Children with Cortical Visual Impairment

A child and adult share a Pegboard Book adapted for cortical visual impairment.
A child and adult share a Pegboard Book adapted for cortical visual impairment.

The CVI Now website from Perkins says this about Cortical Visual Impairment.

CVI stands for Cortical Visual Impairment/Cerebral Visual Impairment. CVI is a brain-based visual impairment caused by damage to the visual pathways or visual processing areas of the brain. Learners struggle with visual attention and visual recognition resulting in a lack of access for understanding the world around them. CVI is known to be the leading cause of visual impairment in children in the United States. With CVI, the eye’s connection to and in the brain doesn’t work correctly. You should know that CVI is common, and many effective educational programming strategies can help provide access and set the stage for improvements in visual functioning.

Many children with multiple disabilities also have cortical visual impairments. Some of the causes of CVI include these:

    • Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, when a baby doesn’t receive enough oxygen and blood flow
    • Periventricular leukomalacia, a brain injury that affects preterm infants that causes the death of brain tissue
    • Traumatic brain injuries
    • Neonatal hypoglycemia, a condition in which blood sugar is lower than normal 
    • Metabolic disorders
    • Twin pregnancy
    • Central nervous system developmental defects
    • Cerebral palsy
    • Retinopathy of prematurity
    • Rett syndrome

These children may be difficult to assess, but the work of Dr. Christine Roman, Dr. Gordan Duff and others have given us a much better understanding of the effects and treatment for CVI. Many of these children can improve their use of vision or even totally resolve the impact of this condition with early intervention. Dr. Roman, in particular has developed an assessment tool that is invaluable to educators in looking at how these children use their vision. You may want to read her book, Cortical Visual Impairment: An Approach to Assessment and Intervention to learn more about the assessment or view the video, Cortical Visual Impairment and the Evaluation of Functional Vision.

Because many of the intervention strategies involve reducing visual clutter, selecting appropriate colors, allowing for the use of touch to confirm what the child sees, there is a great deal of confusion about using Active Learning with these children. Diane Sheline, a certified teacher of students with visual impairments and low vision therapist, has developed excellent educational approaches to use with these children, including how to adapt Active Learning to meet their vision needs. Diane has a wonderful website, Strategies to See, that can provide you with much more information.