Adventures in Advocacy / AFB’s Advocacy Call to Improve Special Education for Children with CVI

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.

climb-on-bus.pngImage:  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.

Stay tuned!

 

Adventures in Advocacy / Sometimes All You Have To Do Is Ask – A CVI Advocacy Win

Kathryne, mother of “Little C,” (Moms on Monday #6)  is changing how children with CVI are being educated in Louisiana.  BRAVO! 

20180216_165131Image:  A little boy sitting on a black floor and surrounded by black walls.  He wears glasses.  He is leaning forward looking at a light source with many strands of shiny red beads hanging over it.

When I asked my local university VI graduate program why their curriculum did not address CVI and how they could add education opportunities on CVI to their VI curriculum I received the response, “it is almost impossible to provide all things to all people for all purposes.” CVI is the #1 pediatric visual impairment in the US. This was followed up with how Dr. Roman’s methods are “far from accepted as the preferred model” and there are a “diversity of opinions on how these youth are best served by educational systems.” Dr. Roman has provided the only educational model.

This happened a few weeks before the NE AER Conference. The November 22 post on CVI Momifesto provided the link to AER’s website to look up our state chapters. CVI Momifesto suggested that we contact our AER Presidents and ask how we as parents can support TVI training in CVI.

Even though I found no contact information, website, or conference for my local chapter I decided to pay the dues and see where this rabbit hole led.

After joining AER I reached out to my son’s outreach therapist that Louisiana School for the Visually Impaired (LSVI) is sending out twice a month. I asked if she knew if LA AER had any workshops or conferences and how as a parent member I could become involved. I hit the Jackpot. It turns out the head of LSVI’s Outreach Department is the outgoing AER President. She called me soon after full of excitement that a parent wanted to be involved.  She was in total agreement that CVI training was needed.

All I had to do was ask to sponsor training. The next month AER approved the workshop. Louisiana will have a CVI work shop October 19, 2018, and I have extended a personal invitation to our local graduate VI program.

If you are in Louisiana and want to attend you can sign up here.

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfEe__xP9Kvzow7nApx_eN8jZ6XXM7mUUe1WRrpp3m-MuNv9A/viewform?c=0&w=1&usp=mail_form_link

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Adventures in Advocacy / A CVI Mom Goes to Capitol Hill Advocacy Day 2018

Last week, I had the chance to join the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) and CEASD (The Conference of Educational Administrators of Schools and Programs for the Deaf) in their efforts to advocate for the Cogswell-Macy Act.  Cogswell-Macy (H.R. 1120, S. 2087) is legislation named after Alice Cogswell, the deaf child who inspired Thomas Gallaudet to introduce deaf education to the United States and Anne Sullivan Macy, Helen Keller’s gifted teacher.

Why We Need the Cogswell-Macy Act

From the AFB Website:  Today’s schools are not prepared to help children who are deafblind, deaf or hard of hearing, blind, or visually impaired develop to their full potential.  (Magnify this statement times 10 for children with a brain based visual impairment such as Cortical Visual Impairment. See my earlier post titled Lego Trees and the posts under Death by IEP.) 

The Cogswell-Macy Act is the most comprehensive special education legislation for students with sensory disabilities to date.

This act seeks to expand the resources available to these students, and their parents and educators, through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

The Cogswell-Macy Act would – 

ensure specialized instruction specifically for students who are visually impaired, deafblind, or deaf or hard of hearing.
increase the availability of services and resources by ensuring all students who are deaf or hard of hearing, blind, visually impaired, or deafblind are accounted for.
enhance accountability at the state and federal levels.
increase research into best practices for teaching and evaluating students with visual impairments by establishing the Anne Sullivan Macy Center on Visual Disability and Educational Excellence—a collaborative consortium of nonprofits, higher education institutions, and other agencies to provide technical support, research assistance, and professional development.

To learn more:  http://www.afb.org/info/get-connected/take-action/12

AFB and CEASD can offer you much more detailed information about this bill.

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What I can do is give you the play by play of the novice parent advocate who lives near D.C. and wants to help.

  1.  WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES.  Someone told me this last year.  I thought I wanted to look professional so I’ll just wear my most comfortable heels.
  2. THERE ARE NO COMFORTABLE HEELS. WAITING FOR WARNER 2017
Image:  A pair of  black shoes with heels and a binder with pictures of a child on the cover

I call this photo “Waiting for Senator Warner 2017.”  By this time of day (early afternoon), I was already barefoot in a Senate building and sporting some impressive blisters.

3. DO NOT WEAR HEELS.  Did you not hear me the first time?  I know, I know.  It’s the Capitol and the heart of our democracy, but seriously.  Look around, everyone who works there wears tennis shoes or flats to run from building to building.  They must keep their uncomfortable grown up shoes in their offices.

4. When you feel smug about how early you got up to drive to the Metro and catch a train to go into D.C., don’t.  I got to our local Metro station in ample time to catch a train to be at the Advocacy Training by 8:30 a.m. And, the train was “delayed.” I waited. Annnnnd, after 20 minutes the status of the train was now  “suspended.”
And, I ran back to the parking garage (Vienna Metro owes me $5) and drove to D.C. See where the shoes come in?

