For the busy playground at the end of the day, a challenging environment when Katherine is exhausted, it would be best to make life as easy as possible, and stand in the same place, and possibly wear something that Katherine can help to identify her mother. A bright scarf, hat or jacket in Katherine's favourite colour would be best, because they are worn high (on the upper body) so can be seen from all directions.
Mary explains that she tries to remember a stand out feature of the person she is looking for in a crowd, like their height or what they are wearing. If this is not successful, Mary has suggested Katherine learns the wagon wheel approach.
In Mary's Words:
"It's about trying to stay calm, picking a central point to focus on and the glancing away and then back to the centre point - kind of like a wagon wheel effect. This is harder than it sounds when stressed, which is where the mindfulness comes in, but this may be harder for children"
This approach is only helpful is Katherine learns techniques to not just stay calm, but make herself calm when she is anxious or stressed. Mary uses mindfulness, but also plans and prepares. Mary will admit that despite all her strategies, sometimes they are just not enough and she can end up feeling very lost, scared and frustrated.
Think about other forms of recognition Katherine might find challenging with this understanding, for example reading facial expressions can be affected by simultanagnosia.
An inability to read facial expressions can come across as not caring or lacking empathy, when the truth may be that Katherine does not have enough information to correctly process the feelings that are being relayed to her. With this in mind, using clear language to convey emotions, rather than relying on a tone or expression is likely to be more effecting in relaying how someone is feeling to Katherine.
Katherine may struggle to find things, (as she struggled to find her mother). There should be a balance between Katherine's environment being tidy and ordered, to avoid frustration at not being able to find things, whilst always encouraging her to consciously use and develop her searching skills.
With simultanagnosia, Katherine not only doesn't see the whole visual scene, she does not have attention where she can't see.
Katherine is also has challenges because she has poor depth perception, because her vision is only processed through one eye, which will add to the potential hazards and challenges.
For Katherine, developing skills within a tidy and controlled environment,to consciously search and locate, will help her to lead a safe and more independent life as she gets older.
Mary describes the technique she uses to try to stay calm when she starts to feel anxious or stressed due to her visual impairments:
"If I am in a difficult environment and am feeling anxious or stressed, I firstly try to find a quiet corner, somewhere I can look away from the clutter and crowds. If this is not possible, I try to shut my eyes for a bit and switch off to the craziness around me. I do this by concentrating on my breathing. I start by taking a couple of deep breaths in through my nose and out through my mouth. I then relax my breathing back to its natural rhythm and then focus on counting each breath in and then out, up to a count of ten and then I start again. By doing this it forces me to focus only on my breathing and switch off to everything else around me. Once I have got full concentration on my breathing, I even find that I can sometimes open my eyes but still switch off to the visual information.
Of course there are times when this doesn't work at all and the only option is to try and remove myself from the stressful environment. Obviously, as an adult it is easier for me to know when I need to get away, it is much harder for a child. That is why it is so important for parents / caregivers to learn to read the signs that their child is really struggling. People close to me have told me that when I am really stressed they can see the panic in my eyes."
Mary will admit that despite all her strategies, sometimes they are just not enough and she can end up feeling very lost, scared and frustrated.
Your generous donations will be put to immediate use in supporting our charity...
At CVI Scotland we are devoted to helping people understand cerebral visual impairments, and together working towards developing the understanding of this complex condition.