Good morning fellow families of well loved children who happen to have Cortical Visual Impairment,
I am writing from the Burlington Hilton where the 2017 Northeast AER conference is well under way. I have heard that the attendance is roughly 300 TVI, COMS (Certified Orientation & Mobility Specialists), Low Vision Therapists, Occupational Therapists, Physical Therapists, with some program directors thrown in for good measure.
This is a great turnout.
Thanks to the efforts of Dr. Roman-Lantzy and people who lead the DeafBlind Projects in the Northeastern United States, this part of the country is well ahead of the curve on awareness of Cortical Visual Impairment. There are TVI here who received training from Dr. Roman-Lantzy over 10 years ago and have been honing their skills and gaining knowledge ever since.
This conference has a CVI track – meaning there are presentations on various aspects of CVI in almost every time slot. This may be almost unheard of at a conference like this. It certainly is from my personal experience in which I show up at conferences and ask questions about CVI just to see what the response will be. The response is usually a cold, hard stare from the presenter who is probably wondering who let a parent in.
It is refreshing and maddening at the same time.
Yesterday, Peg Palmer, a Perkins-Roman CVI Range Endorsed TVI with decades of experience, allowed me to hijack 15 minutes of her presentation about the CVI Range.
A shout out to Peg Palmer whose professionalism and compassion knows no bounds. Connecticut is lucky to have her. Her presentation on working through the CVI Range was very informative. The videos of students she showed elicited a lively conversation and a lot of questions.
Exactly what we need.
I was able to talk to a room of 50 TVI and COMS (with a few therapists and a couple of program directors thrown in) to give them a parent’s perspective. I shared some of my story as E’s mom and how challenging it has been to get CVI recognized, let alone understood in classrooms.
I asked them three things:
1.To believe in our children’s ability to learn
The presence of CVI is not an indicator of cognitive ability. (Source: The CVI page on the American Printing House for the Blind website)
I told them the Lego Tree story (see post on Lego Trees) and explained how easy it is for teachers, aides, and therapists to develop low expectations for our children if they do not understand the characteristics of CVI. How many learning opportunities get lost if a teacher does not understand latency and lack of visual reach? Too many.
2. To reach out to AER and to ask them make CVI a priority in professional development and in university teacher preparation programs
A few weeks ago, I had a meeting with the Executive Director of AER, Louis Tutt, and the Deputy Executive Director, Ginger Croce. They very kindly answered my questions about AER’s slow recognition of Cortical Visual Impairment. Only last year, did AER put together a provisional committee on Neurological Visual Impairment.
Mr. Tutt told me AER responds to the concerns of its members. So, if AER members contacted the president of their state chapter with the message that more professional development needs to happen for TVI and that future TVI needed to get more training on CVI, progress would be made.
Now we know.
Did you know that parents can join AER as a Associate Member for $98/year? This is a non-voting membership category for anyone who is not employed in the field such as a parent or caregiver.
FYI: Here are some email addresses you may find useful.
Executive Director, Louis Tutt – email@example.com
Chair of the Neurological Visual Impairment Committee, Susan Sullivan, firstname.lastname@example.org
Chair of the Personnel Preparation Committee, Olga Overbury, email@example.com
You can find the president of your state AER chapter at aerbvi.org.
You could tell the powers-that-be at AER that you are the parent of a child with CVI and that you value their dedication to children with vision loss.
You could tell them that children with Cortical Visual Impairment, just like children with ocular vision loss, are not incidental learners (See how that came in handy?).
You could tell them that children with CVI require a different educational approach than children with ocular vision loss.
You could ask them to make educating children with CVI (the #1 Pediatric Visual Impairment in the United States and the Western world) a priority. That means university teacher preparation programs need to add CVI to their curricula. That means school systems need to provide extensive, ongoing professional development.
Understand this. No one has all the answers. This condition is complicated. Each child is unique.
What we need to ask is that they join us in asking the right questions and seeking the answers.
3. To seek out more training
I told them about the Perkins-Roman CVI Range Endorsement. I told them it wasn’t fair to ask them to do more training when that are understaffed and overworked. I also said the training they got for children with ocular vision loss does not work with our kids.
So, to sweeten the deal, I offered pie.
Really, it’s all I’ve got.