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Image:  My view of Northern Virginia traffic from the windshield of my car

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Image:  The dome of the Capitol building in the distance taken from a side street

5. When you see the Capitol, look for parking.  And, keep looking, because the concept of public parking in D.C. is a city version of snipe hunting.  Sure, you can drive to D.C. and find easily accessible parking!  Sure, there are snipe in them there woods!  (My family hails from Kentucky so I get to use phrases like “them there woods.”  Although no one in my family has actually used the phrase “them there woods.”) 

 

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Image:  A line of people standing outside the Rayburn building in DC

 

6.  FYI – When you find parking (snipe!), you will not get even close to the government building you need to be in RIGHT NOW.  When you hustle (SHOES!) to get to that building (by now only a half an hour late), there are dozens of people lined up outside the entrance waiting to get through security.  What the heck?  It was not this hard to get in the building last year.

At least, standing in line, you have time to catch your breath, dab your sweaty forehead with a Kleenex, and curse yourself for not leaving even earlier in the morning.

Then, you get a text from Rebecca Sheffield, Senior Policy Researcher, Ph.D. from the American Foundation of the Blind. (This is just a cool sentence to type.)

The text says, “If you are still on the way can you go over to the Russell building for a meeting with Sen. Tim Kaine’s staff?”  Some of the Virginia advocates had not yet checked in.  I imagined them sitting on the same metro platform I had been waiting on.

This year, you are wearing good shoes so YES, Rebecca Sheffield!

You ask no less than 3 D.C. policefolk how to get to the Russell building.  Normally you could have cut across in front of the Capitol but the Rev. Billy Graham was lying in honor there.  There were barricades all around the building and another line of over a hundred people waiting to pay their respects.

You will pass the Supreme Court building.  There is a line to get in there as well.  D.C. is a just a buzz of activity!  You will see Boy Scouts.  You see high school students from Oakton, Virginia on a scavenger hunt.  You see Americans and tourists of all sizes, ages, and colors.  It is a beautiful power walk through D.C. in business attire.

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Image:  The Supreme Court building

You hoof it to the Russell building, one of several Senate office buildings and location of Sen. Tim Kaine’s office with roughly 8 minutes to spare.  Success!

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Image:  Outside of the Russell building

You have just enough time to dab sweat again, look over the talking points on Cogswell Macy and find Sen. Kaine’s office.  This building is a buzz of activity as well.  There are groups of teenagers, flower growers from all over America dressed in suits with brightly colored corsages pinned to their lapels, other advocates and lobbyists moving in packs with their affiliations written on badges hanging around their necks.  Everyone has folders of talking points and information to leave with staff.

For a brief moment, standing outside the office, you are nervous that you will flub something in your meeting.  You walk past well dressed teens joking around in the hallways and wonder how long it took one young man to get his part that straight.    You feel a pang of something – not regret – envy?  – because you know your own little girl will not have a moment like this.  These teenagers take in so much information about this busy place, about each other in a single second because they have normal vision.  Because they can learn incidentally.

You think about all of the students throughout the U.S. who are blind, or deaf, or deafblind. You think about all of the children with sensory loss who are misunderstood in their classrooms.  Children who lack ACCESS to their environment.  You think about your own daughter and her diagnosis of Cortical Visual Impairment – information that inevitably produces the following response:  “Huh?” – when you mention it for the first time.

You think about how many times you’ve tried to explain your daughter’s visual impairment.  How it seems as though she is not paying attention or that she cannot understand because typically sighted folks do not know what to make of a child who does not look them in the eye and who takes longer to respond.

You think about the national shortage of Teachers of the Visually Impaired and Orientation and Mobility Specialists.  You think about the lack of teachers and other providers who know what to do with a child with CVI.  There is so much work to be done to give our children a better chance to connect with the world around them, to give us a chance to reach them.  Frankly, you feel a tad overwhelmed.

You want to yell, “Oh, Senators, we need co-sponsors for Cogswell-Macy!  We need champions for children with sensory loss.  We need champions for children with CVI!”

You do not.

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Image:  Kirk Adams, a tall man with gray hair holding a cane, and Adrianna Montague, a woman in a black dress smile while standing next to a sign that reads Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia

7. You enter the senator’s office to jump into Advocacy Day (and decide to stop numbering your post that has gone on way too long and will be read by no one…).

With a flood of relief, you find Kirk Adams, the president of the American Foundation for the Blind, and Adrianna Montague, the Chief Communications and Marketing Officer for AFB, waiting for the meeting as well.

You meet with one of Sen. Kaine’s staffers, Karishma Merchant, who oversees education and other issues. Ms. Merchant is a willing audience and asks great questions.

AFB recently moved their main office from New York to Arlington, Virginia.  Mr. Adams and Ms. Montague take this opportunity to introduce AFB as a resource for Sen. Kaine’s staff and to emphasize the need for legislation like Cogswell Macy.  You get to tell her a little about the challenges children with sensory loss face in U.S. school systems.

Ms. Merchant asks your help to advocate against legislation that was introduced in the House to deregulate the Americans with Disabilities Act.

ACTION ITEM:  H.R. 620 is what supporters in the House are euphemistically calling the ADA Education and Reform Act (H.R. 620).   Don’t believe it for second.

Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois is leading the call to ask Senator Chuck Schumer and Senator Mitch McConnell not to bring forward H.R. 620 or any similar bill.

