Imagine the situation where your child has a diagnosis of a visual impairment that, while it is the leading cause of visual impairment in children in the world, is not understood by ophthalmologists, neurologists, or teachers of the visually impaired. Imagine that your child has this diagnosis where their visual functioning can and should improve given specialized intervention, but there are no school-based programs devoted to supporting your child.
For parents of children with Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI), this is a reality. Recognizing the need for a quality academic program for children with this visual impairment, Saint Lucy School has established the CVI Intensive Support Program. Currently, Saint Lucy School is the only school in the area to offer intensive academic supports and programming for students with CVI.
What is Cortical Visual Impairment?
Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI) is a brain-based visual impairment that affects 35-58% of children who have neurological diagnoses such as Cerebral Palsy, hydrocephalus and white matter injury (Pediatric Cortical Impairment Society, 2021). A child with CVI typically has an eye exam that does not explain visual functioning, a neurological diagnosis or neurological ‘incident’, and the presence of characteristic visual behaviors that identify him or her as having CVI (Roman, 2007). Students with Cortical Visual Impairment typically have a strong color preference and appear to be near-sighted (they cannot see objects well at a distance). Parents often notice that their child is attracted to lights and ceiling fans (but this may change over time). Faces are visually complex and children with CVI typically do not look at faces or make eye contact, thus making facial recognition difficult. Children with CVI prefer familiar objects and environments to novel ones, and often cannot interpret visual images which makes reading, looking at pictures in books, etc. a challenge.
In 2007, Dr. Christine Roman-Lantzy wrote a book based on her research of children with CVI entitled Cortical Visual Impairment, An Approach to Education and Assessment. Her research developed The CVI Range, which is the only educational approach to working with children with Cortical Visual Impairment. For almost fifteen years the education of children with Cortical Visual Impairment has been based on Dr. Roman-Lantzy’s work, with amazing results. With the establishment of five CVI principles, Dr. Roman has set out a clear framework for creating opportunities for teachers to provide visual access to the student with CVI. A systematic approach based on a score on The CVI Range allows a teacher to pinpoint how the student is using vision and then develop a program to create intentional interventions to help improve the child’s functional vision.
While almost a decade and a half has passed since The CVI Range was developed, children with CVI and their families continue to struggle to find the appropriate programming that meets their needs and gives them the ability to visually access their world. Dr. Roman describes CVI as a ‘disability of access’ and without appropriate access, students with CVI fall further and further behind their peers and are often diagnosed as having learning disabilities and other developmental disorders.
Saint Lucy’s CVI Intensive Support Program
Saint Lucy’s CVI Intensive Support Program identifies the needs of the students based on their CVI Range score and curriculum materials are adapted to meet those needs. An Individual Education Plan is developed that incorporates goals based on the child’s CVI Range score. Each student has the use of an iPad pro and is taught the applications that allow for appropriate visual access to the academic curriculum. Small class sizes, individual instruction, and pre-teaching of visual information provide a learning environment that allows students to make progress commensurate with their peers. In addition, the program offers opportunities for inclusion with students in the parish elementary school.
The CVI Intensive Support Program was made possible by a grant and the generous support of the Ambassador’s Fund for Catholic Education. The director of the program is MaryAnne Roberto, a Philadelphia native and product of twelve years of Archdiocesan education. Mrs. Roberto has had more than 38 years of experience as a Teacher of the Visually Impaired and over 30 years working with infants and children with Cortical Visual Impairment. As a CVI Endorsed specialist, MaryAnne has presented across the United States and Canada and provided the first-ever CVI training in China. As a consultant for families and teams across the country, Mrs. Roberto knows first hand the lack of appropriate programming and resources for children with CVI, and brings with her the determination to meet the needs of students with CVI in the Philadelphia Archdiocese.
As we embark on this new program, we are excited to welcome students who have a diagnosis of Cortical Visual Impairment and are looking for an academic placement.
To schedule a visit or for more information, please contact [email protected] or call 215-289-4220.
Pediatric Cortical Visual Impairment Society. (2021). Vision. https://pcvis.vision/
Roman-Lantzy, C. (2007) Cortical Visual Impairment: An approach to education and assessment. American Foundation for the Blind.