approach provides the student with the same access to the visual, auditory, tactile, cognitive/language information enjoyed by their sighted peers.

For functional academics, focus needs to consistently be on ways to create and foster the highest level of independence possible to live and work in the future. These are skills that should be worked on from birth! Think of the value of organizational skills for a child with limited visual abilities. Getting objects from a storage place and returning the item to that store place when completed builds independence and understanding of the student’s environment.

For communication the CVI Range can help us determine whether we provide tactile sign language to the student with deafblindness or just visually presented sign. If the child is only using peripheral vision, they could never see and understand the small, distinct visual-only sign that requires central vision use. If a communication device is used, the CVI Range provides information about the accessibility of pictures, the ability to recognize pictures, the number of items that can be seen and recognized at one time (complexity of array), and what size is needed (due to complexity not acuity!). For literacy and communication, the CVI Range provides information about the unique need for color highlighting, spacing and print size (due to complexity not acuity!)

All students with visual impairments need the ECC considered and provided in their educational programming. Students with CVI have the same educational needs but with consideration that CVI is completely different from ocular impairments.

Specific Ipad Apps for Phase III: Matt Tietjen

Much thanks to guest blogger, Matt Tietjen, for these specific ideas to use an iPad to support students in Phase III. Invaluable!

Goodnotes: You can take pictures of educational materials, zoom in on important details, isolate one problem or diagram at once and also write on it.  You can use the writing feature to highlight salient features, or the student can use the writing feature to complete the assignment. For example, I have a student who does best with one math problem per page rather than several.  Each morning of the week, her class gets a “morning math” worksheet with several problems on it.  The paraprofessional would use Goodnotes to take a picture of each problem on the worksheet and quickly create a digital notebook for that worksheet, with one problem per page. The student could then flip through the notebook and write on the iPad to solve one problem at a time.  Her final product could be saved in a folder on the iPad and also turned in by emailing it to the teacher or uploading it to apps like Google Drive or Dropbox.

Snaptype: Very useful for minimizing complexity in worksheets by taking a picture of a worksheet, zooming in on one problem at a time, and allow the student to type an answer for each problem using the onscreen keyboard or an adapted Bluetooth keyboard. Great for math worksheets!

Photo Album/ Camera: Yup! Just the regular old photo album and camera on the iPad. Can be used to reduce complexity and capture distance information in so many ways. Here are some ways I am using it:

  • For all those circle times/morning meetings when the teacher may only decide a few minutes ahead of time what book she is going to read, the para can get the student’s iPad and snap a picture of each page (only takes a few minutes to do an entire book). The student now has a personal copy of the book on her iPad that she (or staff) can flip through to follow along with the teacher and zoom in on any important details, masking out irrelevant surrounding information on each page.
  • Create an “album” for wall materials. Take pictures of each poster, word wall, map, etc. on the classroom wall and save them to an album on the student’s iPad. That way, when the teacher is referring to that map, word wall, etc., the student can follow along and zoom in on the pictures at her desk.

Bitsboard: Awesome for making custom flashcard activities for touching a named picture, reading bubble outlines without words in them, touching a picture from an array when its salient features are named, etc.  You can use this app to create custom picture touch games using anything you want – photographs of the child’s favorite objects, 2D image assessments, letters, numbers, words, etc. Many of my students like it a lot.

Counting Bear: Great for math. It visually marks each item as you count it. Students still have to practice systematically searching the array of items in order to count but with the support of visual markers to help them keep track of what has already been counted and what items still need to be counted.

Pictello: Fantastic for making custom made stories – either modifications of actual children’s books, experience stories or stories that the student helps write. You can include pictures, photographs, videos, etc. as part of the story and it reads the story aloud to the student. Can be great for creating school-to-home daily or weekly communication logs where the student helps take pictures of items throughout her day and then uses the app at home to communicate about her day to her family. She could also use the app with her family to create experience stories about vacations and special events to share with friends and teachers at school. For example, a student could take pictures of her weekend activities and create a story called “my weekend” that she shares with her class during morning meeting.

Voicedream app: You can use this app to read (or listen to) any pdf or word document as well as anything from Bookshare. It has a more natural reading voice than some of the other text to voice apps (in my opinion). You can adjust font style and size, and you can set the app to mask some of the text so that it only shows one line at a time, 3 lines, or 5.  It also has a yellow highlight that moves from word to word as the automated voice reads.

YouDoodle: can use it to import pictures and highlight salient features (as Christine Roman-Lantzy has taught us). I also have a student who likes using it himself to highlight salient features on photographs he has taken.

