When it comes to talking about cortical visual impairment (CVI) in the school setting, the topic of social skills is always a focus. Because as parents, the thing we want most for our kids with CVI is for them to make friends. We want our child to be accepted and understood. Whether talking to teachers or therapists or others who are hearing “CVI” for the first time, social skills are at the top of the list.
My son is in Phase III CVI (Roman) and attends first grade in the general education setting. He is a friendly, social kid who loves to talk to people. But already you can see the way he shuts down in social situations when he does not have the same access as his peers. This is apparent in something as simple as a friend saying Hi. Many times, it is me facilitating his response because he was unable to recognize the friend and return the greeting. On occasion we have told a friend, Sometimes Jasper does not recognize his friends, so it helps if you say your name (Roman). This makes for an awkward exchange for everybody, so we decided to talk to Jasper’s first grade class about CVI.
The focus was simple – asking them to give their name when greeting Jasper – Hi Jasper, it’s Ben. We explained that Jasper has CVI and sees differently than his friends. The kids then practiced using their name when saying Hi. The classroom teacher explained the difference between, Hi Jasper, it’s Ben. And Hi Jasper, my name is Ben, as you would say when meeting somebody for the first time. The emphasis was on friend – You are my friend, but I might not recognize you.
The talk with his first grade class was supplemented with a take home flyer for parents on my son’s CVI, and saying our names. And an attempt at a brief description of the many many ways that the characteristics of CVI work against our kids’ best efforts at social skills. Below is sample text from that handout.
My son Jasper is in Mr Smith’s class along with your child. Today at school we talked briefly about Jasper’s cortical visual impairment (CVI) and how Jasper sees differently. CVI is a brain based visual impairment and is the leading cause of visual impairment in children. CVI is about recognition, not acuity. In other words, Jasper can have a hard time making sense of, or figuring out, what he is looking at. You may have met Cindy, who is with Jasper in the classroom. Like his peers, Jasper is very independent, but Cindy helps by modifying school materials to make them visually accessible.
Jasper is a friendly kid. CVI impacts all of his learning, including his social interactions. So today we talked about the way that CVI can make it hard for Jasper to recognize people, even his friends, and even his mom. We talked about how to say our name when saying Hi to Jasper – Hi Jasper, it’ Ben – to help him recognize friends. This is helpful in any environment but especially in busy places such as school hallways, the lunch room, playground, or out in the neighborhood. We frequently bump into friends around ballard and Jasper’s friends always say Hi. But it is unlikely that Jasper would be able to spot one of his friends when we are out and about.
The characteristics of CVI affect Jasper’s social skills in many many ways. In addition to difficulty with recognizing faces, CVI makes it hard for Jasper to read facial expressions, body language, to make or maintain eye contact, or to find friends on the playground or other busy places.
We hope you will help remind Jasper’s friends to say their name when saying Hi. In turn, Jasper is learning how to tell friends that his CVI can make it hard to recognize familiar people and friends.
Thank you and I am happy to answer questions or talk more about Jasper’s CVI.
Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI) 10 Characteristics
Visual field preference
Visually guided reach
Atypical visual reflexes