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3. Limited Area of Visual Attention

This section considers the actual physical area of visual attention a person with simultanagnostic vision can give, as far as it can be understood.

One way we have tried to understand more about this area is to ask people if there is a preference for viewing screen size, whether it be a huge television screen or a little smartphone screen.

We asked people with simultanagnostic vision what sized screen they preferred.We asked people with simultanagnostic vision what sized screen they preferred.

Below are some of the accounts we have heard from people with simultanagnostic vision:

  • Imagine rolling up a tube of translucent plastic sheet to the width of a pencil and looking through it. A boy called Nigel is unable to describe seeing (being visually aware of) anything bigger than this size.
  • Mary describes how she is able to follow subtitles with a film on a smartphone, but not a tablet or bigger.
  • Connor's mother has realised that he is much calmer and more engaged watching his favourite programmes on YouTube on a small screen, a little larger than a smartphone.

Being able to approximate the physical size of what needs to be looked at to the size of the field of visual attention, while at the same time not going smaller than what can be seen, is a very useful idea, because instructions can be given to ensure everything is the best size. When things are bigger, then the person with simultanagnostic vision may only be able to see a part of it, but when they are smaller again the information may be too small to see.

What's needed is the happy medium.

Consider simultanagnostic vision to be like a lighthouse with a single narrow beam of vision shining through a dense fog. Only what the beam shines upon is visible to the person, and the size of that beam will vary from person to person. Nigel's beam is extremely narrow, whereas Connor's beam, is a little larger, but still considerably smaller than the full beam of a person without simultanagnostic vision.

However, there is a little twist to limited area of visual awareness, because the person does not know they have it. As far as they are concerned, what they see is all there is to see.

Experience

  • Things don't make sense (because only a part of the whole is seen) and I feel stupid
  • I miss things
  • I am easily startled as things I am not aware are there may suddenly appear and leap out at me
  • I'm easily lost, even if I am somewhere I have been many times before
  • I don't know what people are talking about as it doesn't make sense, when they talk about what I can't see

Behaviours

  • The person may seem to be a very slow learner
  • They may appear rude and ignore people they don't know are there
  • They may not recognise the same thing (as different parts may have been seen at different times, see images below)

 A regular visit to the sports centre via the reception, but Connor, a child with simultanagnostic vision, takes a long time to recognise the same places... A regular visit to the sports centre via the reception, but Connor, a child with simultanagnostic vision, takes a long time to recognise the same places...

The same reception the following week, but it doesn't look the same to Connor.The same reception the following week, but it doesn't look the same to Connor.

The reception as Connor's mother sees it.  The reception as Connor's mother sees it.

With repeated visits, Connor over time will learn to recognise it, probably aided by other triggers including the sounds, smells and routine. Some with simultanagnostic vision can do this more quickly and effectively than others.

Children with profound disabilities and simultanagnostic vision may find recognising, and becoming familiar with new places very challenging. However strategies to help them learn to recognise their environment and over time put together a fuller picture can be helpful, including as part of the routine, having fixed points that are repeated in the same order each week. This may include a person you always speak to, something you always touch (which becomes an 'object of reference'), and a song you sing at a certain point.

Profoundly Disabled People

In profoundly disabled people, a Limited Area of Visual Attention may come across, in addition to the above as:

  • An inability to learn. Often within special needs education, everything is made very big for children with visual impairments, which may mean the child may only see a part. See our section the Visual Acuity / Simultanagnosia Problem for more information.
  • Showing a preference for watching favourite programmes or cartoons on smaller screens, including smartphones and tablets
  • Responding with interest to smaller objects, and not showing interest to larger objects.

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At CVI Scotland we are devoted to helping people understand cerebral visual impairments, and together working towards developing the understanding of this complex condition.