What is CVI?


Reading Case Study

This example shows the approach to successfully accessing learning as explained in the short introductory section Access. The term perceivable is used specifically to mean perceivable through one, or more of the five senses of vision, hearing, touch, taste and smell.

If something is not perceivable, particularly through sight and sound, then the person can have no awareness of it, and it isn't there for them.

Katherine is 11 and has CVI.

Katherine found reading very difficult, she'd made very little progress, did not enjoy learning and would quickly become frustrated.

1. Why was reading challenging for Katherine?

  • Was reading perceivable for Katherine?

No, Katherine has simultanagnostic vision. Katherine was being taught to read phonetically which involved learning the individual letters, then interpreting them in order to form the word.

Katherine was expected to understand multiple pieces of visual information (individual letters) simultaneously, which she can't do, due to simultanagnosia.

How do we know this about Katherine? We figured it out, using a pathway that follows the order our brains process vision. The process is explained in the section Katherine's Playground.

  • Was reading meaningful for Katherine?

No, it didn't make any sense to Katherine.

  • Was Katherine motivated?

No Katherine clearly found learning to read something she couldn't do, didn't like doing and didn't want to do.

So on every level, the experience of trying to teach Katherine to read (phonetically) was failing, no wonder she couldn't and didn't learn.

2. How was reading made accessible for Katherine?

  • How was reading made perceivable for Katherine?

It was recognised that Katherine's visual impairment needed a different approach, without her having to put multiple different pieces of visual information together. The approach suggested was Reading Using Whole Word Visual Recognition. All Katherine had to do was remember each word as a unique whole picture or symbol, which she immediately demonstrated she could do.

  • How was reading made meaningful for Katherine?

By reading using recognition, Katherine found a way for the first time ever, that she could access text, and it made complete sense to her.

  • Was Katherine motivated?

The motivation followed naturally, as is often the case when something is both perceivable and meaningful. Katherine loved it. A full account of how this approach was used to teach Katherine to read can be viewed in Look: Case Study - Katherine.

3. The successful approach.

  • The first step required an understanding of Katherine's world. Without an understanding of Katherine's simultanagnostic vision, it might not have been possible to figure out the reason why she was finding reading challenging, and to come up with a suggested solution that would be perceivable to her.
  • The second step was to implement the alternative approach with the full support, motivation and encouragement of everyone involved, while ensuring that Katherine knew that everyone believed in her. This included her family and her teachers.
  • The third step, well Katherine is doing it all herself now, and with increasing independence.


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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.