What is CVI?


COOL Games Information Page

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COOL is a platform for a number of different interactive games, using images and voice recognition software. The games are designed to help those affected by CVI with:

  • Learning the concept of colour (Colour Concept Games)
  • Learning the names of wider colours (Colour Naming Games)
  • Learning the names of objects (Object Naming Games)

Colour Concept Games

What is orange?

This carrot (below) is orange:

So, what exactly is the orange bit of the carrot?

  • Is orange a flavour, to do with the taste? Well, orange is also a flavour and a colour, but orange is not the flavour of a carrot, so no, not that.
  • Is orange the taste? No, the taste is, well, carroty!
  • The texture, is that orange? Nope. If the carrot was raw, the texture might be described as firm, possibly a little rough on the outside, but you wouldn't describe the texture as orange would you?
  • The mass, the substance, the physical thing that is a carrot, is that what orange is? Well, if you close your eyes and eat the carrot, the physical thing is still there, but the orange has gone.

So, the colour, orange, in terms of the properties of a carrot - what exactly is it?

In terms of your visual processes, all colours are interpreted in the form of wavelength of light, through cells at the back of the eyes. Different colours have different wavelengths, and these are interpreted, and the visual information is processed and sent to the back of your brain so the colour can be matched accurately to what you are looking at, that is how carrots are orange, to you, in terms of your brain.

So we know how a carrot is orange, but we still don't know what orange is - this is because all colours are abstract ideas or concepts. Think of the carrot - the orange is not the substance, smell or taste. Understanding the different colours of things is important to the recognition process, as we use colours to describe things, making colours key to teaching and learning (as explained in Level 2 of our Lessons).

Yet understanding colours is an abstract concept that's taken for granted - we all do it without thinking of it, and we're able to recognise and name a huge range of colours, shades and tones.

Most of us take our understanding of the abstract concept of colours for granted.Most of us take our understanding of the abstract concept of colours for granted.

Learning colour as an abstract concept sounds really difficult and complicated, yet most people with typical vision successfully achieve this when they are young children. So because most people just sort of pick it up, when teaching children, it is taken for granted that saying 'blue sky' makes sense - why wouldn't it?

Blue sky - what's wrong with that?  It is a blue sky.Blue sky - what's wrong with that? It is a blue sky.

But just like the orange of the carrot, the blue of the sky is equally abstract, and children with visual impairments, including CVIs may not pick up the concept of colours. These children might:

  • not appear to see certain colours, or
  • not see things described in full or in part using words like red or blue
  • may be thought of as having colour blindness, because they can't name colours

Without realising it, we use colours to describe things all the time - describe the carrot, the first thing likely to come to mind is the colour or shape.

Those affected may be thought of as having a learning problem, or possibly they are being difficult, especially when a request seems very simple, for example a teacher asking a child to pass them the red pencil (below):

Can you pass me the red pencil please?  What is 'red'?Can you pass me the red pencil please? What is 'red'?

But the child can't understand what the word red means, and might pick out a random pencil hoping it is red, or possibly refuse, or find a way to get out of it, knowing that they will probably get it wrong and that they might be criticised or teased.

It is not likely to be the case that the child can't see the colours. Their eyes may be working typically and processing each colour well.

What a child with CVI sees and is looking at, can be very different to the person teaching and supporting them. An adult might say to the child in the image above 'the yellow brick looks very high' whilst the child is looking at a pink brick, and isn't aware of the yellow brick, so the child may learn what a brick is, but not pink or yellow, because possibly from their earliest learning opportunities, the idea of colour has not made sense. This example is due to reduced visual attention, which as we have explained, is common among children with CVI.

Our software COOL's Colour Concept setting is to teach the abstract concept of colour. It starts very simply, just with grass is green, sky is blue.

It is very important to start with something the child already knows (the known) and then add something new (the unknown) in this case, the colour is the unknown. To begin with, it might not make sense, but over time, the brain should start to make the connections, and develop the concept of colours.

So - assuming grass is known, then 'green' is added. "Grass green.". Green could be anything, but over time, with reinforcement, green will be attached to the colour, so later, when you see a leaf, you could say 'look at the grass green leaf' - it is the same colour as the grass, and again, over time, the word grass can be dropped, and it can be understood as a green leaf. And eventually we have green, the colour, known on its own, as a colour - and the child has developed the concept of colour. The same applies to the sky. The colour is "sky blue". Then a pencil can be "sky blue", then once the concept of what the word blue means has been mastered, the pencil can be referred to as the blue pencil, and the child will know what is being talked about.

We have chosen the words 'sky blue' and 'grass green', as it is the colour that is very commonly referred to (and because these words convey the same meaning internationally).

We have built the levels up very carefully. Repetition is needed, but repeated consistent learning creates increasingly stronger new mental pathways.

