Literacy materials for Phase II and Phase III CVI

* Guest blog post by Judy Endicott

I am in awe of the families who belong to the community of cortical visual impairment (CVI) learners, of Christine Roman-Lantzy and all the others who have taught me about CVI. Everyone’s journey into the world of CVI has been different, but our common quest for knowledge has created a powerful force for change. Thank you all for your sharing your knowledge!

Brenda’s blog, Start Seeing CVI, has given all of us tremendous insight into Jasper’s world of CVI, and her world of relentless work educating his school and advocating for CVI on the national level. Thank you, Brenda, for inspiring and helping all of us. I am honored to be asked to share some adaptations of materials I have made for my grandson, River.

River will soon be nine years old. He is presently in a second grade classroom in a school for visually impaired students. His classmates are either blind or have low vision. He is the only one with CVI, and is in Phase II. His mother and I, along with TVI Maryanne Roberto, have educated his teachers about CVI and modified the majority of the reading materials he uses at school.

So far in my search for literacy materials for Phase II and III, I have found no single program that is appropriate for CVI readers as published. I have found very few materials that are easily adapted for individuals with CVI. Each step along the path of literacy for those with CVI will require unique adaptations of materials based on the student’s CVI Range score (Roman-Lantzy) and the impact of CVI characteristics on functional vision. No “program” presently on the market will work as printed.

Here are adaptations to materials I have made for River. This has been a huge learning process for me, a challenge which I am thankful to have the time to take on. I share these ideas so that they may help others.

It is imperative that you have an understanding of the unique adaptations and strategies needed for your child’s literacy needs based on his/her CVI Range. We will continue to modify River’s program as his needs change, and as we learn more about CVI. We frequently ask River questions about what he sees, and if the presentation and materials are “just right” for the time we are using them. He supplies great insight about what is best for him, and we continue to adjust to meet his needs.

IMG_7195The font pictured is called Dyslexie. It was developed by a graphic designer who is dyslexic. It can be downloaded for free at With its heavier emphasis on letter shape, and increased kerning and double spacing, Dyslexie can be helpful for some CVI learners. It is a font that River prefers. Unfortunately Dyslexie it is not available for Google Slides.

“Bubble letters and words”

(Special thanks to Alisha Waugh – CVI mom, CVI Endorsed orientation and mobility specialist, and physical therapist – for teaching me.)

Here are some suggested materials and some of my shortcuts when making “bubble” letters and words.

A useful question to ask yourself – “What do I want ____ to learn?” That helps to keep your materials, narrative, and support focused. Remember Dr. Roman’s caution mentioned in my previous blog, “Intervention must be driven by intention, not materials.”

Keeping the focus on the visual information, it may be useful to use materials the learner can “feel,” especially when pointing out the salient features of the letters.

thick pipe cleaners from craft stores
Sticki Wikkis
Sticki Wikkis


IMG_0817 2My method for making “bubble” letters and words:

  1. write letter/word on sturdy paper (3×5 cards work well)
  2. trace with highlighter (but know the yellow color does fade over time)
  3. cut out around the yellow
  4. glue the letter on red paper (I like red file folders for their thickness) and cut letter out about 1/4” bigger, making a red outline
  5. IMG_0299If you do the above step holding another piece of red paper under the glued ones, you’ll cut through 2 layers and will end up with another copy for word to shape matching activities.




Choose words that are meaningful.

boy(The precut shapes from a school supply store were used to make the boy.) Our goal here was both the word identification and the body shape identification (for later identifying public bathroom signs).

Of course, connecting the 2D image to the 3D image is of great importance and precedes 2D work when possible. (No wonder words such as was, for, etc. are hard for so many readers to learn!)go


Montessori Moveable Alphabet
Montessori Moveable Alphabet

I love the Montessori Moveable Alphabet. I find these wooden letters to be the best size and the easiest for learners to hold and clearly identify the letter features. The vowels are blue and consonants are red. You can easily add magnets or velcro to the back. There is a also tacky shelf liner (sold at home stores) that has a wafflee weave if you want to put the letters on top of this on a light board. Using the tacky surface keeps them from sliding. Or, just use tape.

Lakeshore Learning sells the button magnets. Peel off backing and stick on. Easy!

We have used a black refrigerator, the side of file cabinets, and even the front of the washing machine with our magnetic letters and words. All allow us to adjust for visual field needs and control complexity of array (Roman).

sight word packs
sight word packs

I found sets of sight word packs at the nearby dollar store. The size and presentation was fine. You can adapt these in many ways.




puzzle shape cut out
puzzle shape cut out

I tried to make a puzzle shape cut out after highlighting the word a.k.a. making it a “bubble word.” I abandoned that notion quickly, as it was a very difficult and long process to do just one word.



Another easy way to make the bubble word shape:

bubble word shape
bubble word shape

1. Highlight the word’s shape. Put it on top of the colored paper and cut around the highlighting. You now have the written word and the word shape.

2. Photocopy the word shape. Now the word and its shape can be matched.


Another word matching idea:

Using a permanent marker, trace the word (or word shape) on a clear report cover page. (They sell some that aren’t glossy.) These can then be used for word matching activities.

word matching
word matching
word matching, complexity of array
word matching, complexity of array

There are many ways to control for complexity with these materials.

(The printed words here were part of the first grade reading program. Size was fine, but we needed ways to draw attention to the visual features and offer variety in word learning activities.)

Here is how I made a word matching activity that was used in school. The word shapes can be used also, and the content amount and type can be varied greatly.

I cut the front page of a file folder in half, so that when it is lifted, the “flaps” expose the words glued onto the back of the folder. I taped a “pocket” onto the closed side to store the words that were the matches.

word matching
word matching

The words need to be meaningful as does the context within which our CVI kids work.

I have also cut apart workbook pages and used pictures/pictures and word labels in “frame sentences.” The pictures should be known in order to not introduce a layer of novelty and complexity and cause additional visual confusion.

IMG_0397Many of us have been making books for our CVI kids on topics meaningful to them. Target and dollar stores often have inexpensive packets of books that we can use for all kinds of literacy work. The white has a cardboard cover and the black cover is sturdy paper.


IMG_0391I hope what I have shared gives you ideas on how to improve, modify, and adapt my adaptations to fit your CVI learner’s needs. Please share your ideas too!

Next up: adaptations to printed materials

*Guest blog post by former educator, Judy Endicott. Judy is a reading specialist who taught in regular and special education classrooms, and worked as a reading specialist at the elementary level. She is also a Level 1 certified Wilson Reading Program teacher. Judy is the grandparent of River, who was diagnosed with cortical visual impairment (CVI) at 11 months old.


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