Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI) is a condition where the connections to the visual cortex of the brain are damaged. This most often happens at or before birth. Since it is the brain that interprets what the eye sees and creates cognitive understanding, this impairment does not involve the structures of eyes. Often acuity is fine, however, the student can’t interpret what he/she is seeing. This form of visual impairment is not progressive and understanding visual material can improve over time. It is often associated with cerebral palsy so motor and speech functions may also be affected.
Difficulty interpreting visual information using either the dorsal stream or the ventral stream. Damage to the dorsal stream affects the interpretation of 3 dimensional information. Damage to the ventral stream affects the recognition of faces and objects. There is great variability in the severity of visual processing depending on the extent of the damage to the brain.
Students with CVI benefit from instructional materials that are bright, well spaced and uncluttered. Masking may help the student isolate print and graphical information. They also benefit from materials that are stationery, and properly positioned. Simple explanations will assist the student in associating what they are seeing with what it is.
Developed by Donna Shaman, an Occupational Therapist in Burien, Washington, this manual is a very useful resource to school IEP teams working with children with CVI.