Google Images and Youtube: I use Youtube and Google images quite a bit.  If I wanted to bring distance info. (like giraffes) to a student who was about to visit the zoo, I might show him a few videos on the Youtube app about giraffes and where they live.  When there is an abstract picture in a children’s book (which is almost always) I often open up Google Images and find a real photograph version of the same thing and compare the salient features between the real photograph and the more abstract illustration in the book.

Calculators: for students high on The Range and in the upper grades, using scientific and graphing calculators can be a real challenge due to complexity of array.  It seems that calculators that incorporate color coding to reduce complexity of array may be a better choice for many kids with CVI. Here are a few promising ones:

  • Kalkulilo Scientific Calculator: uses color coding to help reduce the visual complexity of the keyboard and group keys by function.
  • Scientific Graphing Calculator (William Jockusch): Each graph on a coordinate plane is a different color and is color-coded to match the equation that goes with it. This type of color coding really helped my high school student in algebra II this year.  She had a physical TI-84 Plus calculator, not this app, but it was color coded similarly.
  • Calculator (Infinity Symbol) incpt.Mobis:  This calculator uses color to differentiate symbols from numbers and other parts of the equation. Can help reduce complexity of array.

What Do iPads Support for Students in Phase III

As discussed many, many times, the strategies for CVI must match the assessment results using the CVI Range (Roman-Lantzy 2007). We never can just randomly apply a strategy because it will not fit the functional visual needs of the child. If it does not fit the functional visual needs, it will not provide visual access and will not foster improvement of cognitive and visual skills.

With that reminder, I was asked about ideas for iPad apps for children in Phase III (Roman-Lantzy). Just providing a student with an iPad does not guarantee access. We need to assess the child, think about their visual needs and carefully use the iPad as a tool to provide that access.

What can be some general needs for students in Phase III?

Color: The student might benefit from color highlighting to draw visual attention to salient features of pictures and text. (Roman-Lantzy)

Light: Backlighting helps foster access to materials especially in 2D (pictures and text).

Latency: There is still a need for increased time for full visual exploration and full visual understanding.

Visual Field: Lower visual fields might be affected.

Visual Novelty: Presenting novel materials might requires salient feature and comparative exploration. (Roman-Lantzy)

Complexity: Complexity affects visual understanding in objects, increased arrays, of faces, and of the sensory environment.

Distance: Near information is more accessible. Distance curiosity is not typical so distance information is missed.

 

How do we want the iPad to support the student in Phase III based on assessed need?

Color:

  • Tools for color highlighting help support salient feature discussion in pictures and text.

Light:

  • Backlighting helps with understanding and easy of access to prevent fatigue.
  • Moving to 2D: taking pictures of their items in the environment and then providing the 2D on the backlighted iPad.

Latency:

  • Provides ability to capture images and videos for longer visual access time.
  • Capturing images can be reviewed as long as needed.

Visual Field:

  • iPad placement is flexible matched to child’s best visual field.

Visual Novelty:

  • Expanded understanding: Example: Here is one kind of mouse in the book but these are all the other kinds of mice.

Complexity:

  • Enlargement: for things at distance, for small items in complexity and for literacy
  • Overall ability to use settings and apps to reduce complexity of images.
  • Studying facial expression in photographs and videos: salient language of faces matched to voice (auditory). There can be instruction about facial expressions that match the auditory information.
  • Salient feature discussion in photographs and text.
  • Increasing spacing of words and sentences to reduce complexity of array.
  • Masking: complexity reduction with tools in Photos.

Distance:

  • Videos on the iPad: to bring information about events and concepts that occur at distance: Example: We are reading about giraffes. I think about providing a child with access to where that animal might live and how they move.
  • Access to distance classroom events: Examples: learning song hand movements for circle time.
  • Community access: taking photographs of signs and environmental materials that can be explored on the backlighted, near placed iPad.

The Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC) for Students with CVI

What is an Expanded Core Curriculum?

Years ago, students with visual impairments were educated in separate schools for the blind. Curriculum needs addressed everything for the student with a visual impairment both academic areas and specialized instruction that provided students with all skills to insure full independence in life. Students often lived at the school and instruction occurred across the day: self-care, moving safely in the environment, using transportation, safety awareness, social skills and recreation opportunities were embedded.

The education model shifted in the 1980s and students with visual impairments increasingly moved to inclusive programs in their communities. These inclusive programs could address the academic needs of students with visual impairments when adapted by a teacher of students with visual impairments. Something was missing. At the inclusive setting, inclusive schools were unprepared to address the other important learning needs for children with visual impairments. They never had to address these important areas because students without vision loss learn these skills incidentally by watching.

