Helping Children with Cortical Visual Impairment see and understand their world
The BaseKit is ready-made and filled with intentionally selected materials for activities designed to target the characteristics unique to CVI. Before a kit is assigned to a student, that student’s visual skills will need to be assessed. As the student uses the materials from the kit, data can be collected about the student’s vision and progress.
What People Are Saying
“The VistaQuest Basekit is a comprehensive tool that students are excited to use with their everyday communication partners. It provides activities to enjoy together, with a structure that incorporates variety into predictable routines. The kit helps teams better understand how to support students’ visual access- knowledge which carries over into other environments throughout the day. Since the kit is an opportunity for connection, it also supports communication. It’s a win for students and everyone on their team!”
Amy LeRoy, MS, CCC-SLP
“I really like the step by step instructions. The kit is easy to use and we use it everyday.”
Ashley, Direct Support Professional
“So thankful for hands-on tools!” The BaseKit provides training and information that helps not only me as Victoria’s mom, but teachers and specialists who work with Victoria. I love how the things in the kit target multiple senses.”
“As a teacher, the BaseKit is a great tool. It’s easy to use, provides lots of activities for the student to engage with, and the instructions make it easy to pass off to a teaching assistant or parent for practice at home.”
Frequently Asked Questions
What is CVI (Cortical visual impairment)?
CVI is the leading cause of visual impairment in developed countries. Recent studies show that CVI is largely an undiagnosed condition. According to a research study done in 2021 in Bristol, 1 in 30 students are estimated to have CVI, Williams (2021). Yet, one of the most positive aspects to CVI is that improvement in vision may be expected through intentional and consistent intervention.
To understand cortical visual impairment (CVI), one needs to first understand how vision works. As David Eagleman explains (Eagleman, 2015), it is a much more complex process than many of us realize. Vision is more than just bringing back images that come through the eye to the brain. These images are transformed into electrochemical signals that need to be interpreted through the brain in order to become meaningful. Being able to see and interpret correctly what one is looking at is something that needs to be learned, much like riding a bike or walking. Seeing is a whole-body experience involving the visual cortex. Vision is developed by experiencing and interacting with the world around us.
Cortical visual impairment is a subset of cerebral visual impairment (Dr. Roman 2018, Advanced Principles of Cortical Visual Impairment). Cerebral visual impairment occurs when there is damage or disorder to the visual pathway and visual centers in the brain, including pathways serving visual perception, cognition, and visual guidance of movement (Lueck & Dutton 2015, Vision and the Brain). CVI describes damage to the visual system between the lateral geniculate nucleus (a structure in the thalamus that connects to the optic nerve), and/or optic radiations and the cortical area of the brain. CVI is a decreased response due to a neurological problem affecting the visual part of the brain. The analogy has been used to think of this visual pathway from the optic nerve to the visual cortex as the main highway for vision to be interpreted. When a traffic jam occurs, this highway becomes unusable. Cars are going to need to be rerouted in order to get where they need to go. Our brain is amazing in that when this main visual pathway is not usable due to damage, new routes can be formed that will, with proper intervention, provide meaning to those electrochemical signals coming into the eyes. Due to the plasticity of the brain, there is always the possibility of new routes being created. Early intervention is crucial, as this is when the brain is the most plastic, meaning having the ability to reorganize. Providing meaningful experiences and learning opportunities to aid in memory formation is the focus of intervention for CVI.
How is CVI Diagnosed?
In order for CVI to be diagnosed, there are three criteria that need to be met (Dr. Roman 2018, Advanced Principles of Cortical Visual Impairment):
- An eye exam that does not explain the individual’s functional use of vision.
- A history of a brain condition, trauma, or damage associated with CVI.
- The presence of certain visual and behavioral characteristics.
There were originally ten characteristics that were used to help determine if a child had CVI, but this is slowly including additional characteristics as more research is being done. Multiple terms for these characteristics are included in this description of CVI. The first set of terms are from Dr. Roman-Lantzy’s work (Dr. Roman 2018, Advanced Principles of Cortical Visual Impairment) as they have set the foundation for a lot of research and work being done now, followed by more recent terms. The BaseKit has been designed with the intention to target these characteristics. The characteristics are as follows:
- Color preference/need for color (impact of color)
- Need for movement (impact of motion/impaired perception of motion)
- Visual latency (response interval/wait time for looking and understanding)
- Visual field preferences/neglect
- Difficulties with visual complexity of object (object recognition)
- Difficulties with complexity of array (impact of clutter)
- Difficulties of complexity of sensory environment (sensory integration)
- Difficulties of complexity of facial recognition (facial recognition/access to people)
- Need for light (impact of light)
- Difficulty with distance viewing (visual attention)
- Difficulty with visual novelty (visual curiosity)
- Absence of visually guided reach (visual guidance of upper limbs and also visual guidance of lower limbs)
- Atypical blink reflex
I do want to give credit for various assessments out in the field who have helped me in my work:
Credit for assessments out there:
CVI Range Assessment created by Dr. Christine Roman-Lantzy
Visual Skills Inventory created by Dr. Gordon Dutton
“What’s the Complexity” by Matt Tietjen
Upcoming assessments: CVI Protocol through Perkins University
Sensory Balance by Dr. Roman-Lantzy and Matt Tietjen
Send us any questions or comments anytime. We want to support you in your journey with your student or child and will be sure to get back to you.