What is CVI?



We will use the term distracted to mean when your child:

  • Finds it difficult to stay focused, (sometimes referred to as being 'easily distracted' or 'not paying attention')
  • Quickly seems to lose interest
  • Jumps from being interested in one thing to the next, often very fast
  • Seems fixed on something, and can't bring their attention back, which can sometimes look like they are in a world of their own.

Being distracted is very commonly linked with CVI, particularly in children.


Think about being in a busy supermarket, but they are short of staff and normally ten tills would be open, but today it is only one. So the queues very quickly build up, and it is very difficult for everyone to be processed efficiently, creating irritation. But it is not the fault of the one person on the only till doing their best to keep up and keep everyone calm.

Think of your child's brain like the supermarket with only a few tills open. So very quickly things can build up and become unmanageable.

What you need to do, to help your child, is a bit of 'crowding' control!


Reducing the amount their brain has to process when distracted by looking to reduce:

  • Visual stimulation. If distracted in class, remember that looking onto an open cluttered classroom can be very challenging. At home, a room with no clutter and plain walls would be ideal. Try a single coloured pop-up tent (inexpensive and widely available on-line) somewhere in the home and see how your child responds in this CVI visual optimal environment.
  • Movement. Thinking about how much surrounding movement there is to see, it all has to be processed and this puts demands on the brain.
  • Noise. Stop and listen - how many different sounds are there to process, including background noises like traffic, the television, talking etc.
  • Stress. How your child is feeling will have an impact of their focus, and if there is a lot going on in their mind, then that will make them more distracted. Being calm, relaxed, and feeling safe and secure, and happy and in control are optimal.
  • Flow. Sometimes your child may need a break, to have some quiet calm time.

A small pop-up tent can provide a visually optimal environment and help a child who struggles with distractions.A small pop-up tent can provide a visually optimal environment and help a child who struggles with distractions.

Home Talk

Being distracted is thought of as a negative behaviour, and something your child is choosing to do - THIS IS OFTEN NOT THE CASE!

So the first thing you need to make sure you child knows - is that this is not their fault. Their brain has too much to process, it is not something they can easily control - but the grown-ups can help enormously. As you learn the conditions that make distractions more of a challenge for your child, think about how you can implement changes from the above list, to all the places where they spend their time. Think about their classroom, and other parts of their school, and activities outside of school.

The distractions caused by CVI can create a considerable barrier to learning, and your child could start to fall behind at school. Wherever they are struggling, think abut the person on the till in the supermarket trying to cope with an overwhelming number of customers. Between you, agree what would help, for example sitting at the front of the class, or somewhere quiet, and chilling out at lunchtime at school, in a quiet uncluttered space.

Further Reading

3D Brains - Images of pathways in a brain with and without CVI. Think of the tills in the supermarket when you look at them.

Gordon's Dutton's blog 18 - Showing how overwhelmed a child with CVI can easily become, leading to distractions.

Attention & Its Calibration - Distractions and CVI is a complex area, and if you have a few spare minutes it is worth reading this page which simply explains why your child is easily distracted.


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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.