Moms on Monday #8 / Rebecca from VA

Good morning fellow CVI families,

Time is a precious commodity in the lives of parents of children with special needs.

The never-ending loop of Christmas songs in every public place and the constant parade of UPS trucks in your neighborhood means holidays are just around the corner.

During the holidays, the disruption of our routines and our schedules makes life more stressful and time more precious.

Dr. Roman-Lantzy says, “CVI moms are the busiest people I know.”  Now is not the best time to be writing up your story for a blog for other parents. You are in the throes of making holiday magic happen for your family.  That is what we do.

Since I have posted all of the Moms on Monday stories sent to me thus far, I will be today’s MOM.  And, because, I am today’s MOM, this post is late.  Because that is how I roll (or write, or whatever, you know what I mean).

Maybe, after the holiday festivities are over and in the calm of the new year, you will consider sharing some of your story with us.

Introduction:  I am Rebecca, Eliza’s mom.  She is 11 years old.  We live in Virginia.  (Fun fact:  Over the past 11 years, we have lived in 4 states.  Eliza was born in California.  she received early intervention in California and Indiana.  She has attended schools in Kentucky, Florida, and Virginia.  Out of necessity, I have learned a lot about the differences between states in early intervention, early education and public school services. And, BOY, are there differences.) 

Here she is at about 11 months old.

Baby_E[1]

 

About your child: What does she like to do? What makes her laugh? What are her favorite activities? What do you like to do as a family?

Eliza is a social, curious and loving kid. She loves to be near other people, especially other children. Listening to other children playing makes her very happy. Her older sister is her favorite person on the planet. Eliza’s dad can make a noise that makes Eliza giggle like crazy every time. Her favorite activities include going for a walk, swinging, listening to music,  swimming, and jumping on a trampoline.  As a family, we go to the park and take long walks outside when weather permits.  We also take her to the pool as often as we can.

We spend a ridiculous amount of time changing the songs on her IPad or her CD player.  If I never hear Waterloo by ABBA again, it would be too dang soon.  I have Ziggy Marley’s Family Time album playing in my head right now. Also, I think we paid for Laurie Berkner’s car by scrolling virtually non-stop through her YouTube videos.  You’re welcome, Laurie Berkner.  My older daughter and I can sing a Laurie Berkner medley at any given moment.  Not everyone can say THAT, now can they?  Silver linings and such.

When did you first learn about CVI?  How were you given the diagnosis?

We knew before Eliza was born that she would have some challenges ahead.  We just didn’t know exactly what those challenges would be.  We were given the grimmest prognosis during the third trimester of my pregnancy before we even got to meet her.  That’s another story entirely.

At 4 months old, Eliza wasn’t tracking anything.  We took her to a pediatric ophthalmologist who called it  Delayed Visual Maturation and told us her vision would eventually develop normally.  “Don’t buy trouble,”  he told me. (Hmmm, well,  Dr. Expert Guy,  maybe I’ll just rent trouble and see how it feels.   CAN I JUST SAY HOW ANNOYING and CONDESCENDING THAT PHRASE – Don’t buy trouble – IS?  How many times are mothers of children with special needs or medical issues dismissed by a doctor who “knows better.”  Too many.  ARGH.)

Which leads me to the truest thing I have ever seen on the Internet.

that which does not kill me

A neuro-ophthalmologist assessed Eliza’s poor vision at 9 months old.  He diagnosed Cortical Visual Impairment and Optic Nerve Atrophy.

We received a diagnosis, but, we also got the expert opinion from the neuro-ophthalmologist.

His expert opinion:  CVI may improve.  It may not.  There is nothing you can do about it.  Wait and see. Take her home, treat her like a blind child, and come back to see me in a year.  

And, what do we know now – 10 years later?  He was so very wrong.

I did not know how wrong he was, but, I could not accept that I would just go home and do nothing.  Just wait and see?  Moms do not work that way.

I began researching CVI.  I bought Dr. Roman-Lantzy’s book.  I emailed her.  We met her in a hotel room in California where she was attending a conference with her husband, George Clooney.  (He loves it when I say that.)

Slowly but surely, we learned as much as we could about CVI and made accommodations to Eliza’s home environment.

AND, a year later, after we had worked on developing Eliza’s vision at home, when we followed up with the same neuro-ophthalmologist, he had this to say:

“I do not understand how her vision has improved so much.  I would not have believed it if I hadn’t seen it myself.  I don’t know what you are doing at home, but keep doing it.”  

This was when I handed him the copy of Dr. Roman-Lantzy’s book I bought for him.

I told him I knew he couldn’t “fix” CVI.  The prescription for CVI is educational modifications and strategies specific to each child’s unique learning needs.  It is education for parents, caregivers, and teachers about how the child has access to the world.

I told him I did not expect him to know how to address CVI, but I did expect him to stop telling parents to “Wait and see. There’s nothing you can do.”  I expected him to tell parents about educating themselves about CVI and to tell them to expect improvement.

He is still speaking to me, so I think it turned out okay.

Does you child have other diagnoses?  Yes, microcephaly and pachygyria of currently undiscovered cause, mild CP, epilepsy, global developmental delay, autism (age 4)

How is/was your early intervention experience?  How much time do you have?

000_0002 [325201]

A decade ago, there was very little consistent information about CVI on the internet.  Dr. Roman-Lantzy’s book was still new.  None of the early interventionists in vision loss in California had heard of CVI.

When we moved to Indiana when Eliza was 2 and still eligible for another year of early intervention, I discovered that Indiana did not have ongoing early intervention for infants and toddlers with vision loss.  Just didn’t have it.  They offered families of young children with vision loss a yearly – roughly 2 hour- consultation from one teacher.  A fantastic teacher (Miss Annie from the Blue Bowl Story), but ONE teacher, nonetheless, for an entire state.  She had a caseload of over 300 families.

