What is CVI?

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Frightened

Frightened (or jumpy or having meltdowns)

CVI can make a child very jumpy and sometimes frightened, or terrified, even causing a full meltdown.

Think of a time someone has jumped out at you and, made you jump, maybe as a prank for fun when you were a child. That momentary feeling that made you physically jump or scream, was part of the same brain reaction, fight or flight, described in the previous page (anxious).

Your child's frightened or jumpy behaviours are most likely associated with a fear of physical injury, quite literally being hit by something. That is likely what their brain has anticipated and responded to, to make them jump or scream. It is a primitive protective reaction your child will have no control over.

We move all the time, just turning your head creates movement, and your brain calculates that movement. It is very common for children with CVI to have problems with these calculations, they are the same calculations that makes them sometimes clumsy. What happens as a result is that the brain does not accurately put things in the right place, meaning a few things can happen for your child:

  • Things can loom - suddenly appear as if they are about to strike your child. You may notice them protecting their faces or ducking to avoid something... something that is not even there as far you can see. This can make your child's reaction seem disproportionate, embarrassing or even attention seeking. It isn't! Did you ever go on the Ghost-Train at the funfair as a child? Think of it more like that, but without the security of knowing it is just a ride and you are in fact safe.
  • Things can pop out when they were not seen, for example sometimes fast-moving things are not seen, until they slow down and suddenly become visible, as if appearing from nowhere.

These frights can leave your child feeling anxious about going out, particularly to busy places.

Try...

  • Thinking ahead where your child will be going. Places that are busy with lots of movement, particularly fast movement, can be particularly frightening.
  • Asking people to speak to your child as they approach them, so your child knows they are approaching.
  • If you end up somewhere that is going to be challenging, stay very close to your child, let them hold your hand or arm, so they feel protected.
  • We know some children who can walk, but who choose to use a wheelchair in very busy places, like travelling through airports, because they feel so frightened. The chair provides a sort of protective shield for them

Sleep
Anything that means that the fight or flight reflex is regularly activated, as is the case here, can leave your child feeling physically very tired, possibly a bit lethargic. They then need rest and sleep.

Further reading
Looming - simple but more detailed explanation of why CVI can cause frights for children.
Protective Shields - Practical suggestions to help your child feel physically, more safe.
CVI Meltdowns - reasons why your child may completely lose control leaving them unable to function

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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.