Calls to senators in Florida, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Virginia, or Washington will have the most impact.  (https://www.senate.gov/senators/contact)

You leave Sen. Kaine’s office hoping that you have earned another co-sponsor for Cogswell-Macy and prepared to help him advocate for all people with disabilities.

Then, you bid Mr. Adams and Ms. Montague adieu and wait for your next appointment with Sen. Mark Warner in the afternoon.  You have time to jog back to your car and feed the meter.

Later, at the Hart Senate Office Building,  for the meeting with Senator Warner, you will see this sculptural work Mountains and Clouds by Alexander Calder.  The Hart building feels different from other senate buildings.  Wikipedia tells me its architectural style is Modernist not Neoclassical like the Dirksen and Russell buildings.

Now you know for your next Adventure in Advocacy.  If you see this sculpture, you are in the Hart Senate Office Building.  Handy!

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Image:  Large black triangular sculpture that nearly touches the ceiling of the atrium of the Hart building

 

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Image:  Woman standing next to a sign that reads Senator Mark R. Warner / Virginia

At some point in the afternoon, you realize you’ve been taking pictures of places but very few pictures of people.  You wish you had gotten a picture of the flower growers and their brightly decorated lapels, or the extremely straight part in that young man’s hair.

At Senator Warner’s office, you have a brief meeting with Lauren Marshall, the same staffer you met last year.  She is attentive and kind.  She promises to reread Cogswell-Macy and to bring it up with Sen. Warner.

That’s really all you can ask.

You walk away from the Hart Building hoping you have made some small connection within the Senate for children who are blind, or deaf, or deafblind.  You know that these populations of children do not get a lot of press.  You hope you can help spread a sense of urgency about the challenges facing children with sensory loss in the classroom.

You want senators, representatives, and anyone who affects legislation to understand two simple facts.  These children matter. Their education matters.

At the end of the day, you hope you have made it easier for the next mom to reach out to her legislator to tell her story.   That mom is going to make change happen for her child.  She is a force of nature.

P.S. You make it back to your car in time to avoid a ticket.  Success!

You see this poster at the Thai restaurant next to your car.

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Pretty much sums it up.

 

Adventures in Advocacy / VA AER 2018

Hello Fellow Families of Children with CVI,

Last Thursday, I had the opportunity to present to the annual conference of the Virginia Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired.

At the Pediatric Cortical Visual Impairment Society conference in Omaha last summer, Dr. Sandy Newcomb and I did a presentation “CVI:  Stuck in Phase II” about non-verbal children.

We submitted a similar presentation for Virginia AER.

Then, Dr. Sandy and the ladies from the Maryland Deaf-Blind Project were invited to the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children in Australia to teach their staff about Cortical Visual Impairment.

So, Australia won Dr. Sandy and Virginia AER got me and my parent’s perspective.

I told the lovely folks at AER that Dr. Sandy couldn’t make it due to a rogue koala attack and we carried on.  It was great to see Mark Richert and Rebecca Sheffield of the American Foundation for the Blind in the audience.   Which reminds me…

FYI and ACTION ITEM: AFB will be hosting a conference call for the CVI community titled Mobilizing Advocacy to Improve Special Education for Children with CVI on Wednesday, March 14th at 8:30 until 11:30 p.m.  

To join the call:  1-866-939-3921 / Code: 46438061)

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Image:  A slide projected onto a screen.  The slide reads CVI: Stuck in Phase II / A Parent’s Perspective

So here’s  how I figure it –

If sharing my story about being Eliza’s mom and the challenges we face in getting CVI understood by — well, everyone, really…..

If my explanation of how hard it has been to find (or even create)  a Free and Appropriate Public Education…

If I can share our experiences in getting Eliza assessed on the CVI Range and talk about modifications that are working for us and modifications that haven’t worked…..

If ANY of this information gives the folks in the audience a better understanding of what CVI is and a dose of empathy for what CVI families go through on a daily, weekly, monthly, … basis,

Then, what we have gone through will help someone else.   I can live with this.

AND

If  I get the chance to spread important information about CVI to people who may not have heard it before, then so much the better. 

Information such as the following:

  • Cortical Visual Impairment is the #1 Pediatric Visual Impairment in First World Countries
  • The presence of CVI is not an indicator of cognitive ability.
  • The presence of CVI is not an indicator of cognitive ability.
  • Every child with Cortical Visual Impairment has unique learning needs.
  • CHILDREN WITH CVI (just like children with ocular vision loss) ARE NOT INCIDENTAL LEARNERS.
  • The accommodations necessary for children with CVI are DIFFERENT than accommodations for children with ocular vision loss.
  • They miss out on learning opportunities because they cannot make sense of the visual world around them.

Oh, yeah and –

The presence of CVI is not an indicator of cognitive ability.

When they get tired of hearing a mom’s perspective, I bring out the experts:

CVI Experts Weigh In

Dr. Sandra Newcomb (Before the unfortunate koala incident of 2018) :

sandy koala

Image:  A woman petting a koala bear sitting in a tree.

Presumption of limited cognitive skills and abilities leads to limiting visual access to information, specifically communication information (objects and pictures)

  • Becomes self fulfilling 
  • By limiting a child’s choice and control by limiting visual access to information, you inhibit 
    Communication
    Quality of Life
    Social connection
    Learning
    Participation in family and society

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Ellen Cadigan Mazel, M.Ed. CTVI, CVI Advisor, Perkins School for the Blind:

Be a lifelong learner about the brain. 

