Cortical visual impairment occurs when there is damage to parts of the brain that process vision. A child with CVI has difficulty with their vision that cannot be explained by a problem with their eyes. Typically, eyes register visual input and send information to the brain to be processed and interpreted as images. In individuals with CVI, the brain is unable to adequately interpret and understand the incoming visual input. How much an individual’s vision is impacted by CVI can range from mild to severe. There is no cure for CVI, but vision rehabilitation can help improve a child’s vision and environmental adaptations can help a child optimize their vision.
It takes a solid amount of effort and concentration for children with CVI to use their vision. In noisy environments, children with CVI may prioritize listening to sounds rather than focusing on using their vision. In visually distracting environments, children with CVI may get overwhelmed resulting in them “turning off” their vision. These trifold black display boards make a great barricade for busy environments.
Children with CVI may rely on motor memory to navigate their environment. When we orient and place feeding items in the same place each mealtime, a child with CVI may more easily be able to locate and find what they are looking for. Make sure you place and orient silverware, the plate, and his/her cup in the same spot on their table or tray each mealtime.
Light is a great way to direct a child with CVI’s visual attention. A stainless-steel plate is a great option. It is visually very simple and reflects natural light.
Children with CVI often have a preference for one or two colors, meaning they are more likely to direct their visual attention to objects of that specific color. For many children, anchor colors tend to be red or yellow, however that’s not always the case. Don’t have a red spoon? Try tying a red balloon or pom pom to the spoon.
For children with CVI that are fed by a caregiver, sometimes seeing the spoon as it comes toward their mouth is a challenge. In addition to using a utensil that is the child’s anchor color, we can also orient the spoon sideways as it moves towards the child’s mouth. This allows the child visual access to the entire side of the spoon, not just the tip, giving them a larger surface area to spot.
Lisa is the global director of rehabilitation at NAPA Center and an all-around rockstar therapist. Serving on the board of directors for The NAPA Center Kids Foundation, Lisa is always finding a way to use her powers for good.
At NAPA Center, we offer pediatric feeding therapy at our multiple clinics in the US and Australia. Our occupational and speech therapists take a comprehensive approach targeting muscular coordination, sensory processes, and social experiences associated with eating. We also offer VitalStim therapy for children experiencing difficulty swallowing. We take an individualized approach to therapy because we understand that each child is unique with very specific needs. If your child needs our services, we will work closely with you to select the best therapies for them, creating a customized program specific to your child’s needs and your family’s goals. If you’re interested in learning more about pediatric feeding therapy at NAPA Center, send us a contact form and our team will be in touch shortly!