Saturday, April 23, 2011

Special Needs Kids: Working with Disabilities: Cortical Visual Impairment

As a Paraprofessional in a classroom for Severe Multiple Impairments I work everyday with Cortical Blindness. Cortical Blindness is also often referred to as Cortical Visual Impairment or CVI, basically a neurological disorder where the occipital cortex of the brain doesn't know how to process or properly interpret what the eyes are seeing.

Four major causes of CVI:
  • Asphyxia

  • Brain maldevelopment

  • Head injury

  • Infection

The strange thing about cortical blindness is the 'blindness' is inconsistent. Sometimes someone with a cortical visual impairment (CVI) can see shadows, shapes or lights sometimes even colors, but CVI is inconsistent from person-to-person, day-to-day.

Some of the variables that will affect CVI vision are as follow:

  • Fatigue.

  • Too many background colors or noises.

  • Distractions in the environment, often times the brain is unable to process too much at one time.

  • At times their vision can appear to come and go depending upon these variables or on a day when they just feel like sleeping instead of working.

For most of my students part of their daily curriculum consists of optical stimulation. Vision is something that must be worked on every day to see improvement, no pun intended. The main goal is to get them to seek out items and get their minds working.

To do this I use a variety of things to stimulate their vision, such as:

  • Simple toys or left over party favors.

  • Anything that is flashy or has bright stimulating colors such as red or yellow.

  • Items that make colorful sounds to accompany the visual works great to keep their attention and create a fun atmosphere.

Many of the noises we may find kind of annoying they will love,
like all kids they love:

  • Horns, whistles and assorted clacking items and these noises will definitely keep their attention.

  • Soft sounds that they have to concentrate on such as; the rustling of cheap pom poms, the sound of a string of beads whistling through the air or sand paper being dragged over a wooden block.
Anything that is peculiar to their environment. As you make these sounds you will see their eyes searching as they seek to use their vision.

We also spend a lot of time working with lighting.

  • Blinking lights.

  • Flashlights.

  • Multicolored lighting such as Christmas tree lights.

  • Natural lighting.
Sometimes, just opening the blinds can get their attention and give you an opportunity to experiment with background items. For example;

  • Mirrors to reflect the light towards the child.

  • Whirling around a silver Christmas garland that their eyes will try to follow.
I really just do whatever I can think of to stimulate their vision. The more they seek out objects the more they are forcing their mind to work. The more you work with them the better the chances are that they will find ways to communicate. Even if it is just to get you to blow that annoying horn. They are communicating and they are learning, which means neural pathways are developing and cognitive as well as visual skills are improving and who knows where that will go.

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