Children with typical visual skills access materials and people in their environment at near and distance. They build understanding of their world by seeing and then comparing similarities and differences in the environment. This same experience of comparative thought must be available to our children with CVI. This comparative thought builds understanding of attributes of materials and keeps the brain stimulated and engaged. Children’s brains that compare and are engaged, build neural pathways as they learn but they need access.
If the child with CVI, who has difficulty seeing and understanding objects, is always provided with these comparative materials at near, they have this access. I always start with materials I know children prefer. If they prefer certain objects, these are familiar. I place the familiar object against a non-complex background and add another that is similar but slightly different in one way. If the child is looking at a large red slinky, I might present a smaller blue one. I am then able to provide salient language: “Here is your favorite red slinky. Now you will see a smaller blue slinky. It moves in the same way”. I like to think of this expanded visual access as lateral learning. Lateral learning is assessing what a child can look at and carefully presenting materials that are slightly different in color, size and then shape. (Note: the stuffed toy has slinky arms and legs.)