September is CVI Awareness Month
September is CVI Awareness Month - written with chalk on a chalkboard

Kaitie Schlehr is a certified Orientation & Mobility specialist at Lighthouse Central Florida. She also has significant experience working with children who have Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI)

Cortical Visual Impairment, or CVI, is a leading cause of vision impairment in children in the United States and other high income countries. In people with CVI, the visual processing centers of the brain are not functioning properly. Many kids with CVI have no problems with their eyes, but their brains are unable to decode what they are looking at.

Children with CVI usually have strong color preferences, need a lot of time to process visual input, and need to see something many times before they are able to make sense of it. They can usually see items that are moving better than items that are still and are drawn to lights, sometimes even stare at the sun.

For some children with CVI, their ability to use their vision can improve with the proper interventions. Their brains can get better at figuring out what they are looking at with practice and by using proven approaches, such as utilizing single colored items against a black background, providing plenty of processing time, and reducing other distractions when the child is asked to use their vision. Working with these children is so rewarding because while there is no cure for CVI, there are ways to improve the vision of a child living with CVI.

I recently worked with one child whose mother thought she was totally blind because her daughter was not responding to anything visual. During the initial assessment, I held up a red light toy. It took about a minute, but the child eventually smiled. She did this three times in a row, not smiling until the toy had been on for about a minute. That session revealed that the child needs at least a minute to process, but that she can see red lights. We’ve since built on this progress and now she can see a variety of red objects.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lighthouse now offers virtual services. When we are unable to be in the home with the child, we cannot bring specialized materials that might assist in sessions. We have had to get creative and work with the parents even closer than before to ensure that the sessions are productive for the child.

Lighthouse’s youth programs support kids with all types of visual impairments, including CVI, through Early Intervention in home services, the Children’s Program group classes, and the Transition Program’s pre-job training. We provide instruction based on the child’s specific needs—while also empowering and supporting the entire family.

I love working with families to ensure that they understand their child’s visual impairment and that they are equipped to provide the best opportunities for their child.

Find out more about the services offered at Lighthouse Central Florida CONTACT US!