HOW IS THAT OK?  (It’s not,  but that is another story entirely.  That one has a happy ending, though, for another time.) 

Did I mention – that which does not kill me

I did the best I could to inform the early interventionists and therapists we’ve had over the years about Cortical Visual Impairment and the importance of ACCESS for children with vision loss.

ACCESS is what it is all about – whether the child has low vision from another diagnosis or CVI.

No therapeutic or educational program is going to work for your child if your child cannot access it. Yes, I’ll keep saying ACCESS until I’m blue in the face.

Imagine you are sitting in a room and the answers to all of life’s most important questions are written on the walls around you – glowing in golden paint.  But, when you open your eyes, you see squiggles, shapes, and lines.  It could be hieroglyphics for all you know.  It has no effect on you whatsoever.

It does not matter how much brilliant, life-enhancing, brain stimulating information is around you, if you can’t reach it.

This seems like common sense.  It is.  But, it is astounding at how many typically sighted folks cannot learn this lesson.

How is CVI being addressed in your child’s school setting?  

I have been the person who has brought up CVI and the issue of access at every IEP meeting we’ve had in every state we’ve lived in.  In her current placement, it has taken me the better part of 3 years to get CVI acknowledged, and to get the school district to agree to getting training for teachers, TVI, and support staff.  It is an ongoing process.  There are ups and downs. I’m learning a lot.  That is all I’ve got right now.

What do you know now that you wish you had known at the beginning of your journey as your child’s mom?   

Honestly, I wish that I had spent less time seeking out therapy after therapy.  I wish I had had regular access to an experienced TVI early on in Eliza’s life who could have told me to slow down.  I wish I could go back and tell myself that no one has all of the answers here and to trust myself more.

I wish I had known that the love and bonding time we had were as important as any hour spent in a clinic.  I wish we spent fewer hours in a clinic and more hours laying on a blanket watching the clouds float by.  Okay, technically, I’d be watching the clouds, but we’d be doing something together.

I also wish I knew as much about CVI as parents today know about it. There has been a lot of new, incredibly useful information to come out of Dr. Roman-Lantzy’s years of study and research, the work of Dr. Gordon Dutton, and Matt Tietjen’s What’s the Complexity framework.

I wish I had asked for more help.  I wish more help had been offered.

What would you tell a mother whose child has just been identified as having CVI?

You are not alone.  There are more resources available and a community of parents who have been and are going what you are going through.

Be gentle with yourself.  Be gentle with your child.  The foundation of any child’s success is the love and trust that grows between a child and her parent or caregiver.  It starts and ends there.

What would you like for people who have never heard of CVI to know?  

This is a population of complicated children, many of whom have survived because of the miracle of modern medicine.  It is time to recognize them and to rise to the challenge of meeting their needs.  There are more children with CVI than you know.  We need your help.

Hopes and dreams? 

My hope for Eliza is to help her get so independent that she develops her own hopes and dreams and that she has a way to tell me what they are.

One of my dreams is that every child with vision loss (whether or not the diagnosis is CVI) gets the educational support she needs from an early age to become independent, productive, and joyful.  Here is my definition of JOY  by the way. eliza in the car

 

P.S.  It would also be great if  no pediatric ophthalmologist or neuro-ophthalmologist ever again tells a parent of child with CVI that there is nothing she can do.

Maybe we will work on that in 2018.  Hmm?

 

 

Moms on Monday #7 / Gunjan from PA

Good morning fellow families of glorious children who happen to have CVI,

This morning, we have the pleasure of hearing from Krish’s mom, Gunjan.  Gunjan has been a force in advancing the work of the  Pediatric Cortical Visual Impairment Society and in advocating to raise awareness about CVI . At last year’s PCVI conference, she and MaryAnne Roberto, Perkins-Roman CVI Endorsed TVI, gave a presentation entitled Partners on the Journey:  A TVI and Family’s CVI Experience from Birth to Age 3.   You can find this presentation as a webinar on the Perkins E-Learning site : http://www.perkinselearning.org/videos/webinar/partners-journey-cvi-experience-birth-age-3

Gunjan’s family recently hosted a painting fundraiser for the PCVI Society and raised $1,500.  Here are Gunjan and MaryAnne at the fundraiser.

gunjan and maryanne

Gunjan’s determination is proof that If every parent could make an effort to raise awareness about CVI, to fundraise for the PCVI Society, as well as to challenge their teams to hone their CVI skills, the world might be a better place for our kids.”

Introduction: Gunjan, Krish, 5, Pennsylvania

About your child:  Krishy loves to dance, specifically, what I would term as interpretive dance, because he moves with music so well.  He loves to watch Super Mario YouTube videos, in other words, watching other people play video games on YouTube. He “practices” playing the games on his IPad by moving his finger, as if he is controlling the game, not the player on YouTube. He loves amusement park rides and most of all, he LOVES playing with his older sister and twin brother.  As a family, we do typical family things, like no-pants dance party and going to the playground.

We rarely go to the movies. (We saw Coco yesterday.  Krish doesn’t have the core strength to hold the foldable seat down, so he kept getting smooshed in the seat, besides the vision issues, of course, and the cost of taking a family of 5 to the movies!)  We definitely avoid large crowds, super-noisy places and anything too physically strenuous (for me or Krish, ha ha) to avoid sensory overload. 

When did you first learn about CVI? I learned about CVI the first day that our soon-to-be early intervention vision teacher came to our home for a consult when Krish was around 7 months old.  I had told our physical therapist that Krish wasn’t looking at me. 