Be a lifelong learner about CVI.

Ocular vision loss does not improve.

CVI CAN IMPROVE.

CVI masks cognitive ability.

If we expect improvement, we will get improvement.  

The minute we stop expecting improvement, we will not get improvement.


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Image:  An empty podium.  A book and a large black posterboard is on a chair in front of the podium.

I showed off the new edition of Dr. Roman-Lantzy’s book, a picture calendar board I saw during Ellen Mazel’s presentation at NE AER and a Start Seeing CVI t-shirt.  Several TVI came up to me afterwards and asked about how to get a t-shirt.

During the presentation I suggested that the Perkins-Roman Endorsement class would be a great place to start learning more about how give a child with CVI visual access to her world.

I have very little to offer the overworked, underappreciated TVI I asked to get more training for our complicated kids.  I did, however, promise to make a pie for any future endorsee.

AND, this time, I even got Julie Durando from the Va Deaf-Blind Project to offer cake or other baked goods.  Apparently, she makes an Italian Wedding Cream Cake that will change your life and is about to begin experimenting with puff pastries.  Puff pastries, people!

I think we are on to something here, folks.

pie

Image:  A pumpkin pie with a slice missing.

Whatever it takes.

 

More Adventures in Advocacy to come!

 

 

“First they ignore you..”

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

— misattributed to Mahatma Ghandi according to Snopes (It doesn’t matter who said it. Heck, let’s go Spartacus and all claim it.) 

Yesterday, I reblogged a post from the CVI Teacher, Ellen Mazel.  She was responding to what seems to be a common – and, frankly, disappointing – misconception regarding the Perkins-Roman CVI Range Endorsement.

And, I couldn’t get it out of my head.  It really burned my beans so to speak.

We CVI families are in this together, so when you mess with one of us, you mess with the whole trailer park.  (My favorite bumper sticker from a visit to Florida some years ago.  You’re welcome.) 

The misconception is this.

Some administrators and educators in the field of the education of children with sensory loss believe that Perkins School for the Blind and Dr. Roman-Lantzy are making themselves rich off of the CVI Range Endorsement.

These folks are vocal and dismissive of the work being done to train providers and parents about how to help children with CVI build their abilities to visually access the world around them.

Ellen Mazel’s post lays out the administrative costs to offer the CVI Range endorsement as explained by Mary Zatta, the Director of Professional  Development at Perkins.

Looking at the numbers, it is easy to see that no person and no organization is becoming wealthy offering training about CVI.   They are serving a need that had gone unmet for decades.

If we are going to be talking about Perkins and Dr. Roman-Lantzy’s work, I’d like to get the facts straight:

Let’s be clear about who we are talking about here.

First, Perkins School for the Blind was established in 1829.  It is the oldest school for the blind in the United States.  It is a 501c3 organization committed to serving individuals who are blind and/or multiply impaired.

Their mission is to prepare children and young adults who are blind with the education, confidence and skills they need to realize their potential.

Perkins is a champion for children with blindness and other disabilities.  It has a long history and stellar reputation for service including the fact that Annie Sullivan – arguably one of the most dedicated and creative teachers ever – was educated there.

 

Second, Dr. Christine Roman-Lanzty has spent decades of her professional life studying CVI, and seeing thousands –

let’s say that again –

thousands –

of children identified with this brain based visual impairment.

Dr. Roman-Lantzy knew there was a desperate need for an approach to training providers and educators about CVI.

She took it upon herself to approach organizations in the blindness community to help her develop a training

or

to help her advocate for better training of TVI on the unique learning needs of children with CVI.

The organizations said no.

Then, she approached Perkins.

Perkins School for the Blind, under the leadership of President Dave Power, understood the need for serving children with CVI, a quickly growing (yet still under-recognized) population of children. (HOW is that still possible?)

Dr. Roman-Lantzy said, “Children with CVI can learn. They deserve to be educated. Their families deserve to be supported.    Perkins said YES.

Perkins and Dave Power welcomed children with CVI into the scope of their mission.  Mary Zatta worked with Dr. Roman-Lantzy on developing the endorsement so educators and therapists would have a reliable tool to use when working with children with CVI.  Perkins has since developed a wide variety of classes, webinars, and on-site programming around Cortical Visual Impairment  to further support children, families and educators.

From my perspective, when Perkins agreed to develop the Perkins-Roman Range Endorsement, they said “Yes, your daughter matters.”

 

I will be forever grateful to them for recognizing a need and for taking that first uncertain step.

I respectfully suggest to anyone who wants to dismiss the CVI Range Endorsement, do your homework.  Understand it.  Understand the process of teaching children with CVI.  

If and when you have another approach to teach our children, let me know.  I will be the first to read your research, to buy your book, and to engage in a spirited debate

Until then, what purpose does it serve you to be cynical about people who are legitimately trying to help children with CVI and their families? 

I am a mother. I do not have the luxury of cynicism. I have a finite amount of time to give my daughter the skills she needs to be as independent as possible. I am looking (I have spent the last decade searching) for what I can DO for my daughter.

Cynicism serves no one.

