Vision is the primary learning mode for children with perfect vision. Vision gathers information quickly, links previous learning to new learning and links information from all the other senses for a full and complete understanding.
We know that for children with CVI, vision is the primary disability. For children with CVI, their visual impairment impacts all access to all of the general education curriculum. Their visual impairment impact all access to all of the special education curriculum.
Identifying the student with CVI and determining eligibility as “Vision” ensures that a teacher of students with visual impairments is part of the team and that there is consideration of the Expanded Core Curriculum. The Expanded Core Curriculum addresses the Unique Disability-Specific Needs of a child with a visual impairment.
For a child with CVI:
- Their lack of visual attention and visual recognition limits the effective gathering of information about how the world works.
- Their lack of visual attention and visual recognition limits the effective gathering of information about how the people in the world behave.
- Their lack of visual attention and visual recognition impacts their connecting, categorizing and classifying of information.
- Their lack of visual attention and visual recognition limits their understanding of sound sources.
- Their lack of visual attention and visual recognition requires direct experiences in natural environments.
The Expanded Core Curriculum includes these 9 areas:
- Compensatory skills
- Orientation and mobility skills
- Social interaction skills
- Independent living skills
- Recreation and leisure skills
- Career education
- Use of assistive technology
- Sensory efficiency skills
- Self-determination skills
This is not an extra curriculum. This is an essential curriculum for the child with visual impairment. These are skills that everyone needs to live and work successfully to their full potential. The critical difference for our children with CVI is ACCESS to these 9 skill area. Children with perfect vision begin their exposure to the Expanded Core Curriculum at birth. Children with CVI must have the same consideration.
Children with and without additional disabilities can have Expanded Core Areas addressed in their programming due to the absence of or reduction of incidental learning.
Children with CVI
- lack access to all visual information which optimizes all the learning for their peers with perfect vision.
- lack access to the same number of repeated opportunities for visual information to reinforce concepts which optimizes all learning for their peers with perfect vision.
- lack access to visual experiences to link new information to old information which optimizes all learning for their peers with perfect vision.
- lack the ability to access and practice continuously in naturally occurring environments which optimizes all learning for their peers with perfect vision.
CVI is a neurological condition but is manifests in a visual impairment. This visual impairment is the issue for all learning. For the eligibility section of the IEP, chose “Vision” and the primary disability and “Neurological” as the secondary disability.
Bring Vision to the forefront for all learning.
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…
This is a wonderful video presentation from the mother of Arran, an eight year old with CVI. For years, she struggled to understand how her son “sees” the world. She was keenly aware of his behaviors yet professionals provided no answers. Arran lacked visual attention, reached without looking, hated busy places, hated loud places, hated anything new, and struggled with visual complexity. This confusing kaleidoscope of visual information caused her son to react by screaming, biting and scratching to communicate his distress. Over time, Helen understood that her son had CVI. Understanding the impact of the CVI visual characteristics helped Helen advocate for supports so learning could be perceived, be meaningful and occur in an environment with reduced visual confusion.
This webinar speaks to parents and service providers with great insight to the parent perspective on CVI. Rebecca Davis is a parent of an 11 year old child with CVI. She tells the story of the journey with her daughter with honesty, full feeling and deserved frustration in her attempt to navigate the system to get services to help her daughter. She touches on the federal law as it relates to students with CVI with IDEA. She discusses the need for effective identification, assessment and service to students with CVI. She discusses access for students and how parents can advocate for that access. She discusses a CVI Action plan to monitor that access by insuring competent practitioners are members of the educational and medical teams. Most of all, she pushes for creation and expansion of the CVI Community of parents to lend a louder and louder voice that demands action.
Please check out the latest parent blog: CVI Momifesto at
The subtext of the blog is “Building a Community of Parents of Children with CVI”
Historically, it is the work of parents, organizing and advocating that causes changes in the service to children. I think of the work of parents of children with autism as they organized and advocated for better research, better identification, better funding and more paid services for their children. The parents of children affected with RETT syndrome and related disorders are another wonderful model group for parent advocacy. They came together to advocate for awareness of RETT syndrome, RETT research and funding and they created assessment centers all over the country to serve their children.
Parents with children affected by CVI need to do the same. They need to come together with one voice that will bring the topic of CVI to the forefront. I monitor many Facebook pages that parents have created. They share heartbreaking stories of navigating the misinformation from medical professionals and educators as they seek the best services for their child.
The information about CVI is now decades old and building everyday. Why does it fall on the shoulders of parents with the least free time to organize this effort to help medical professionals and educator understand CVI and how CVI affects learning? Professionals who understand CVI are out there but they are not sitting at your child’s IEP. That is where the advocacy must begin.
As parents and professionals who understand CVI, let’s begin to build the documented evidence for the IEP process that fosters the diagnosis of CVI. Let’s make sure the students are assessed using the correct tools that consider the known brain based visual issues of CVI. Let’s make sure there is not “vision time” but consideration of visual needs around the day and across the curriculum.
Check out Rebecca’s blog!