How were you given the diagnosis?  We had an amazing teacher of the visually impaired, the famous MaryAnne Roberto, who suspected the diagnosis, and guided us to Neuro-ophthalmology, the Low Vision Clinic, Ophthalmology, and Dr. Roman-Lantzy. 

Our Ophthalmologist gave us the diagnosis, even though she didn’t completely understand CVI.  She did recognize that she didn’t understand.  

Does your child have other diagnoses you’d like to mention?  Krish is a former 26 week preemie twin with failure to thrive, mild hypotonic cerebral palsy, chronic lung disease and GERD.

How is/was your child’s early intervention experience with regard to CVI?  (Were your providers knowledgeable?  Were they open to learning?)  We had an AMAZING early intervention experience.  Most of our team members were open to MaryAnne’s suggestions of how to improve his PT, OT, feeding, etc. sessions with CVI interventions. (I fired the one who didn’t get it!)  MaryAnne had consultation time to work interdisciplinary.  We were able to get services for vision without a diagnosis of CVI. 

How is CVI being addressed in your child’s school setting?  Krish is in his 2nd year of Pre-Kindergarten.  I wanted him to get extra time to start learning sight words and other kindergarten skills.  He is in a typical classroom.  Both his current TVI and classroom teacher have demonstrated time and again their commitment to making him successful.  We are starting to use the iPad as his primary learning tool in school to adapt books, etc.  He has an occupational therapist who is also an assistive technology consultant (winner, winner, chicken dinner!!) She is helping to prepare him on how to use the iPad independently for learning and to use the best apps. 

We recently had a meeting with Dr. Roman-Lantzy and have decided to overhaul Krish’s IEP to include a 1-to-1 aide, so that ALL his materials can be adapted. 

What I learned was, just because he can do it, doesn’t mean he should.   He can look at a book, he can color, he can look up at a calendar on a complex wall, but doing all the things fatigues his vision and he becomes slower and slower at visual processing.  He is quick to fatigue both visually and physically.  If we create a CVI schedule and adapt all his materials, he will not fatigue as quickly and can absorb more information. 

What do you know now that you wish you had known at the beginning of your journey as Krish’s mom? 

In the beginning of this whole process, I wish I could have seen who he has become today. 

I prayed and wished he would walk and talk and see, but it was hard to have hope. 

I was tired ALL THE TIME. 

Also, the CVI resources that exist on the Internet now are amazing.  Even just 5 years ago, I couldn’t find the quality information available now. 

I would tell a mom whose child was recently diagnosed that whenever you are down-trodden and feel like you can’t verbally describe another illustration from a book or talk about the salient features of a hippo, remember that the vision of children with CVI, especially those who start with appropriate interventions at a young age, does IMPROVE! 

Additionally, if your child’s team doesn’t understand CVI, if the IEP doesn’t have CVI strategies that are specific to where your child’s vision is on the CVI Range, if the people who are teaching your child are resistant to learning about CVI,  GET A NEW TEAM!  Do whatever it takes to fight for your child’s right to learn to see. 

What would you like for people who have never heard of CVI to know?  If you have never heard of CVI, I would tell you it is more common than anyone could imagine.  Every child with CVI looks different.  It is a diagnosis that crosses medical diagnoses. 

Hopes and dreams?  Anything else you’d like to add?  Attending the PCVI Society Conference changed my life.  It was inspiring to meet families, educators, and medical providers who are motivated to improve the lives of a child like Krish.  It made me feel like I could do something to advance the cause of CVI.  Also, having Dr. Roman-Lantzy and MaryAnne Roberto as part of our team is like having unicorn glitter in my pocket, just invaluable.  Lastly, if every parent could make an effort to raise awareness about CVI and fundraise for the PCVI Society, as well as challenge their teams to hone their CVI skills, the world might be a better place for our kids.  

Thank you Gunjan and Krish!  May we all find unicorn glitter in our pocket!

 

 

Moms on Monday #6 / Kathryne from LA

Good Morning and Happy Cyber Monday Fellow CVI Families and the People Who Love Us!

Today’s Mom on Monday is Kathryne from Louisiana, mom to “Little C.”   Kathryne manages Little C’s care while working and providing spot-on advice to many new mothers of children with complicated diagnoses on CVI Facebook pages.  She has also actively advocated on a local, state, and federal level to maintain Medicaid for children with pre-existing conditions and to improve educational outcomes for children with CVI.

Mom: Kathryne H. 

Child:  “Little C” / 21 months old 

Cause of CVI: Infantile Spasms, or, yet to be diagnosed genetic cause

Topic: Hospitalization and Regression

During the first 6 months after Little C’s diagnosis of Infantile Spasms, he was hospitalized at least 5 times before he was diagnosed with another rare neurological disorder called paroxysmal sympathetic hyperactivity. 

Hooked up to all those monitors, there is very little to do other than lay in bed, especially for a developmentally delayed child who cannot roll, sit, walk, etc. Any time we had an extended hospital stay we always ended up back at square one for therapies.  Rarely did we ever receive inpatient PT or OT, except for maybe 1 hour during the stay to show us what we should be doing (you know, if those cords and NoNos on the IVs did not make it impossible).  So, of course, there was regression after every hospital stay.  

After Little C’s CVI diagnosis, we purchased a set of light up LED pool toys.  The shapes change color, but can be set at 1 color which is perfect for CVI as kids move through the phases. 

They are called Floating Light Up GeoShapes – Color changing light for patio, pool, or home 4 pack.  https://www.amazon.com/dp/BOOKFMG12E/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_6B5eAbPSZCGJV

During our first extended hospital stay we brought the sphere (dubbed the Ood ball by his Neurology team) to Little C’s hospital room.  

