This page is a sub-section of Learning at Home, and is about how learning can be optimised for people who have CVI and severe learning challenges.
The foundation of this information relates to how the brain processes information, and how this can be affected by CVI.
(For additional information please follow the links on this page.)
In the main Learning at Home section we highlight three issues, related to learning:
Please read the Learning at Home section first, for a more detailed explanation.
We use the term 'severely affected' to mean those with CVI who have significant learning challenges, including those who are unable to talk and have very limited communication skills. Many will have significant mobility issues, and will rely upon support for most of their personal care. In our CVI Classifications section, this is CVI Classification 1.
What are the needs of those severely affected by CVI? This will vary from person to person, but from our many conversations with parents, the following issues regularly come up:
This is just a very short list. Think of the person you are supporting, who is severely affected by CVI perhaps putting together their own personal list.
It is important to remember that behind all the challenges and behaviours is a person, who likes adventure, to explore and have fun - just like everyone else!
In the previous CVI Scotland's Learning Spectrum section we introduced a simple coloured system:
Thinking about the environment for the person severely affected by CVI we need to balance two different areas:
a) Easy / Difficult Environments
Considering what the brain is needing to do, the easiest environments for those most severely affected by CVI are environments with minimal clutter and few people (see our section on clutter).
A single coloured tent like the one below creates an optimal environment, particularly if it is somewhere quiet.
The more cluttered a place becomes the more challenging it is, and for some, the more threatening. Clutter includes noise and movement, as well as visual clutter (see our sections on Attention & Its Calibration).
Difficult environments can become less challenging if they become known.
b) Known / Unknown Environments
Let us take the busy supermarket in the image above, the photo was taken by a mother who has her son, who is severely affected by CVI, with her at the time. She explains:
For a long time I couldn't take my son anywhere, and I decided to start trying to get him out a little bit at a time. Supermarkets are very difficult and stressful, but I started going when it was really quiet and only for a few minutes. My son loves reaching out and touching things as he goes past them, but always from the safety of a chair, and I am always there. Bit by bit we built up the amount of time he can tolerate. If it is busy we still have to be quick, but it is because there is so much movement and noise, and I think he knows the visual layout of the store well now. When it is quiet, I can get a family shop done, and he doesn't just tolerate it, he enjoys it. His school are doing something similar, and he regularly goes to local cafes for a treat.
For this boy, the supermarket has gone from difficult and unknown (red zone) to known. It is always going to be a challenging environment, but now it is known, it is less challenging.
The store has become known to the boy, which means through repeated consistent experiences this environment has become stored in his memory. So he knows where he is. This has been built up over a long time. For those severely affected by CVI, learning a new environment can take many repeated visits (some of the reasons are explained in our Limited Area of Visual Attention section).
If an environment is difficult (red zone), and is unlikely to be repeated regularly, like a party for example, try to think of it from the perspective of the person severely affected by CVI:
Which may make them
And this definitely is not an environment for learning.
If the environment is in the red zone, you should think about what you can do to make it less challenging, like de-clutter or slowly let the person get to know the environment when it is quiet.
As a general rule, the red zone is anything that is either unknown or difficult or both, with the exception of working in tents. We have many accounts of children entering the world of a single coloured tent for the first time, so it is unknown, and immediately responding positively to the environment by engaging, relaxing, reaching, smiling, and vocalising. We also have an account where a child treated the new experience of a tent with initial suspicion, but very quickly learnt to love it.
We suggested the following examples of Learning Substance in the previous section Learning at Home:
This may seem like a lot to consider, but once again we need to break it down into
We know that many severely affected by CVI have great difficulties communicating. Those closest are likely to understand from sounds, facial expressions and body posture and movements if the person is happy or agitated, but many others will not. If these signs are not correctly interpreted it can be extremely stressful for the person with CVI.
This can be anything from toys to food to bubbles in the bath. One question - is it perceivable? We have explained in Access, that for the brain to learn there needs to be a repeated cycle of:
And the Experience bit of that cycle needs to be perceivable, and matched with meaning whilst the person is motivated.
In the introductory section we described colander vision, and this is just one of the many reasons why materials are not always perceivable to be learnable, because only a small part may be visible - so the person cannot learn! Other examples of materials not being perceivable include:
These are just a few examples, more can be found in our What Is CVI? sections under the different headings. We explain the process of making things known, bit by bit, in our Zoom In Zip Up Zoom Out sections, with examples around a children's playground, food and an orchestra.
