It happened! History was made!
Yesterday evening, March 14th, at 8:30, the American Foundation for the Blind hosted a panel of parents, educators, TVI, administrators of teacher training programs, and advocates to engage in a “spirited” national conversation concerning Special Education of Children & Youth with CVI. (I am deliberately using the initials CVI since AFB referred to the diagnosis as “Cortical Visual Impairment – what others refer to as cerebral visual impairment, and still others describe as neurological visual impairment.”)
Our moderator, Mark Richert, Esq., diplomatically came up with the following title for the call:
CVI = Consensus, Vision, and Initiative
As a parent, I have said before and I will say it again. I do not care what you call this diagnosis. You can call it, “Harold,” or “Pearl,” or “Jeff.” This attitude may seem flippant to researchers and educators and it is. CVI has lorded over our lives for over a decade and I’m not great with authority figures.
I care about finding the teaching methods that give my daughter (what?….Say it with me, folks!) ACCESS to her environment.
Image: A child wearing a backpack climbs on a school bus
My dream is that one day my daughter will get on a bus and go to a school where the teachers know more about CVI than I do. My dream is that one day I won’t have to worry about what is happening at school all day.
Is this likely to happen anytime soon? No, it is not likely to happen anytime soon.
But, I have to try. For Eliza. For every other child. For every other mom. I believe I can say the same for the other parents who are advocating in their personal lives and the parents who participated in last night’s call whether as a panelist or a caller.
Mark Richert gave each panelist a chance to speak. He made every effort to give callers a chance to comment or ask questions. This turned out to be a bigger task than expected as AFB had nearly 200 people call in. I don’t have the exact numbers but at last count we heard the AFB folks say 175 people wanted to participate in the call, both panelists and callers.
The panelists included:
Brenda Biernat – CVI Parent, Advocate, and Founder of StartSeeingCVI.com (and the mom who reached out to AFB to make this call happen. Bravo!)
Rebecca Davis – CVI Parent, Advocate, Member of the Pediatric Cortical Visual Impairment Society & Blogger at CVI Momifesto
Sandra Lewis, Ed.D – Coordinator and Professor, Visual Disabilities Program, Florida State University
Amanda Lueck, Ph.D – Professor Emerita in Special Education, San Francisco State University
Rona Pogrund, Ph.D – Professor and Coordinator of Programs for Teachers of Students with Visual Impairments, Texas Tech University
Dorinda Rife, CLVT, COMS – Vice President, Educational Services and Product Development, American Printing House for the Blind
Christine Roman-Lantzy, Ph.D – Director, Pediatric View Program, Western Pennsylvania Hospital
Diane Sheline, TVI, CLVT – Independent Consultant for Students with Cerebral/Cortical Visual Impairment
Alisha Waugh, COMS – CVI Parent and Physical Therapist
It was a passionate conversation. I, for one, appreciated the fact that the professionals in the field of educating children who are blind or visually impaired were willing to listen to us and to each other.
Listening is an important first step.
We parents do have a lot to say. We have been waiting a long time for Cortical Visual Impairment to be taken seriously in the educational community. Many of us have stories about the CVI Range. We have stories about what we have learned by studying the work of Dr. Christine Roman-Lantzy and how it has changed our children’s lives for the better. We have stories of daily struggles and challenges, confusion and tears, low expectations for our children’s cognitive abilities, and lack of access to visual information being interpreted as “behavior issues.”
It is still hard for me to believe that despite Cortical Visual Impairment being the #1 pediatric visual impairment in first world countries, there remains so little consensus on how to educate these children.
It is time for things to change.
If, as Mark Richert and AFB have stated –
“Successful advocacy requires at least 3 key elements:
consensus about the problems and solutions,
a shared vision among stakeholders regarding the desired outcome,
and initiative on the part of committed change agents who are willing to play a long game while achieving milestones along the way” –
Then, yesterday’s conversation revealed a common concern for the education of children with CVI and parents revealed themselves as committed change agents extraordinaire.
What a great t-shirt idea! (AFB, I get 10% of net sales.)
I’m in for the long game, just don’t tell my daughter or she will make me play Monopoly. No one deserves that.