Blogs & News

Newsletter 35 - Functional Visual Assessment & Beyond


We come bearing gifts!

Our friend and colleague from the US, Dr Amanda Lueck, has written and published a functional visual assessment (FVA) and we have been given permission to share it with you on our website (all links at the end of this page), for you to adopt or use as a template for your area if you so wish.

What is a Functional Visual Assessment?

There’s measured vision and there’s functional vision. The two are connected but are very different.

Measured vision comprises the tests carried out in clinics, for example to measure visual acuity, contrast sensitivity and visual fields. These are measures of the visual limits below which things can’t be seen clearly or at all.

Functional vision is about understanding how the person uses their vision, and/or has to use other senses instead as a supplement. What does their world look like? Does it change? Even with a ’fixed’ measurement like reduced visual acuity, functional vision can vary a lot depending on many factors including where the person is, if they are somewhere familiar or not, who they are with, and how they are feeling. 

So a functional visual assessment includes measures of what can be seen with ease under typical lighting conditions, but goes beyond that to understand how vision affects how the person sees across their day, and across all their days.

The functional visual assessment we are sharing goes a step further, which is why it has been called the Functional Visual Assessment & Beyond.

Amanda Lueck realised, through listening to students with CVI, that the condition affected far more than their vision, or how or what they do or do not ’see’, it is an integral part of their whole lives.

The Functional Visual Assessment & Beyond has a four step evaluation process and is relatively short, but has many links to ’dive-deeper’. We have been kindly allowed to offer it to you, because we know there is a worldwide need. Availability of resources varies considerably from country to country, and in some countries from region to region. Our resource CVI Scotland is now used in 178 countries and nations (source Google Analytics).

This functional visual assessment has been developed to be adaptable, because all the time different tools are being developed to help children with CVI, including new forms of tests and evaluations, and strategies for learning support.

As the understanding of CVI grows and improves, so does the support.

There is no better way to understand CVI than by listening to someone who has CVI, or is very close to someone affected, like a parent or carer. One member of the CVI community sharing their experiences with us is a teenager with CVI we call Yellowstone. Their accounts highlight that there is a problem, a really tricky and quite uncomfortable problem...

Many of the changes in school needed for children with CVI are simply not popular.

In their Blog (2) Decorating the Hallways, the challenges faced in communal areas in school when decorations are changed to celebrate different holidays, like Christmas and Halloween are explained. These are challenges on top of the existing daily classroom challenges, of not only decorated classrooms, but also the teaching approaches using smart-screens, televisions and PowerPoint. Technology is clearly a problem, but then so are textbooks when there are lots of pictures, diagrams, columns and design features. Yellowstone’s advice to their teachers is to...

...make it as boring as they think they possibly can, and then make it even more boring.

  • Yellowstone’s Blog (3) Accessible Teaching

The best teachers according to Yellowstone are those who talk, and use their words to explain, not relying on an understanding of inaccessible visual media. And the best medium? Probably old-school blackboards and chalk (see Yellowstone’s Blog (3) Accessible Teaching).

But, with all the technology available, and so many different needs in a typical class, is it realistic to think education will go back to a time when learning was predominantly based on teachers & talk, & blackboards & chalk? Many may believe all children could benefit, but is it likely to happen?

The problem was put succinctly in a communication we received on social media in response to one of Yellowstone’s Blogs:

One of the most challenging aspects of working in schools is addressing visual clutter. Displays are expected on so many levels, parents, professionals, inspectors. Yet we know ALL children would learn better in a clutter free environment. Changing displays poses even more challenges.

  • Social Media Comment

So that’s our problem. What Yellowstone and so many others have done is navigate this inaccessible world, often relying upon other senses as their guide when vision becomes unreliable and challenging, and sometimes even menacing and frightening when things move too fast, loom and suddenly pop-out.

The ’beyond’ part of the Functional Visual Assessment and Beyond, encourages the assessor to really listen to the person affected as well as those closest to them. The support needs to be appropriate to them, not a technical or measured understanding of their condition, but an understanding of the individual and their needs. If someone like Yellowstone has developed heightened use of other senses because of a lifetime navigating inaccessible hallways and corridors (both metaphorical and actual) then support needs to be tailored to their strengths and preferences, not what a text book (or website) suggests. Amanda Lueck wrote our first Guest Blog and explained the importance and usefulness of a toolbox, but the importance of listening to the child and learning from the child first and foremost. 

In Amanda’s words...

Each child is a universe. And each universe has its own rules, checks and balances

  • Dr Amanda Lueck

A quote we have used repeatedly.

Below are links to the pages mentioned in this newsletter and many other accounts from people with CVI or caring for someone with CVI... 

... who are our teachers. 

If you have a free moment, please read, and listen to their stories.

Thank you.

The CVI Scotland Team

PS Everything new can be found in our Updates section, and via Twitter @scotlandcvi and our Facebook page.

 In this issue...

  • Functional Visual Assessment & Beyond
  • Yellowstone’s Blog (2) Decorating the Hallways
  • Yellowstone’s Blog (3) Accessible Teaching
  • Dragonfly’s Blogs
  • Nicola McDowell’s Blogs
  • CVI Society
  • CVI Now 

Functional Visual Assessment & Beyond

diagram from the functional visual assessment showing a head and brain, the words dorsal stream dysfunction and several boxes of text.
This is free for you to copy from our website and use or adapt. The copyright is owned by CTEBVI (California Transcribers & Educators for the Blind & Visually Impaired) who have kindly given us permission to share it with you.

Yellowstone’s Blog (2) Decorating the Hallways

photograph of Yellowstone national park
A teenager with CVI explains the difficulties when their school adds decorations to the communal hallways, to celebrate different holidays like Homecoming and Christmas.

Yellowstone’s Blog (3) Accessible Teaching

Photograph of Yellowstone national park
A teenager with CVI explains some of the challenges presented by teaching methods, approaches and environments, and adaptations they have made to learn.

Dragonfly’s Blogs

Photograph of a dragonfly across an iris
Dragonfly is an adult who has had CVI since birth, which was only diagnosed in 2018.

Nicola McDowell’s Blogs

photo of a kiwi grey ceramic tile
Nicola McDowell sustained a brain injury aged sixteen, and for the following seventeen years was unaware that she had CVI.

CVI Society

cvi society logo
The CVI Society has many bloggers of all ages including children at school, young people starting college and adults. Learn about the worlds of Molly, Nemo, Robin, Sophie, Spotty’s Rider and Kendall.


CVI Now website logo
The website CVI Now, from Perkins School for the Blind has a section dedicated to CVI Stories with many wonderful accounts.


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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.