This was when I discovered that extended hospitalizations are the perfect time and place to exercise the brain for vision.   Most rooms are clean white and the scenery never changes.  The room is so dull and boring; it is perfect for our kids.  For the first time, Little C began to use his vision to look at something other than the ceiling.  The hospital even had Elmo, Big Bird, and Cookie Monster in the gift shop.  

We actually had a skill improve IN the hospital.  

So, naturally, what do you think happened during the next hospitalization?  We came prepared.  We purchased one of the lights that shines scenes on your house that is sold in stores at Halloween and Christmas.  You can find snowflakes, ghosts, or, in our case, just a blue kaleidoscopic image.    

When Little C was not storming, his room was an oasis with lullabies playing on the IPad and lights dancing on the ceiling.  And, of course, there was his Ood ball, Elmo, Big Bird, and Cookie Monster.

In spite of the hospitalizations, Little C has managed to improve from Phase I to Phase II. 

Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for his other skills. 

Thank you, Kathryne and Little C.   After a successful Thanksgiving, I wish you both better days ahead.  

 

Seeking More Moms for More Mondays

Hello Fellow Mothers of Beautiful Children Who Happen to Have CVI,

We need more Moms on Mondays.

Okay, I do.  I need more Moms on Mondays.

I have thoroughly enjoyed hearing from all of the mothers who have contributed so far.  I learn something new every time a mother shares her story.

Thank you to Jessica, Mary, Subarna, Tiffany, and Lauren.  And, as always, thank you to Bernadette Jackel whose CVI mom experience can be found under The More Things Change widget on the CVI Momifesto home page.

I imagined Moms on Monday as a site a sleep deprived mom might find at 2 a.m. when she has finally gotten her child back to bed only to find that she is too tired and worried to get back to sleep herself.

Just over 10 years ago, when E was a baby, I felt more alone than I have ever felt in my life. The gradual realization of just how many challenges she would have to overcome pushed me farther and farther from “typical” conversations. I became less capable of small talk with friends or “cute kid” anecdotes shared over coffee with other moms.

(FYI New CVI Moms:  A lack of cute anecdotes, mind-numbing sleep deprivation, and an IV drip of caffeine for survival makes you less desirable company at the weekly playgroup.  Also, your new deep purple undereye circles and recent lack of personal hygiene don’t scream “I’m available for small talk!”

Then again, maybe you are remembering to wear deodorant and to rinse conditioner out of your hair more often than I did.  If so, winning! )

If you haven’t lived it, it’s hard to explain the incompatible combination of utter physical exhaustion and adrenalin fueled hypervigilance that thrives in mothers of children with special needs.

I personally found that the wee morning hours were the worst for this cruel phenomenon.  My whole body ached from being conscious for too many hours, however, when I closed my eyes, my mind reviewed notes from the day’s therapy sessions or dissected an earlier conversation with the neurologist, developmental pediatrician, etc.  Sometimes I’d remember that I had an older daughter and was supposed to bring snacks to preschool in 4 hours.  Good times.

Basically, my off switch was broken.

So, I’d get up and start looking up my questions online, or rummaging through my pantry for preschool snacks. (Water chestnuts and saltines, anyone? Anyone?) Those 2 a.m. research times can be very dark and lonely.

Finding stories from other mothers in the middle of the night when you feel as though you are the only person carrying the weight of your child’s world on your shoulders may be a source of comfort.

It’s equal opportunity comfort as it works for middle of the day, afternoon, and evening worrying as well.

AND, I think we all know that if there was a marathon for hypervigilance and worry, a special needs mom would win it hands down.

We.  Never.  Close.

We never close, but our befuddled brains play mean jokes on us.  For me, after another  night of consoling, bouncing, and worrying, I’d drag myself into a closet.  Then, I’d realize the closet was not the shower.  So, for a moment, I would forget just why I was standing in the closet.  Then, I’d shuffle off to the shower.

I would stand, head bowed to focus the hot water on my aching neck. As I stared absently at the tiles on the shower floor, the Barry Manilow song “I made it through the rain” began playing in my head.  Every. Single. Morning.

And, no offense, to 70’s soft rock, or Mr. Manilow, but I am NOT a fan.

It seemed less an anthem, and more of a cruel joke produced by my quickly declining mind.

Sometimes I’d find myself wondering which was worse, the new routine of 4 hours of nonconsecutive sleep, or the promise of being serenaded by Barry Manilow in the morning.  (Again, it’s not YOU, Mr. Manilow.  It’s me.)

This is your brain on hypervigilance.

But, I digress.

Please consider joining us in creating a place where moms can find a story they may relate to, or, at least,  friendly company in the chaos.

A place where moms can find themselves “respected by the others whooooooo got rained on toooooo and made it throooooooough.”

Forgive me.  I’m not proud of that.  But, it was right there.  (See how annoying it is?)

I came up with some questions you can answer (see below), or do your own thing.  There is no right way to share your story.

Send it to info@cvimomifesto.com.

I will notify you before your story is posted to confirm your permission to share.

Moms on Mondays

Introduction: Your first name, your child’s first name and age, the state you live in
(If you would prefer to use an initial instead of your name, fine! If you’d like to share a picture, great!)
About your child: What does she like to do? What makes him laugh? What are her favorite activities? What do you like to do as family?

When did you first learn about CVI?

How were you given the diagnosis?

Does your child have other diagnoses you’d like to mention? 

How is/was your child’s Early Intervention experience with regard to CVI? (Were your providers knowledgeable? Were they open to learning?)

How is CVI being addressed in your child’s school setting? (If applicable)

What do you know now that you wish you had known at the beginning of your journey as your child’s mom?
What would you tell a mother whose child has just been identified as having CVI?

What would you like for people who have never heard of CVI to know?

Hopes and dreams? Anything else you’d like to add?