We explained in our movement section that if things move too fast, they may not be visible to the person with CVI. For the purpose of learning, if something is moving too fast to be visible, then it is not possible to learn it visually - we cannot learn from what we cannot perceive.
Doing things for themselves
For all of us, we learn to do things much more effectively if we are able to do it for ourselves, whether it is making a cake, driving a car, reaching to press a button or holding the spoon being used to feed us. This is down to how the brain learns, and it will learn more quickly and more effectively when the person is doing something for themselves, rather than someone else doing it for them.
Known or Unknown
As with the previous section:
Converting something unknown into something known, can gradually change a red zone into an orange zone, eventually proceeding to green.
The ideal is the green zone, where:
And we are back to where we started at the beginning of the previous section:
"we think home is the place where there are the greatest learning opportunities for the person with CVI. Here are our reasons:
The time the person spends at home (85% roughly, see Home section)
The unique expert knowledge the people at home have of the person with CVI, not just how they are affected by CVI, but also their experiences across their whole life to date.
The time, love, patience and motivation those at home have for the person with CVI, which goes above and beyond anyone else's."
Here is the Learning spectrum as a table (see CVI Scotland's Learning Spectrum).
So let us take our adventurers and explorers out to have some fun and learn at home!
In every sub-section of Home, we consider learning experiences across the five broad areas listed below. These cover how many with CVI spend their time, but do not cover all the time for everyone. Hopefully they will help you to relate what we are explaining, to the individual with CVI.
Home is known, so even if the house is cluttered, it is already an orange / green zone. Look to see if you can make the environment easier by decluttering and, if you have space invest in a tent (which pops up and down for easy storage).
Think about the explorer, and across the senses, keep exploration clear, slow and purposeful. Explore different foods with different smells and textures, in the garden feel different grasses, flowers, plants and trees, smell them, listen to the birds, and use clear the singular word to name what is being experienced just after the experience (see Language for non-verbal children with CVI).
Many children who are severely affected by CVI love television or tablets, and this can be used to help further learning, for example developing language, by maybe giving a programme a simple name. (See Language for non-verbal children with CVI).
If a favourite programme can be watched on a computer (many are also available on You Tube), try playing with the speeds a little (click here for instructions). This is a really good way to get a sense of the person's preferred speed, and once you understand it, you can let others know. The world is simply too fast for many severely affected by CVI; you can make sure everyone knows to slow down, and by how much.
Don't forget fun, so many children with CVI love trampolines and swings, and being in the garden, playing with the family, helps build and strengthen social relationships.
Reading! Please see our section on Reading to your child for fun. Even Connor, who can't see the pictures or understand the words loves his stories - they take him on a wonderful journey somewhere - remember the explorers!
We know many severely affected by CVI have difficulties with sleep. Ensuring the environment is optimal, and the process at bedtime, including the known person, loved story, familiar things, keeping as much in the green zone as possible, will help, because the process is made much easier to learn, which means it will make more sense.
To help with the environment in the bedroom, up-lighters prevent light gazing, while shaded lamps that can be touched to control the level of light can empower some children.
We have already mentioned that parties, and any similar environment that is difficult (red zone), needs to be gradually learnt about, often involving multiple visits, by the person who is severely affected by CVI.
Sometimes even with difficult environments this can be beneficial, for example regular playgroups or social groups.
We may have happy memories as a child of going to parties, special treats, days out at funfairs and carnivals or going to see shows. Try to think of these things from the perspective of the person severely affected by CVI, as they will not experience it in the same way you did.
Please always try to remember the perspective of the person with CVI, things may not have the same happy associations.
For children who are more aware, or if an event is unavoidable, please see our suggestions in the following section (CVI Mild / Moderate Learning Delayed) where we share many tips helping a child with CVI through birthday parties and other events that may be challenging.
For many, the environment within the car is likely to be well known, so it may be an orange or green zone (if the car is uncluttered). This means there are great learning opportunities within the car, particularly with well known people, including developing language and reading.
For some, car journeys can be frightening. Parents have told us of some of the approaches they have discovered help improve the environment:
Some of these events can be brief and unknown, and thus challenging (red zone). They can provide opportunities to learn about new people and places, but this needs to be at the pace that the person with CVI can comfortably manage, especially when purposeful to them (the person with CVI).
As far as possible try to aim for the green zone, but be mindful that once something is very familiar and learnt, it can become boring, and the explorers will need new adventures to keep their brains busy and happy. So learning develops...
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