color highlighting

Teaching Staff About CVI Pays Off!

I complete CVI inservices to the educational teams every fall and throughout the school year as needed. One inservice helps teams understand the overall concepts about CVI and the other inservice helps teams understand the CVI assessment, the functional vision assessment results for each child. With this information, teachers and therapists understand CVI and understand their student’s visual needs. They can adapt toys and learning materials to meet those assessed needs.

Here is an example of a toy adapted by the speech therapist for one child’s assessed visual needs. It provides color support with red duct tape at the activation button. Pushing the button creates a light show!

This is a box of holiday lights but left in the box. It is available from Amazon.

string lights

string lights box

string light amazon


Where to reach to open the container?

We have a new occupational therapy student working in our program.  It didn’t take long for him to see the successes in visual motor function when CVI strategies were used to reduce complexity with black tape and to highlight the opening snaps with red tape.  This child in the occupational therapy session worked so hard to open the container to get out a favorite lighted toy. Now we can move that skill to the lunch table for true function: opening his sandwich container. As understanding of this visual task improves, the highlighting can be made smaller and smaller.  We need to remember to generalize this skill to other containers now that it has become familiar.



Color Highlighting for Increased Visual Access

This young teenager with CVI has developed strong compensatory skills to supplement her visual skills. She received this new toy with a very small activation button that was less than 1/8” in diameter.


Screen Shot 2015-07-16 at 12.50.57 PM

Swinging her head back and forth, she struggled to activate the guitar at first as she used only tactile skills to find the button to play her favorite Johnny Cash song.

not using vision

I highlighted the button, surrounding it with red duct tape.

Screen Shot 2015-07-16 at 12.51.10 PM

She immediately held it up, using her vision to find the button and push it.

using vision

She was able to find it quickly and activate it herself. She does not always need to use her vision to turn it on but the visual supports helped build her independence for this leisure activity.

Applying Concepts: Color Highlighting the Joystick






I received a fantastic idea from a former graduate student, Amanda, from my UMASS CVI class. She assessed her 19 year old student and determined that this student responded best to red and that red highlighting helped her student visually locate and reach.

Amanda noticed this student couldn’t access the iPad to play her favorite videos. The team had been working on this goal for over a year without success. This child was frustrated that she couldn’t advance through her videos or manipulate the advance icons on her iPad through touch or swiping.

Here is Amanda’s narrative:

“I bought a pair of Mini-Fling suction cup-mounted push button joysticks on Amazon. The joysticks themselves are low complexity black/gray and mount to the glass on the iPad.  You position the conductive bottom over the icon you wish to touch. I highlighted the buttons using shiny red mylar tape. The results are amazing! Right away my student attended to the buttons and now pushes them on her own to activate her iPad videos”.

In little time, the student was able to activate the iPad independently.

I thought this was a fantastic CVI adaptation so “stole” the idea for several of my students. I hope you find it helpful as well!

Share your great ideas everyone!

The other very important take away message is that all students regardless of age benefit from a CVI assessment and CVI interventions.

In the pictures above, I added the color highlighting to the joystick above the advance arrow on the Big Green Monster book app.  My student was able to immediately access this highlighted button to read the book independently!

Thanks Amanda!

Color Highlighting to Support Visual Motor

We want to think about supporting a child’s understanding of where an object is in space and how best to access it with hands or feet.  Here are three examples of color highlighting to support that function:

Where to keep my feet on a balance beam:


Where to grab my lunchbox:


Where to grab my family communication book (note red highlighted Braille on the front):


Where to push to get paper towels:


When the child is familiar with this activity, the color highlighting is reduced and then eliminated as we see improvements in visual motor skills.

Showing Their Stuff!


This young boy with CVI could not show his cognitive skills for sorting like items (yellow circles, red cylinder and green cupcake).  He would just place pictures in any of the three containers randomly.  It looked as if he didn’t understand.

When we provided a black background, highlighted the pictures and containers in red, and moved to a quieter, less visually complex part of the room, this boy immediately placed each one correctly and accurately.  Issues of CVI completely masked cognitive abilities.  Providing this boy with strategies matched to his CVI assessment will improve access to learning but also allow children to show us their true abilities!

Still need help?

Optical illusion lost cow copy

In my assessment of your CVI visual behaviors, I know that you benefit from color highlighting to outline the target to be found.  Because you are still struggling to find the cow, I use strong, bright color highlighting to outline the cow’s features that will help you find that image in your visual library.  (You have the benefit of a robust visual library that children with CVI do not.) See how much this helps you find the cow!