 

Thank you for your consideration.  Thank you for your company.

sorrows borne

Moms on Monday # 5 / Lauren from PA

Good Morning Fellow CVI Families and the TVI who love us (okay – put up with us),

This week’s Mom on Monday is Lauren, mother to 20-month-old Emma.

Lauren started a blog about her experience at Emma’s mother, Emma Bear’s Journey. Their unfolding story can be found at https://emmabear.org.

From the blog:

About me and Emma

I am a full time stay at home mom of an absolutely beautiful and amazing 13 month old girl named Emma.  She was born with hydrocephalus and later developed craniosynostosis during her first few months of life.  She’s been through more in her brief time here than most people will experience in a lifetime.  I admire her strength, resilience and fighting spirit.  This is her journey as well as mine.

Like a lot of children with CVI, Emma faces significant medical issues.  Their successes and challenges are very familiar to my experience as E’s mom.  She openly discusses many of the issues mothers of children with complicated medical diagnoses face – seizures, medical procedures, sleep deprivation, and the roller coaster of emotions that go along with all of this.

She has posted about a lot of CVI DIY projects that have helped Emma begin to use her vision.  The lighted tray and her method of simplifying board books are a couple of helpful strategies.

Lauren also moderates the closed Facebook group, Parents of Kids with Developmental Delays.  It is a great resource for parents to share and to ask questions.

Thank you Lauren and Emma!

Moms on Monday #4 / Tiffany from MO

Good Morning!

This week’s Mom on Monday is Tiffany.  She answered the questions posed by CVI Momifesto with her perspective as Wyatt’s mom and, also, offers words of advice.

Introduction:  Your first name, your child’s first name and age, the state you live in.

My name is Tiffany.   My son’s name is Wyatt.  He is 1 year old and we live in Missouri.

About your child:  What does she like to do?  What makes him laugh?  What are her favorite activities?  What do you like to do as family?

Wyatt likes to watch his sister dance around and be silly. He also likes to be tickled and play peek a boo. He will laugh any time we shake our head back and forth. I think it’s the movement since a part of CVI is movement.. He really liked to play with party bows when he was younger. Now he is more into playing with balloons and therapy balls.

When did you first learn about CVI?

We first learned of CVI after seeing the ophthalmologist when Wyatt was 3 months old.

How were you given the diagnosis?

By the ophthalmologist. After the eye exam, the nurse came in with a pamphlet for a near by blind school saying how amazing they were. As she handed it to me she had tears in her eyes.

Does your child have other diagnoses you’d like to mention?

He had a stroke at birth that resulted in significant brain injury and hydrocephalus. He has ataxic Cerebral Palsy, CVI, and dystonia.

How is/was your child’s Early Intervention experience with regard to CVI? (Were your providers knowledgeable? Were they open to learning?)

Sometimes I feel like I know more. I also feel like because they haven’t heard certain info that it isn’t as relevant because I’m telling it to them.

What do you know now that you wish you had known at the beginning of your journey as your child’s mom?

It’s hard! You will have to readjust your way of thinking, your goals, and how your child will develop on their own terms and time.

What would you tell a mother whose child has just been identified as having CVI?

Mention it to everyone. You will be surprised who can provide you with extra support and resources.

What would you like for people who have never heard of CVI to know?
Hopes and dreams?  Anything else you’d like to add?

Vision is a big part of learning. More people need to know about CVI so we can start earlier with proper goals and strategies. I wish there was more resources.

Thank you, Tiffany and Wyatt!  More people do need to know about CVI.  You are helping get the word out.

CVI Momifesto welcomes perspectives of parents of children of any age with CVI.  Every parent’s story is important.  Your willingness to share your experience can help other parents facing similar questions and challenges.

Send in your story, or answer the questions above and send them to info@cvimomifesto.com.

Moms on Monday #3 / Subarna from VA

This week’s Mom on Monday is Subarna from Northern Virginia.  She shares some of the struggles and recent successes in finding the right placement for her son, Rohan, who, like so many children with CVI, has several issues affecting his ability to learn and to communicate.

Hi, I’m Subarna and my son Rohan is 10 years old. We live in Virginia, very close to his new friend, E.

Rohan got a diagnosis for CVI at age 3 years because of a persistent vision/preschool teacher who kept asking me to bring him to Dr. Christine Roman in Pittsburgh. He had already been through a serious illness at age 6 months resulting in continuous seizure activity (Infantile Spasms) which it seemed no treatment could stop for months. When we finally did find the right medication, the full extent of his developmental delays were presenting. It was determined he had global delays and Autism. We spent countless hours doing every type of therapy. He always would avert his gaze when reaching for things, but it was explained that it was a common behavior for children with ASD. Otherwise, he seemed to navigate around our familiar areas well enough, so I never suspected anything else.

After seeing Dr. Roman, who found Rohan’s case to be quite unusual that he truly had both CVI and ASD, we had quite a challenge convincing his school team that he needed vision support. One teacher told me:  you need to choose, either ABA (which absolutely works for him) or vision!?!  

We went through many years of this battle between his ABA folks not being able to understand the CVI. The TVIs as a whole didn’t always know much more than me about his level of CVI (which has always been between 6-7). I had a few great ones, and always found them to have the most expectations for him. His teachers felt that he was intellectually disabled and that was the reason he couldn’t learn at the pace of his peers.

As he fell further and further behind in the class, he started getting frustrated and had significant behaviors hurting himself. We tried a new school that was just as rigid as the public school setting, so he failed yet again. This past spring, when I tried to Home-school him and it was no better, I had pretty much given up all hope. We finally found a school that seemed to have the ability to listen and collaborate with others.  They have been able to accommodate for his vision. We are also working with an ABA group privately who learned much about CVI and are helping him use his vision more.

