CVI Awareness Month

Cortical Visual Impairment Outlined In Red.

Image description: The words Cortical Visual Impairment outlined in red using the Roman Word Bubbling App.

Raising Awareness…

Author: Debbie Moody


The month of September is dedicated to raising awareness about cortical visual impairment (CVI). 

Cortical visual impairment (CVI) is an impairment to vision due to injury, damage, or structural abnormalities of the visual centers of the brain. It can be present from birth (congenital) or acquired.

The diagnosis of CVI is increasing due to improved medical care which has increased the survival rate of at-risk babies. CVI is the leading cause of visual impairment in children in all of the developed countries. 

CVI is diagnosed by a medical doctor noting three specific criteria:

  1. A medical eye exam that does not explain the visual function of the individual.
  2. A history of a medical condition, syndrome, damage, or trauma to the brain is noted. 
  3. The presence of the ten visual/behavioral characteristics specific to CVI. The characteristics include: 
  • Color preference 
  • Need for movement
  • Visual field preferences
  • Difficulties with complexity 
  • Atypical visual reflexes
  • Difficulties with visual novelty
  • Difficulty with distance viewing
  • Need for light
  • Visual latency
  • Absence of visually guided reach

(Roman-Lantzy, 2018)

Since CVI is a brain-based visual impairment, it has the potential to improve when the IEP team implements specific interventions and accommodations throughout the child’s day. For example, a child may have a color preference, meaning he can more readily notice objects of a certain color. This color can be used as a visual target in his classroom as in the example in the photo. Neon green is the preferred color for this student, and he can see his cubby in the classroom when it is marked with this color.  

Image description: A wall of metal hooks is filled with coats, backpacks, and teddy bear-shaped name cards. One section has neon green paint on the wall from the coat hook to the baseboard near the floor. 

Neon green paint on the wall behind one backpack/coat hook.

Some students demonstrate the need for light. They can be distracted by light and may light gaze as a way to avoid a sensory-rich environment. Students can also be attracted to light and can be redirected to materials when extra light is added. In the picture, a flashlight is used to draw a student’s attention to a toy zebra on the table:

Image description: A plastic toy zebra on the left with spotlighting from a flashlight. A plastic toy giraffe on the right without the spotlight. 

Spotlighting on a toy zebra and not on a toy giraffe. 

Every child with CVI is unique. The strategies used throughout the day are based on an assessment of each child’s visual function and the presence of the characteristics. The most common CVI assessment used in education is the CVI Range by Christine Roman-Lantzy, a teacher of students with visual impairment (TSVI). This tool provides a score on a 0-10 scale that represents the child’s current level of functional vision. Any characteristic that is impacting visual function is addressed with an accommodation or strategy on the child’s IEP. 

To support TSVIs, parents, and IEP teams with students who have CVI, the KSSB Field Services CVI Workgroup has created a CVI LiveBinder, which highlights this assessment tool. This resource includes printable information sheets, forms to use, links to favorite websites, literacy strategies, videos, favorite apps, social media suggestions, informative podcasts, and useful product information. This digital binder will expand and evolve, so check back from time to time for added resources. We hope this information is helpful to you and your team! 

Enjoy the KSSB CVI Livebinder

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