I have found a path within the work of Dr. Christine Roman-Lantzy. We have seen success on this path. Our daughter is learning to recognize pictures.  She is learning to sign.  She is learning to communicate and to understand concepts.

We have found hope on this path.  She will be able to communicate her wants and needs.  She will have enjoyable activities in her life and opportunities to socialize in a meaningful way because we are learning how to teach her about the world in a way she can understand.

Why would you deny my family this information, this reliable and valid method of assessment and education?  Why would you deny us hope?  

Many CVI parents will be happy to give you their anecdotal evidence about how their children’s vision (and consequently, their cognition and their behavior) have improved by working within the scope of Dr. Roman-Lantzy’s work.

We don’t have time to be cynical.  Cynicism kills hope.

Sometimes hope is all we have.

CVI is new territory for medical and educational professionals.  We need more research.  We need to raise awareness.  There is a newness to this movement that makes some doctors and teachers of the visually impaired uncomfortable.  It is uncomfortable.  We get it.  Parents of children with CVI live outside of our comfort zones all the time. We are learning all the time. Sometimes our efforts fall short of our expectations. We learn from them and try again. There is no other option for us.

But, for those who choose to stand on the sidelines criticizing and spreading misinformation about Perkins,  Dr. Roman-Lantzy, and exceptional teachers like Ellen Mazel, I ask you: What purpose does your criticism serve?  Who does it help?

Aren’t you supposed to be helping the children and their families?  How are you helping?

What a disappointment it is to not even try.

What a greater disappointment to disregard those who do.

 

 

 

 

Moms on Monday / Storytelling is dangerous

“Storytelling is dangerous to those who profit from the way things are because it has the power to show that the way things are is not permanent.  Not universal and sometimes, not even necessary.” 

-Ursula Le Guin


 

Hello fellow families of delightful children who happen to be identified with Cortical Visual Impairment,

There are several mothers out there who have let me know that they are working on a post for Moms on Monday.  Ladies, I thank you. I’m a mom and it’s Monday, so I’m going to invite you once again to share a part of your and your child’s story with us. When you have the time, of course.

As we all know, and as Dr. Roman-Lantzy frequently says, CVI Moms are the busiest people we know.

We are the busiest people she knows because we are working tirelessly to get our children acknowledged and accommodated in a system that is not built to acknowledge or accommodate them.

The way things are is exhausting and discouraging.  

I hope to gather as many stories as possible as a resource of personal experiences for families. Every story is important.  Please know that there are no wrong answers.  You can write something original, or you can use the questions in the Calling All CVI Moms post as a starting point.  You can help another parent just by allowing your voice to be heard and allowing your child to be seen.


There is another reason for collecting stories.

As the writer Ursula Le Guin reminds us, the way things are is not permanent.

Not universal and not even necessary.

Let that percolate for a minute.

The way things are is not permanent

Not. Universal.

And 

Not. Even. Necessary. (This is my favorite part.)

We have a unique ability to assess the shortcomings of the systems we are fighting. (Did you ever think you’d be an expert on neurology, ophthalmology, neuroscience, & methods of teaching children with sensory loss?  Me neither.) 

From our shared experiences, we have the ability to imagine a better way and to work towards a Way things are” that recognizes and provides for children with CVI.  

Our stories will become a spotlight on inefficient, outdated methods of data collection and a tone deaf educational system. Our children matter. They need to be counted. They need to be taught, actually taught. (ACCESS! They must have access! They are not incidental learners! Sorry, I just had to get that out.)

As CVI families begin to advocate, they will find themselves in the offices of their elected officials and speaking in front of school boards. When CVI families begin to advocate, they may feel as though they are fighting an uphill battle (yep) and that they are alone (NOPE)

The methods of keeping track of our children on local, state, and even the federal level are woefully inadequate.  States vary in their expectation of counting children with special needs, and CVI does not even make it on the list of many states.  It is still called “Cortical Blindness” in many places.  We need to change that.

If the children are not identified, and not accounted for, then the funding necessary to provide resources will not be included in your state budget or the federal budget.

There are plenty of state legislators who will not want to give you the time of day because you and your story represent more expenses in your state’s government.  That is just too bad because it’s your budget too.  You live in and pay taxes in your state.  Heck, you vote!  (Please vote.)   Your friendly neighborhood legislator needs to meet with you, a friendly neighborhood constituent.

Here’s an example of the power of storytelling.

When we moved to Indiana, Eliza was 2 years old.  She had one more year of early intervention.  She was globally delayed.  We qualified for several therapies, occupational, physical, speech and developmental therapy.  I was so grateful to have access to these services.  I knew, however, that her lack of usable vision was going to affect how useful all the other therapies were, so I asked about early intervention for vision loss.

I was directed to the Indiana First Steps matrix – the database for all of the providers in the state.  When I entered “visual impairment,”  the name of an Optometry professor at Indiana University came up.

One name.

For the entire state.

And, the description mentioned making an appointment to come to his office to have your child assessed for glasses.  Not home visits.  Not early intervention.

What about the children who were blind?  Or, who, like Eliza, were legally blind due to Cortical Visual Impairment and who needed to be taught to see?