For the first time in his life, Rohan is making progress in all areas. He is happy and so are we!  He loves music more than anything, especially the Beatles. He also loves being read to, listening to his younger brothers, jumping on his trampoline, and eating everything in sight!  

It took me this long to believe that my son could do more than people said he could.  I’m glad we didn’t give up. You shouldn’t either!

Thank you, Subarna and Rohan!  It is a pleasure to learn that you have found a school placement and a team of providers that is working for you.  Thank you for sharing your experience and insight. 

Moms on Monday #2 / Mary from Ohio

This week we have the privilege of hearing from a tenacious mother and advocate from Cleveland, Ohio.  There are so many parts of this story that are familiar to me and are important for other moms to hear. She has a lot to teach us.

Take it away, Mary!

Dear CVI Family,

My name is Mary and I am a mother of an eighteen year old daughter.  That’s right, eighteen YEARS I’ve been at this.  I am tired and I am worn, but I haven’t given up.  

You see when my daughter was born we knew she had a very rare chromosome disorder that we couldn’t do anything to change.  We knew she had a very serious heart muscle issue that we couldn’t do anything to change.  She had feeding issues and couldn’t nurse. She threw up and was later labeled a failure to thrive.  She had this vision issue that we weren’t sure about.  She couldn’t hold her head up.  She couldn’t latch on or drink from a normal nipple.  Her delivery was an emergency C-section.  She was born not breathing. The cardiologist sent her home from the doctor saying they didn’t know what her prognosis was because her heart function was so poor.  

So, can you see that our focus was on her surviving?   And, way down the list was her vision.  

Eighteen years ago, CVI was such a new diagnosis that her vision issues flew under the radar of importance.  And, you don’t know what you don’t know.  

Finally, at 9 months we were told to go see an ophthalmologist who explained that my daughter had a visual processing issue that was brain based and that time might help.

(Does that sound familiar? And, I can’t believe parents are still hearing the same thing today. )

So, in the blur of everything else we were dealing with we accepted the “expert’s” opinion and continued on with helping our daughter to make developmental gains.  By this time, her heart muscle function had greatly improved and we were moving out of “survival” mode into helping her become all that she could become.

For years my daughter did so much therapy.  And, the puzzling question for so many of us was that she didn’t seem to have any intrinsic motivation to do or learn.  Why was that? Therapist after therapist were puzzled by it.  

By this time, we had seen another ophthalmologist who told us the same thing about her vision. “It’s a visual processing disorder.  Her eyes are physically just fine.  There’s nothing that can be done. Don’t waste your money on vision therapy.” Again, I took the “expert’s” word for it.

She learned to walk by age 4.  By this time, it was clear that she would have developmental challenges her whole life. Trying to help her was frustrating and puzzling.

But, like all of you, I have that “mom gut.” I knew what worked for her.  Plus, I took an awesome autism course that helped me understand that there is almost always a reason for every behavior.  I learned through this course that lots of children with sensory issues have trouble picking out what should be salient.  Yep, that’s the word that was used.  

So, still not knowing about the CVI, I began narrating to her to help her focus on specific things that might be salient.  She struggled in complex environments.  She didn’t make eye contact.  She looked above our heads.  She didn’t look right at things.  She looked and then looked away before reaching for things.  She avoided toys that had too much going on. (As I type this, it is painful because if I had only known back then what I know now, I could have helped her so much more.)  

But, you don’t know what you don’t know.  

I knew that when I talked her through things she was calmer.  She loved Elmo.  So, I would use Elmo as a way to get her to motor plan getting to things. (I put Elmo everywhere.)  There were so many things that I did because I knew they worked for her but I didn’t understand why they worked.

My daughter was in and out of public school.  She started in an inclusive preschool when she was 5.  It was overwhelming for her.  She would often “freeze”.  She didn’t engage. The words, “learned passivity” were used.  So, I blamed myself for causing her to freeze and not initiate.

The public school approach with my daughter was not right for her but it was all they knew to do.  There wasn’t even a vision specialist on her IEP team.  I didn’t know to ask for it.   My daughter was not making progress in the public schools.  Often she would make great progress at home over the summer and then go to school and the progress would stop.

Here are the things I began advocating for:

1)  Wait Time    

2)  Narrating for her to help explain situations  

3)  Quiet lunch with a few willing peers

 4)  A consistent one on one aide for her whole day  

5)  A study carrel for her to work.  

Don’t those things sound familiar?  But you don’t know what you don’t know.   I finally requested a TVI evaluate her as a part of her Evaluation Team Report.

I had heard about CVI by then.  I had Googled some of her unusual visual behaviors and CVI had popped up.  When I say popped up, it didn’t pop up like it does now.  There were a few, and I mean a few, sites and a few articles.

The TVI knew about CVI and even had a CVI evaluation kit.  He evaluated her and firmly explained that she did not have CVI.  There were too many things that she was able to do visually that were not consistent with CVI.  The expert had spoken and although I was doubtful, I didn’t question it.  After all, you don’t know what you don’t know.

After a few years of trying to make the school setting work for her,  I advocated for and got an outside placement for her at an autism center.  There was still no diagnosis of CVI but because the center was used to working with kids with sensory processing issues,  it was a better fit than the public school setting.  At this same time, I began taking her to a behavioral optometry place for vision therapy.  They recognized right away that she was using her peripheral vision and began working with her to use her central vision.  It was a vision therapy approach and it was a start.  She began to use her central vision in fleeting moments.  She also started to do very short tracking.

By this time, my daughter was about 14.  We had seen ophthalmologists, neurologists, a behavioral optometrist, and a TVI who had some knowledge of CVI and, still, no one had diagnosed her formally with CVI.   

