“CVI may often go unidentified, and it is therefore crucial to recognize the telltale signs in order to set in motion the processes leading to formal identification and characterization of the condition through collaborative and comprehensive assessment. Without proper identification and intervention, children with CVI may struggle in the school system and fail to reach their full potential.” Pawletko, T., Chokron, S. & Dutton, G. N. (2015). Considerations in the Behavioral Diagnosis of CVI. In A. H. Lueck & G. N. Dutton (Eds.), Vision and the Brain: Understanding Cerebral Visual Impairment in Children (p. 170). New York, NY: AFB Press.
Assessment is where teachers begin when introduced to a new student. Assessment for learners with CVI needs to cover many areas as we work to understand the child’s strengths and needs. A parent interview is crucial and should be a first step in the assessment process. Parents know their child best, and by having a conversation with parents and caregivers we gain much information that formal assessments won’t provide. Talk about how the child functions at home, what are his likes and dislikes, how do I know he is happy? scared? overstimulated? tired? frustrated?
Parents are also the link to the medical information we need. By communicating to parents how important it is that we have current ocular reports and chart notes from doctors, we start to form a partnership and establish a sense of trust and knowledge that we care about the education of their child. We start to build a Team.
Next come the functional vision assessments, learning media assessments, orientation and mobility assessments, and the other team members assessments (OT, PT, Speech, classroom teacher, etc.). Be aware that professionals from other disciplines may not understand CVI. An in-service to all the professionals working with the child is great way to introduce this diagnosis and what it means for learning. Assessing “arena style” where the vision teacher acts as the facilitator working with the child and other team members (including the parents) are in the room observing and asking questions (note passing is less intrusive and keeps the quiet environment intact). Team assessment prevents parents from having to answer the same questions over and over and it creates a common understanding of the child. You will also be modeling how to present materials appropriately to the child with CVI, by controlling the environment (eliminating visual clutter, keeping the room quiet, etc.). If all team members cannot be present, asking permission to videotape and share the team assessment would be helpful and will provide a permanent record of where the child began.
After the assessments the team will need to work together to develop goals, establish a communication plan and begin instruction using the vision teachers input on how to adapt the child’s environment so that he can access the learning materials.