April 15, 2021

Literacy Tips for Teaching Students who have Cortical Vision Impairment

- Sherry Burbank, Director of Youth Services

a blind girl using headphones on the computer in a library

The latest research news says Brain-related visual problems may affect one in 30 primary school children. Future In Sight strives to raise awareness of Cortical/Cerebral Visual Impairment (CVI) with parents and our school partners. This condition, which until recently was thought to be rare, may affect as many as 12 students in an average city elementary school with 350 students. Literacy is important for all learners and in this blog post, we will reveal specific ways that two of our TVIs support literacy for their students with CVI.

To help her early reader with CVI read her classroom books, TVI Erika Teal uses real objects and other representations to introduce some key words in the book. For instance, the student is reading a book about bears, so Erika has been familiarizing her with different “types” of bears – a teddy bear, photographs of bears, drawings of bears – so that she recognizes the animal in the book. For Erika’s more advanced readers, she focuses on using reading tools, such as word and line highlighters, and she changes the material to make the pages less visually crowded.

Literacy for students with CVI is all about making materials that work for their specific needs, TVI Sarah White is working with a student with suspected CVI who needs extra separation between words so that they do not get all jumbled together.  Depending on how she is doing on a particular day, she also benefits from having individual words highlighted and revealing just one word at a time until the entire sentence is visible.

Another student with CVI (fully diagnosed) is in Early Supports & Services, the statewide program for birth to 3-year-olds.  He is in Phase I and we are working on building visual behaviors.  With literacy goals in mind for the future, his mom and Sarah are working on introducing him to the simple solid-colored characters of Elmo and Big Bird.  The idea is that, as he becomes familiar with those stuffed toys, they can be used during literacy activities for him in preschool.  He may not be at the point where he can look at two-dimensional pictures or words, but he could interact with the characters while a story about them is being read to him.

If you or someone you know needs help finding services and educational resources for a child with a visual impairment, please reach out to us at [email protected].