I was beginning to up my research of CVI because there were too many things that my daughter did that were part of the characteristics.  After 14 years, I was tired of advocating for my daughter without any diagnosis or support.  So many times, I was told to let the “experts” know best.  I was tired.  And, I felt all alone.  

My daughter switched school placements at age 14.  Her school placement was at a mostly outpatient private therapy center.  They often brought in speakers to educate the therapists.  One of the speakers that visited was Dr. Roman.  One of my daughter’s school therapists was in attendance.  She called to tell me that she was sure my daughter had CVI.   

About 6 weeks later, at the age of 14, my daughter, myself and several of her therapists from her school placement went to Pittsburgh to see Dr. Roman.  My daughter was diagnosed on the CVI range as Phase II 5.25-6.  Thankfully, Dr. Roman said that it was remarkable how well my daughter had progressed even without the diagnosis.  

After all those years, the puzzle piece clicked.  I now knew what so many of you already know.  I knew why my daughter’s vision was so puzzling.  I knew that it was something that could be helped.  You see, I had always said that I knew that the chromosome disorder had caused an organic development issue that caused her body/brain to be formed differently.  But, I also kept saying that there was a part of her that seemed like it was being rehabbed.  There’s that “mom gut” again.  

So, at age 14, after years of advocating, fighting and so much frustration, there was finally a diagnosis. 

There was credibility for all the things that I had advocated for.  And, there was hope for the future because more than ever I knew how to help her.  I also had the hope that her visual processing would get better. 

Like you want for your children,  I  wanted her to become the best “her” she could become.  Plus, I wanted her to learn to enjoy her world, not be afraid and frustrated by it.   She seemed way smarter than she was able to show. 

We began the difficult process of teasing out which behaviors were because of cognitive challenges and which behaviors were because of her CVI issues or which were a combination of both.  You see, because everyone knew that she had cognitive issues, that is what would get blamed and so the supports given were for cognitive challenges.  

Now, I knew how to support her vision so she could continue to develop.   At the age of 15, after having a year of much more focused appropriate supports she had made great progress. She was still in  Phase II, but  had progressed to 6.25-7. Hurray for neuroplasticity! You see, you don’t know what you don’t know.  But, when you know, you can do better.  I was learning to do better!

At age 18, she is in Phase III 8-9.  She will always have cognitive limitations and global limitations.  I can’t do much to change those.  But, I can help her vision improve.  And, she is enjoying her world more.  I am still tired.  But, I’m not alone.  And, I’m grateful for this blog which brings us all together to share our stories and our experience.  

Thank you for your insight and your willingness to share what you’ve learned with us.   

 

 

 

Calling CVI Moms: The Conversation Continues

sorrows borne

Hello Fellows Moms, Dads, and Folks who love a child with CVI,

I adapted the title of this post from the American Printing House for the Blind page on CVI (http://tech.aph.org/cvi/).

Their title is CVI:  The conversation continues….

When reading sites about CVI, I see plenty of conversation about CVI among certain researchers, doctors, and teachers. It is happening more now than ever.  This is a good thing.

But, where are the stories of the families?  Of the children themselves?  Where are the stories of the people whose lives are affected by CVI 24 hours a day? 

I love the quote,

“All sorrows can be borne if you put them into a story or tell a story about them.”

It is attributed to the author, Karen Blixen, who wrote under the name Isak Dinesen.  (She knew a thing or two about sorrow.)

If you belong to this community of families, it is highly likely you and your family have withstood a significant amount of sorrow on this journey.

Children with Cortical Visual Impairment (Cerebral Visual Impairment) are children who have endured much at a young age.  Some were premature and suffered a brain bleed.  Some had a stroke in-utero or soon after birth.  Some had hypoxia (not enough oxygen in-utero or during birth).  Some have brains with atypical structures.   Some have seizures.  Some have metabolic issues.  Some have genetic syndromes.  Some children acquire CVI at a later time after a traumatic brain injury.  And, I have probably missed other causes.  My apologies.

Some children have any combination of the above.

The conditions which cause CVI are complicated and vary widely from child to child.

As the parents of these children, we bear witness to what our children endure.  There is sorrow when you see your children suffering or struggling.  There is frustration, and certainly, sorrow in navigating what your child needs to learn and to thrive. It can be so isolating and confusing.

Stories can help us bear the sorrow.  Stories can help us navigate the unfamiliar territory of having children with a complicated neurological visual impairment.  Stories will ultimately move us in the right direction of having more medical and education professionals who recognize and understand CVI.

We need your stories.

Jessica Marquardt from North Carolina was the first Mom on Monday.  It is an honor to share her story.

We need to hear your story.  It’s easy.  It’s important!

Read the questions below.

Answer the ones you would like to answer.

Submit them to info@cvimomifesto.com.

Parent stories will be posted on Mondays.

Moms on Mondays

Introduction:  Your first name, your child’s first name and age, the state you live in

(If you would prefer to use an initial instead of your name, fine!  If you’d like to share a picture, great!)

About your child:  What does she like to do?  What makes him laugh?  What are her favorite activities?  What do you like to do as family?

When did you first learn about CVI?

How were you given the diagnosis?

Does your child have other diagnoses you’d like to mention?  (Totally up to you)

How is/was your child’s Early Intervention experience with regard to CVI? (Were your providers knowledgeable? Were they open to learning?)

How is CVI being addressed in your child’s school setting? (If applicable.)

What do you know now that you wish you had known at the beginning of your journey as your child’s mom? 

What would you tell a mother whose child has just been identified as having CVI?

What would you like for people who have never heard of CVI to know? 

Hopes and dreams?  Anything else you’d like to add?  


Looking forward to your stories and meeting your beautiful children!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moms On Monday #1 / Jessica from NC

Good Morning Fellow CVI Families,

Part of starting a blog called CVI Momifesto was to build community between families facing similar challenges, but separated by distance and/or too busy to find each other.  We can learn from each other.   We can support each other.

