For children with cortical visual impairment (CVI), we want to provide the opportunity to use vision throughout their day. We do this by use of the CVI Range (Roman) and incorporating an intentional approach, based on how the ten characteristics of CVI (Roman) impact each individual child. There are so many opportunities for this in the course of a child’s day, in the natural environment, right at home.
Having lived in the Pacific Northwest for many years, we picked up the local “no shoes” custom at our house. We do not wear shoes inside. Consequently, this involves putting shoes on and taking them off at least a few times a day. And that means – finding your shoes. A few times each day, we must find our shoes.
Knowing of my son’s lower visual field deficits (preferred visual fields), his shoes have always been kept in a basket that sits on top of a small chest of drawers, instead of strewn across the closet floor, like my shoes. Sitting atop the chest, the basket is at the level of my son’s midriff, well up out of his lower visual field. His preferred color is yellow but at some point, a small, stuffed Elmo entered the picture, and landed in his shoe basket. The shoe basket was easily found by looking for bright red Elmo.
Once or twice a day, the task of finding shoes began with, “Go find your green lace shoes…” or fill in the blank shoes. Some days were harder than others. Depending on the time of day – or the time of year – the room could be dim. If my son showed frustration, it meant he could not perform the task and something needed to change. On those dim wintry days, flipping on the overhead light often did the trick.
Sometimes there were too many shoes (complexity of array), so a few pairs would be taken out and tucked away. This reduced the visual array, his visual search, and increased his chance of being successful at finding his shoes.
It helped that most of his shoes are brightly colored. Solid orange or green sandals are easier to find. Interestingly, the more visually complex, multi colored tie dye sandals (that I love) were never his favorite. Hmmm.
For a child with CVI, searching for an object is hard. Not only the task of visually scanning and searching, but the concept of how to look for things. It likely is not right there in front of you where you want it to be, so we will have to look. It might have rolled away, or be hidden beneath another object (object permanence). This lesson has been ongoing. Especially when at object has gone missing, emphasizing all the places where things might disappear to, where they could be, and all the places we could look. On surfaces, on the floor, but also under a couch or a table. Or under another shoe. Finding his shoes helps him practice this. The shoe is not right there on top, so we might need to move a shoe and look underneath. This direct instruction is essential for him.
Finding shoes also provides an opportunity to learn about and identify the salient features of a particular shoe. Before it is time to look for shoes, arrange the shoes intentionally, so that only the orange sandal strap or the green shoe lace you want him to find is visible. Is he able to visually locate the shoe, by that sole salient feature? Or does he need to see the whole shoe before he can recognize it?
On a side note, by keeping shoes in a particular spot, he is learning how to organize himself, how to keep track of his belongings. This idea underscores much of what we do. If I keep my shoes right here in this spot, it will be easier for me, as a person with CVI, to find them later. For a young child, this may be easier said than done! This concept aligns with the expanded core curriculum and skills of independent living.
After a while, you might be able to add another pair of shoes to that basket. Kids grow fast, shoes come and go. The mix of shoes will change, and be novel.
Right now it’s almost time for school, and that means, time to go find shoes once again.