I asked around and was referred to the Indiana State School for the Blind and Visually Impaired.  I was able to set up an appointment with the Outreach TVI who came to my house to meet Eliza and me a few weeks later.  She was the most wonderful and experienced TVI.  She knew about CVI.  She understood the lack of access and calmed my fears.  She gave me several articles and showed me some ways to interact with Eliza that had not occurred to me.  She stayed for over 2 hours.

My prayers were answered.

I asked to schedule our next appointment.

And, I discovered that this wonderful TVI had a caseload of over 300 children.

One teacher was the entire early intervention team for infants and toddlers who were blind or had severe vision loss.  She drove around the state staying as long as she could, providing everything she could in the very limited time and with the very limited resources available to her.  She knew it was not nearly enough.  What she provided was what the system would allow.

It was just how things were.

By the time she could see Eliza again, Eliza would have aged out of early intervention.

How was that okay?

To make a long story a tad shorter, I eventually found myself testifying before committees at the Indiana Statehouse about the lack of early intervention for infants and toddlers with vision loss.  I poured my heart out about how hard it had been to have a baby I could not reach while some committee members chatted or got up and left. (Not all. Some were very receptive.)  I had meetings with state representatives who did not crack a smile the entire time I sat across from them.   It was easy to walk away from these experiences and think that nothing would change.

I also had meetings with state representatives to vowed to work with me and did.

statehouse

Image:  Three women seated around a table.  Annie Hughes and Rebecca Davis meeting with policy staff at Indiana Statehouse.

Over time and with the help of Indiana State Senator Mark Stoops, and his brilliant policy director, LeNee Carroll, Indiana made changes to its Birth Defects Registry (worst. name. ever.).  We got CVI and visual impairments added.  We were able to advocate for and to build a system of early intervention services specifically for children with vision loss.

We (that wonderful TVI, Annie Hughes, an agency called Visually Impaired Preschool Services, and a group of kickass families) changed the way things were.  

It can be done.

After your interaction with the cranky legislator who does not want to fund more services for children with special needs, you can tell Rep. Cranky to go to CVI Momifesto to meet more parents of children with CVI and to learn more about what they have gone through.  The stories here can provide back up.

There is more back up on the way.  2018 will indeed be a turning point in the awareness of CVI.  Many CVI moms are working to make sure of this.

You have the power to change the way things are.

gals

Image:  Three women standing with arms linked.  Meredith Howell (CVI Mom) and Annie Hughes from VIPS Indiana, and Rebecca Davis

 

 

Adventures in Advocacy / Anger & Courage

Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage.  

Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.  

-St. Augustine of Hippo

I heard this quote during a presentation a couple of weeks ago.  I really needed it this week.

It was a week of preparation for the next round of IEP meetings for my daughter.  As is the new (ab)normal at times like this, I feel overwhelmed, underprepared, and anxious about what comes next.  Every time we go over a new report, we have to compare it to the old reports and I am reminded of what I didn’t know then and then I wonder how much I just don’t know now.  It’s very busy in my head right now.  Reading over past notes and goals I disagreed with leave me frustrated.

I feel like a clenched fist with hair.

(And, nothing else gets done.  Laundry?  Groceries?  You mean we still have to wear clothes and eat?  Haven’t you people done that enough already?  There are reports to read, questions to ask, and schools to visit, dang it!)  

Thankfully, it was also a week in which I was able to participate in a conversation with a group of mothers and a dynamic TVI.  These ladies are determined to make 2018 the year we DO something about CVI on a grand scale here in the U.S.  Listening to the passionate ideas coming from them made me smile and left me with more than a little more optimism than I had that morning.

Now, I feel like a clenched fist with hair and optimism.

This past week, while preparing for the uncertain transition facing my family, I also found myself impressed with the resolve of the CVI families’ growing efforts to raise awareness and to change the current systems of service for our children.

You could say I was living between Hope’s two beautiful daughters if you wanted to be particularly cheesy and need to find meaning in everything you read or hear.  I am particularly cheesy.  I do obsessively look for meaning in everything I read or hear (I wrote the St. Augustine quote on my hand so I wouldn’t forget it, for Pete’s sake.  Now I’m wondering – shouldn’t it be that “Hope has two beautiful parents”?  Wouldn’t that make more sense? That Hope is the result of Anger and Courage?  Will I be struck by lightning for questioning a saint?  Probably.  I warned you it gets busy in my head. My apologies to St. Augustine.)   

As the mother of child with multiple special needs and a vision processing disorder few people understand, I am familiar with anger.

The fundamentals we want for our children are that they are protected, capable, and educated to the best of their abilities.  Easy enough, right?  (Cue the hysterical laughter.  I’ll wait while you catch your breath.)

For parents like us, this includes the extra full time job of raising awareness and educating everyone we come into contact with that – say it with me – CVI is the #1 pediatric visual impairment in First World Countries.  

If you are familiar with anger as well, WELCOME.  You are in good company.

Anger is an energy.  (My apologies to Johnny Rotten.)  

Anger is a building block for Hope.


There is plenty to be hopeful about.

Conversations are happening between families and agencies in the blindness community.  These families are acting straight from the heart out of the all too common mixture of love and frustration we feel as we force  the world to recognize Cortical Visual Impairment and our children.

Soon, there will be a need to ask for more families to reach out, to ask questions, to make themselves and their stories known.

