by B. E. Lewis, RDPFS Intern
One reason why it is important to mark September as CVI Awareness Month is to call attention to the fact that Cortical or Cerebral Visual Impairment (CVI) is the leading cause of visual impairment in children in the United States. CVI results from damage to the pathways of the brain that process visual information from the eyes. It is most common in babies and young children, but can also continue into adulthood. A child with CVI has difficulties seeing that cannot be explained by an eye problem. In some cases, vision improves over time, although everyone is different. Children may have trouble with tasks like responding to what they see, recognizing faces or moving objects, or reaching for something as they look at it. “There are critical differences between ocular visual impairment and brain based visual impairment,” says Christine Roman-Lantzy, Ph.D., Director of the Pediatric VIEW (Vision Information and Evaluation at West Penn Hospital) Program in Pittsburgh, and a CVI project leader for the American Printing House for the Blind. She adds that although visual acuity and other measures may appear normal, children with CVI may see the world as a place where things blend into a backdrop of white noise. If a child exhibits signs of vision difficulties, the first step is to get a comprehensive eye exam to determine whether the problem is with their eyes. If the exam does not find eye problems explaining the symptoms, the problem might be in the brain. For diagnosis, the child will need to visit an eye doctor who is familiar with CVI. Although there is no cure, vision rehabilitation can help people with CVI to make best use of their vision. A number of resources are available to raise awareness by recognizing and participating in CVI Awareness Month. The CVI Now webpage from The Perkins School for the Blind includes videos, informative articles, tangible steps to take after diagnosis, and much more. Paths to Literacy provides strategies for literacy activities and modifications that can benefit children with CVI on their webpage announcing that September is CVI Awareness Month! For additional resources and information, visit the National Eye Institute (NEI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) webpage on CVI. And check out a video with Dr. Roman-Lantzy, providing a CVI Overview on the West Virginia Department of Education website.