I asked several CVI Moms I know if they would be interested in sharing their stories in a regular post we will call Moms On Monday.  If you are interested in sharing your story as well, please email Info@cvimomifesto.com, so we can begin the conversation!

Our first Mom on Monday is Jessica Marquardt from North Carolina.   Welcome, Jessica!  And, thank you. 

Summer was turning to fall in North Carolina, and our neighborhood was out in full force for the annual picnic – a time to catch up with neighbors we hadn’t seen for the season, or perhaps even a year. My daughter (we’ll call her G) is an enthusiastic kindergartner who is learning to write. She traveled from guest to guest asking if they needed a nametag and, if so, would they spell their name so she could be the one to write it?
On three separate occasions, neighbors approached my husband and me to tell us how much G had grown. Not in stature (well, that too), but specifically in maturity and independence. She was actively approaching people to engage in conversation and, as one neighbor put it, “seems happier in her own skin.”
Sounds like your typical, outgoing five-year-old. But there’s a catch. With cortical visual impairment (CVI), G doesn’t recognize faces. She walked up to my husband to ask him if he wanted a nametag. He mouthed, so as not to use his voice, to the neighbor next to him to ask G who she was talking to. She had no idea.
Yes, my daughter has CVI. She can’t interpret the illustrations in her favorite story book and can’t pick me or my husband out of a crowd until we open our mouths. But I’d say she’s fortunate. With a diagnosis of CVI, her vision can improve.
We have been told that of the 90 kids in our county’s school system with CVI, she’s the only one on a standard course of study.

She’s in her neighborhood school in a general education classroom and she receives services from a TVI, O&M specialist, OT and adapted PE. That she is so capable brings its own challenges. She wants to keep up; she wants to be with her peers. However, just like all kids with CVI, she needs specific interventions and supports to ensure that she can. And she needs a team that can stay a couple steps ahead of her to ensure it is prepared to meet her CVI needs.
How did we get here?

My daughter was diagnosed with CVI at eight months old. She has CVI due to a vascular event of unknown cause that occurred in utero or during early development. We have access to stellar medical care and early intervention services, yet no one told us that there was an opportunity to improve G’s functional vision. It took a trip to Omaha to the Conference on Pediatric Cortical Visual Impairment for us to begin to understand the opportunities and challenges. G was four by then – we’d lost four precious years of maximum neuroplasticity.
Armed with newfound knowledge, we traveled to Pittsburgh to see Dr. Christine Roman who conducted The CVI Range to assess G’s functional vision. We read textbooks and articles, watched webcasts and talked to other parents. We asked our school system about its roadmap for training teachers in CVI and related techniques. We asked specifically for a CVI Range Endorsed professional to be a part of G’s IEP team. There aren’t many out there, so our school system couldn’t promise to provide one. So we hired one privately. After meeting G, she began to work with us on a consultative basis, answering our many questions and making suggestions for how we could start to do the right things for G to make gains with her vision. We asked our private OT to join us in taking the Perkins e-Learning course on CVI with Dr. Roman. She agreed wholeheartedly, and our CVI Range Endorsed consultant is now her mentor on appropriate CVI interventions. They’ve made a wonderful team, even though the mentor lives many states away.

That’s the positive outlook. But it hasn’t all been rosy. We don’t live in an area that is ahead of the curve on CVI. We’ve had to educate ourselves and become a broken record for the cause. In less than a year, we’ve attended 30 hours of IEP meetings, plus hours preparing for them.

During one meeting, I felt compelled to text my sister. The exchange pretty much sums up my feelings on IEP meetings:
ME: Still in meeting and dying with stress. Please pray for me.
SISTER: Oh, I’m so sorry. Sending love and calm and prayers.
ME: I’m dying. I might be having a heart attack. Haha!
SISTER: ☹ I’m sorry!!
There have been sleepless nights (I’m a worrier). Tummy aches. Anger. Anger at doctors, the school system and myself for not knowing. For not jumping up and down and sending up a flare to say “Hey, her diagnosis is CVI. We can do something about that.” It’s a tough moment when you realize that no one will advocate for your child like you will, and if you don’t, your child won’t have all she needs to access the curriculum. Honestly, I could write a full post on IEPs, so we’ll save that for another time.
Here are my top three musts on your journey as a parent or guardian of a kid with CVI:
1. Get a CVI Range done by a CVI Range Endorsed professional. You need a score to know where to start intervening. This is non-negotiable.
2. Attend the Conference on Pediatric Cortical Visual Impairment. It changed my world to meet fellow parents and CVI knowledgeable providers (from both medical and education fields). I found “my people” there and learned a ton. You will too. You must get to Omaha.
3. Put together your advisory board. Some will be CVI experts, some will be your cheering section. My husband and I credit ours for molding us into CVI advocates over the past year and a half. We’d consider the following people to be members of our advisory board, and I highly suggest you start to think through who you can call for advice and support: Dr. Roman, our CVI Range Endorsed consultant, our private OT, our special education lawyer, various members of our family (you saw the dramatic texts my sister receives from me in the middle of the day) and other parents of kids with CVI who we’ve met along the way.
After a summer of intentional work on CVI-based interventions with our enthusiastic OT (who has taken some Perkins training and is being mentored by a CVI Range Endorsed professional), our daughter has improved by a quarter of a point on both Rating I and Rating II of The CVI Range. That’s on par with our expectations for a three-month period, and we believe in the hard work that it takes to get there (another topic that warrants a blog post). We expect more improvement as kindergarten continues and are heartened by what we see anecdotally.

G’s visual curiosity is growing and, as a result, so is her ability to access her world.