With CVI it is always important to remember that what you are looking at and can see is unlikely to be the same as what the person with CVI sees.

So you need to first use the words "sky blue" or "grass green" when you see the child looking at the sky or grass, not when you are!

So, you might think when walking that this would be a good time to reinforce the understanding that grass is green (image below)

The grass is greenThe grass is green

Yet what you can see and know, may be very different to the person you are supporting (below)

What grass? What green?What grass? What green?

So when talking about grass being green, how about getting down onto the ground and feeling the grass, if allowed, picking some grass and then reinforcing the connection that grass is green.

Be sure the person you are supporting is looking at the same thing as you.Be sure the person you are supporting is looking at the same thing as you.

When you are sure the concept of colours has been created, and is developing, you can move onto the next level of the Colour Naming Games.

Colour Naming Games

In these games we have used very simple objects, like a ball or a dress, to go through a wider range of colours and their names. Some will be known, some may not be.

Before starting to learn the names of colours, please make sure that the person understands the concept of colours. A simple test would be to have a set of coloured pencils and to ask the person to pass you pencils, described by their colour alone. ("Can you pass me the grass green pencil?" If the person finds this difficult, or has to guess, please start at the Colour Concept level (above).

Object Naming Games

With CVI a great deal has been written about challenges with recognition, particularly difficulties recognising faces, facial expressions, shapes and objects. It might be for some that the objects are not recognised because they don't have the mental visual capacity to learn them, as can be the case with ventral stream disorders.

Another reason recognition may be challenged, is because the names of things are not known. These games are to help learn names.

For example, imagine it is your first day in a new job and someone gave you a telephone message and asked you to take it into the meeting room and give it to Sandy (image below)

Who is Sandy?Who is Sandy?

Because you do not know the names of the people, you don't know who to give the message to, so you can't do it.

To know the correct name of anything requires a process where it is experienced, and the name given, and this process consistently repeated so that the name and 'thing' are correctly joined.

For example, this (above) child is playing with a ball...

This is also a ball,

As is this, but for most children as they are learning the names of things, there is enough visual information to learn that all of these different types of balls come under the word 'ball'. Where there is less visual information, as is the case for children with CVI, then learning the names of things can become more difficult, especially as the same thing can look very different....

Horses come in all shapes, colours and sizes, from real horses to toy horses and horses in books, seen close up or from a distance.

That is a lot of different visual information for a person to learn to understand the word horse, but this is how a typically sighted person may see the horses, what about someone with CVI, particularly those affected since birth...

You might see this...

Where the person with CVI might only see this...

And because less is seen, often less is understood, and the names of things are not known, or not confidently known, and this can affect learning.

In the same way we could not give a telephone message to Sandy in the meeting because we did not know who Sandy was (even though we may be more than capable of delivering a message), so might a child not be able to do something, not because they can't but because the name you are using is not known to them.

Please can you pass me the train?  What is 'train'Please can you pass me the train? What is 'train'

So, this boy (above), if asked to give someone the train, if they don't know what 'train' is, may:

  • Refuse / say they can't
  • Guess

The Object Naming Games are designed to be a part of a wider support system helping the child learn the names of things. When not playing the games, do try to reinforce the new names when out and about.

A few rules to ensure optimal learning of names:

  • 1. Make sure you and the person you are supporting are both looking at / attending to the same thing - so with the image above, maybe take the train, hold it up, let the child hold it, and say 'train'.
  • 2. Speak clearly, using the word alone (don't 'lose' the word in a complicated sentence like 'the brown train goes choo choo' ) - when learning new names, it is important to begin with a single word.
  • 3. Reinforce at every opportunity, following 1 & 2 above..

We will be adding further object naming games covering a range of areas, interests and abilities.

There are other reasons the child may not be able to pass the train due to their CVI, perhaps because they can't see the train, so not all issues will be due to not knowing names, but some may be. Each person with CVI will have different challenges, and for some there may be a number of different challenges all making things difficult, like not being able to pass the train because you can't see it and you don't know what 'train' is. This is why support needs to be tailored to the individual's needs, and we hope these naming games will help.

System Requirements

COOL is free to use but requires wifi.

COOL runs using Google voice recognition software, and you will need to download Google Chrome to use it. Google Chrome is free to download and can be used on most computers including Macs, but is not currently supported tablets and smart phones.

Voice recognition

We have had quite a lot of fun with our Scottish accents and the voice recognition software! What we realised as we were testing COOL and repeatedly said the same word into the microphone at different speeds and emphasising different sounds, was that we were using the word that we were trying to learn, over and over. It actually helped the learning experience and made it a lot of fun.

Click here to start using COOL now, and most importantly, HAVE FUN!


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About Us

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