The Expand Core Curriculum is an essential consideration for all children with visual impairments including children with CVI. The nine areas of the Expanded Core Curriculum, if they are considered at all, are often mistakenly considered only for the academic child with ocular visual impairments.

Inclusive school settings teach the general education curriculum of math, science, English language arts, foreign language, gym, science, social studies and fine arts to their students. For students with visual impairments, the expanded core curriculum provides those essential independence skills needed for living and working. The expanded core curriculum is meant to level the educational playing field by providing instruction specific to the needs of a child with a visual impairment.

The expanded core curriculum, or ECC, should be used as a framework for first assessing students with visual impairments, then for planning individual goals and objectives.

The nine ECC areas that provide this specific instruction include.

  • Compensatory or functional academic skills, including communication modes
  • Orientation and mobility
  • Social interaction skills
  • Independent living skills
  • Recreation and leisure skills
  • Career education
  • Use of assistive technology
  • Sensory efficiency skills
  • Self-determination

Are these considered on your child’s IEP? We will look at each a bit more in-depth in later posts.

“Duckness: How Do We Know?

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 salient features (Roman-Lantzy literacy) 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 measured with the CVI Range (Roman-Lantzy 2007). We must evaluate all our materials with this visual access limitation considered. We must adjust our own interactions and instructions to include salient feature, comparative language (Roman-Lantzy).

How Do You Know If You Have a CVI Competent Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments? Importance of the Perkins-Roman CVI Range Endorsement

How would parents, teachers and administrators know if they have a teacher of students with visual impairments (TVI) who is knowledgeable and competent to work with children with CVI? This has been huge and frustrating problem for years.

TVIs have been slow to educate themselves to serve these students with CVI effectively even when their caseloads have shifted to include many students with CVI. TVIs might attend a lecture or two and mistakenly think they have “competency” in CVI. The TVI who attends a weekend lecture about CVI, leaves with partial knowledge and few abilities to accurately assess, accurately program or to accurately create appropriate interventions for their students with CVI. They are even more dangerous than the TVI with no understanding!

Most graduate teacher training programs for teachers of students with visual impairments do not include CVI as a core competency area. Due to this, even now, new teachers of students with visual impairments leave graduate programs with little to no understanding of CVI yet take jobs in the field where 60% or more of the students have CVI!

To solve the problem of who has CVI competence and who does not have have CVI competence there is now the Perkins-Roman CVI Range Endorsement in place at Perkins School for the Blind: http://www.perkinselearning.org/cvi-endorsement

For this Perkins-Roman CVI Range Endorsement, a teacher of students with visual impairments must prove their competency for CVI. They must take a knowledge test about CVI. They must prove experience with students with CVI by providing letters of recommendation. They must prove their ability to assess 2 students seen in videos using the Christine Roman-Lantzy CVI Range. The CVI Range is the only assessment tool for CVI with reliability. (See Dr. Sandra Newcomb: Reliability of the CVI Range Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, October 2010, © 2010 AFB).

We now have a way to “check” a professional’s competence in a directory of endorsed professionals: http://www.perkinselearning.org/cvi-endorsement/specialists?field_location_taxonomize_terms_tid=All&field_name_address_country=All&page=2

I always want a competent professional to work with my students with CVI and now add this statement to my report recommendation list:

Recommendations:

Services of a Certified Teacher of Students with Visual Impairment (CTVI) who is CVI Endorsed:

John will benefit from direct and consult vision services weekly from a certified vision professional who understands CVI.  To assure this competence the TVI must be CVI Endorsed: See the Perkins-Roman CVI Range Endorsement http://www.perkinselearning.org/cvi-endorsement Look in the search bar to access the directory of endorsed professionals: “Search for Specialist”. This will assure that the assigned TVI understands CVI, understands the effects CVI have on John’s learning and is trained to assess CVI using the Christine Roman-Lantzy CVI Range. John will benefit from environmental and materials modifications, methodologies and accommodations to support his visual functioning around all characteristics of CVI. The TVI will help build compensatory skills throughout the curriculum and support building advocacy for John’s independent learning. Every year at change of classroom, the TVI should provide an overview of the concept of CVI and provide a detailed explanation of how CVI effects John’s visual functioning.

To find endorsed professionals, you can visit the directory of professionals that have achieved this competence. It is growing daily nationally and internationally.