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Newsletter 18


CVI & Literacy

We've recently described the case of a very bright young man who loves studying English, but he has untidy handwriting, often writing on top of words he's already written. This boy had a mild form of inaccurate visual guidance of his movements by just a millimetre or two (or optic ataxia), affecting only his handwriting.

Another account (all links below) concerns a girl who sometimes comes across as an advanced reader, while at other times seems almost illiterate. This was because she had a lower visual field impairment that no-one had recognised, not even the girl herself, and could not see the words in that area. Imagine looking straight ahead, and trying to read something behind you...

You can see the problem with being expected to read words where you can't see them.

Yet another account concerns a boy who really struggles with his reading, but easily gets distracted. His explanation is that the words on the page appear to move.

The mildest forms of CVI can cause such difficulties, but more severe forms can cause the same difficulties as well, yet go unknown and unrecognised. Balint Syndrome is associated by many with the most profoundly affected and disabled children. However the ten year old boy featured in the Balint Syndrome Paper (below) was at a mainstream school, but struggled to read long words.

To recap...

Writing on top of words already written

Words appearing to moving about the page

Reading being inconsistent ranging from good to illiterate

Problems staying focused on the page

Difficulties moving to more advanced reading (longer words)

... sound like dyslexia?

In each of these featured cases, the cause is a form of CVI - each somewhat different - optic ataxia, simultanagnostic vision, lower visual field impairment and Balint Syndrome. In every case the reading and writing difficulties were manifestations of previously unidentified cerebral visual impairments.

If you support a child who has reading and writing difficulties, we recommend you read the Developmental Dyslexia Paper (below), to show how important it is that correct causes of difficulty reading are identified, and that the support is matched to the known difficulties. For many, the label dyslexia is rightly considered a phonetic problem.

None of the children featured in our examples have phonetic difficulties, showing that some with reading difficulties may not have classical dyslexia, but have their own form of CVI as the cause.

What To Do?

Children may feel as if they are not clever when they can't do something - but often, it is because the approaches to support them do not match their specific difficulties and needs. This makes it our problem, not theirs.


We created the reading tool Look to help children who have CVIs, with reading. The words appear on the clear screen one at a time, so there is no need for visual search. Give it a go yourself, and familiarise yourself with the many settings, designed to personalise the reading task for each child.

Finally, don't forget, for nearly everyone, literacy starts with being read stories. Read to children, even children who can't see the pictures or understand the words. Reading to children, in addition to providing a foundation to literacy, also develops language skills and understanding, and creates and nurtures social bonds.

Best wishes

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...

  • John's Writing Storyboard
  • Katie's Reading Storyboard
  • Sean Reading at Home Storyboard
  • Look
  • Reading to your Child for Fun
  • Developmental Dyslexia Paper
  • Balint Syndrome Paper

John's Writing Storyboard

Explanation of how very mild inaccurate guidance of reach can affect handwriting.

Katie's Reading Storyboard

Explanation of how an unknown lower visual field impairment made Katie's reading very inconsistent.

Sean Reading at Home Storyboard

Explanation of how simultanagnostic vision can affect reading.


Our free reading tool, developed specifically with many of the challenges caused by CVI in mind.

Reading to your Child for Fun

Many accounts from different parents of children with CVI, and the importance of reading to children.

Developmental Dyslexia Paper

A look at how understanding reading and writing difficulties has not always resulted in the affected children getting the right support, with some important lessons for us all.

Balint Syndrome Paper

An easy to follow single case study of a boy who found reading long words difficult, with the approaches that helped him.


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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.