This growing group of parent advocates and TVI will be asking you to join us.  We will need you to reach out to agencies, legislators, and others to educate them about CVI, to let ourselves be counted, and to let them know that our children matter.

We will provide the information you need to feel well-equipped to share your stories.

I hope you will allow yourself to be included.

——————————————————————————————————————————-

This is where the courage part comes in.

You may not think that you want to be someone who will stand up and be counted.

I think that you already are.

Brene Brown, the author and  research professor widely known for her work studying courage, vulnerability, empathy, and shame, describes courage this way:

“Courage is a heart word.

The root of the word courage is cor – the Latin word for heart.

In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.”

“Speaking from our hearts is what I think of as ‘ordinary courage.’

As a CVI parent, you operate from the heart every. single. day.  

Every time you make the attempt to educate a doctor or a teacher about CVI, you are speaking from your heart,  You are being courageous.

And, you are making it easier for the mom who will come after you.

Reading this post, researching online, following FB conversations, making D-I-Y materials to accommodate your child’s level of vision – all of these activities come straight from your heart.  Through love, you perform acts of courage every day.

Join us as we speak from our hearts, taking our ‘ordinary courage‘ to a wider audience.

ACT of COURAGE/ ACTION ITEM: 

Send your contact info – Name, Email Address, and State to info@cvimomifesto.com. 

Your information will go on a growing list of families facing the same challenges.  The information will not be given to any other agencies.  This is a mom fueled project.  We will use the information to keep you updated on future opportunities to advocate.  

 

 

 

Adventures in Advocacy / MaryAnne Roberto

Movements do not form out of the actions of one or two people.

When you study history you begin to see the patterns of how change occurs.  The frustrations of a relative few become the conversations and the questions that seek out others.

I thought it was just me

gets thrown by the wayside for

What are WE going to do about this?

CVI Moms, collectively WE have spent thousands of days, months, years knocking our heads on the brick wall that is the challenge of finding an appropriate education for a child with CVI.

For a long time, it thought it was just me.  I found out I was so wrong.  I wrote a blog post about Kate Keller.

MaryAnne Roberto, a CVI endorsed TVI and mother to 2 boys who are blind wrote a powerhouse of a letter using examples from history and her own story.

Read this letter.    Get ready to write your own.

MaryAnne Roberto
Envision CVI Consulting, LLC
envisioncvi@gmail.com

Craig Meador, President
American Printing House for the Blind
January 10, 2018
Dear Mr. Meador

I read your letter on the APH Facebook page about all the exciting things APH is doing in 2018 to “Make Big Things Happen”. As the mother of two boys who are blind, the information about advances in technology that will be highlighted and promoted in the new year was exciting. One of my sons is totally blind and gifted. He will benefit from the innovative technology that brings the written and graphic world quite literally to his fingertips so that he can access the same information as his peers.

Both of my sons are adopted, and spent their early years in orphanages in China where they were left to exist with no interventions, no education, no access to the world around them. The nannies in their orphanages loved them, I am sure, but had no ability to ‘break down the barriers of accessibility’ for them. They lived in a country where children who are blind are not educated, and are thought to be ‘less than’ the typical population of children.

People did not understand them, and gave them less than adequate tools to prepare them for learning and thriving. They were left out of most of what went on around them. And then, they were adopted, came home to a family with a mother who is a Teacher of the Visually Impaired, and father who is a former Health and Phys Ed teacher at a school for the blind. Their lives changed, and they are now thriving, learning, and in have great potential for success in their lives. Sounds like a fairy tale with a happy ending, right?

For the children with Cortical Visual Impairment in our country, there is no “happy ending.” 

Like my sons’ experiences in China they are often left to exist in classrooms and programs where there is little to no appropriate education and have no visual access to the world around them.

They are taught by teachers who have had inadequate instruction in their diagnosis, and treated by medical professionals who often do not understand this complex condition.

Their true potential cannot be known when they are not given a chance to experience it themselves.

‘Band aid’ programming is thrown at them, IEPs and strategies are guessed at and implemented, and team members are satisfied that they are ‘doing the best they can’ to serve the needs of the largest population of children with visual impairments in our country.

And so, when I read your post as a mother of two blind sons, I was of course excited about all APH had to offer for the future. But, to be honest with you, my sons’ needs are well-known to their teachers. They are registered for the Federal Quota, receive all the adaptive equipment they need, and are given appropriate services. Their needs are handled by professionals who write accurate goals, collect specific data, and order necessary materials for them.

At the same time, I read your post as a Teacher for the Visually Impaired, and a Perkins-Roman CVI Endorsed specialist, and I was quite disappointed. Nowhere in your post did you even mention the diagnosis that accounts for more than half of the children with visual impairments in our country. There was not a whisper of new advances in research and evaluations, no talk of new technology such as CVI Connect, no discussion of the growing need to reach the children who are learning to read in new and innovative ways.

