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Cortical Visual Impairment: What is it? Does My Child Have CVI?

Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI) is a term used to describe visual impairment caused by brain injury or damage to the brain. According to Jan and Groenveld, CVI differs from ocular forms of impairment in that the interference in visual function exists not in the eye or optic nerve, but in the visual pathways of the brain. This can be confusing, especially when these children sometimes present with a healthy eye, but they do not appear to see. They may even appear blind. Though we now know this to be untrue, their vision has been described as changing "minute to minute or hour to hour".

Generally speaking, CVI is frequently seen in children who have neurological disorders or who have acquired brain injury. It very often goes undiagnosed. These children/adults with CVI very often share a set of common visual/behavioral characteristics, a medical history that includes neurological problems, and a relatively normal eye exam. With strategic interventions, these children can make marked progress.

At the Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children (WPSBC), we have developed a model for capacity building for children with CVI including a long range plan developed in 2008. Whether with our enrolled students or through services provided by our Outreach Program, we partner with parents, school districts or outside agencies to conduct the CVI Range Assessment (Roman, 2007) and determine the child's current level of visual functioning; and, then, we develop instruction and adaptations derived from those scores. To further our goal to serve more children with CVI, WPSBC has employed Dr. Christine Roman, internationally recognized CVI expert.

If you have questions about your child's vision or would like to participate in either our Toddler Program (birth to 3) or our CVI Clinic (birth to 21), contact Outreach Director Beth Ramella at (412) 621-0100 ext. 379 or ramellab@wpsbc.org for more information.

For more information on programs and services at the Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children, call (412) 621-0100 or visit our website at www.wpsbc.org.

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