Your post screamed of Braille access and instruction and was deafeningly silent on the children who are not taught to use their vision to learn, but are treated as if they have no vision at all.
I am privileged to work closely with many parents who are rallying to fight for appropriate services for their children with CVI. Much like Helen Keller’s parents, these parents are not willing to sit back and let the ‘powers that be’ provide inadequate services for their children. They fight long and hard and are met with resistance at every turn, and mostly from the world of educators of the visually impaired. Their voices are getting louder, and their cries are beginning to be heard. Unlike the Kellers, however, many of these families do not have the money or connections to affect real change, but slowly, surely, they are making changes in their children’s lives.
Yet, like Helen Keller and her family, who waited years to find an Annie Sullivan, these families are waiting as well. They are waiting for appropriate university programs that will educate future teachers on their children’s visual impairment, waiting for schools and programs to recognize the need for adequate services, and waiting for organizations like yours to put their children at the top of their priority list to ‘Make Big Things Happen’.
I write this letter to you as both an Annie Sullivan and a Kate Keller. As a mother of blind sons and a teacher of the visually impaired I know well the roads that both Annie and Kate walked, The road that Annie walked was paved with determination and fortitude. The road Kate walked was paved with tears and desperation for the little girl she loved so deeply. In our country today, there are far too many Kate Kellers whose roads are paved with tears and desperation, as they beg for appropriate services and materials for their children with CVI. The Annie Sullivans are ill-prepared to support those children or are not interested in learning new techniques.
And organizations like yours with national and international notability and resources have added to their frustrations and desperation by completely ignoring their children.

As Annie and Kate, I am writing to petition your organization to provide more comprehensive education and materials that will support children with CVI in our country. CVI Connect is one product that can be added to the Federal Quota program to give access to activities and much-needed data to support the students in programs to develop their visual potential. By promoting resources and education in CVI, you will quite literally ‘Make Big Things Happen’ for children, who like my own sons when they sat in orphanages half a world away, have little access to the world. We can do better for our CVI kids, and we can give hope to the thousands of Kate Kellers who cry in desperation for appropriate programming for their children.
Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. I would be more than happy to speak with you regarding your commitment to improve the lives of children with CVI through the American Printing House for the Blind’s resources and education.

Sincerely,
MaryAnne Roberto
Teacher of the Blind and Visually Impaired
Perkins-Roman CVI Endorsed Specialist

 

Thank you MaryAnne for this important lesson in advocacy!

Now, CVI Moms, what are we going to do about it?  

Adventures in Advocacy / NE AER / Part 3

Be a life long learner about CVI.

Be a life long learner about the brain.

Ellen Mazel, the CVI Teacher (https://cviteacher.wordpress.com), offers this advice to parents of children with CVI and to the teachers who work with them.

In her presentation at the Northeast AER Conference, Ellen shared information on learning assessments and intervention strategies from her extensive experience as a Cortical Visual Impairment Advisor and a Certified Teacher of the Visually Impaired.

Her audience primarily consisted of TVI and COMS, however, everything about the presentation resonated for me as a parent.  Watching presentations from teachers who know CVI always help me broaden my perspective and recharge my batteries.  It gets discouraging being the only person at an IEP meeting who knows what Cortical Visual Impairment is and how it negatively impacts my daughter’s learning.

Sometimes, after a particularly frustrating day, I think, maybe, I am just kidding myself.  Trying too hard.  My girl is a complex kid.  She is non-verbal and has an additional diagnosis of autism.  We are struggling to find a consistent method of communication.  We do not get a lot of eye contact.  Interaction takes time and effort.  It is hard to read her.  It is hard to know what she understands.  

It is all too easy to develop low expectations for a complicated kid like her.  I have fought against low expectations in IEP meetings and in teacher-parent meetings, yet I have struggled to learn how to reach her myself.  

Ellen’s presentation reminded me that this is an ongoing journey.

Regarding the perspective of the parent/teacher:

  • The importance of presumed competence and eye contact.
    • CVI masks cognitive abilityOur children are often not able to maintain eye contact.  (Children with visual impairments cannot be accurately assessed by traditional cognitive tests.  IQ tests are not going to work on this population of children.) 
    • Research has shown that children who do not maintain eye contact get far less social interaction and attention from caregivers and teachers.  Be aware of this tendency to interact less with a child who does not maintain eye contact.
    • Since we cannot tell what a child who is not maintaining eye contact understands, we have to presume that the child understands and continue to teach the child in an accessible way.  
  • If we expect improvements, we will get improvements. The minute we do not have expectations, we are guaranteed not to get improvement.
  • Read articles and attend presentations.  – Research about CVI and the experience offered by CVI Range endorsed teachers will be found at conferences and in journals before you will be able to find it in a book.  

Regarding IEPs and Assessments:

  • The CVI range endorsement is the beginning of your journey NOT the end.  
    • Yes, we need to demand a teacher who has completed the Perkins-Roman CVI Range endorsement, however, it is only the starting point.
  • IEPs need to say “brain based visual impairment,” when diagnosed, by whom, the score, and the result of the Functional Visual Assessment (as it relates to CVI).  
  • When assessing a child, Ellen uses the CVI Range (Roman), Dr. Gordon Dutton’s survey, and Matt Tietjen’s “What’s the complexity” framework.
  • Remember that the parents’ interview gives all important visual history – if vision has improved – consider CVI
  • Best practice accommodations and modifications should be based on the CVI Range score 
  • Strategies need to be embedded throughout the day
  • Ellen puts together a salient features presentation so everyone on the child’s educational team uses the same language.
  • As a consultant, she advises that the IEP includes a 1 hour in-service about CVI and a 1 hour in-service about how CVI affects this particular child
  • Embed the theory that there is something visual in front of that child all the time.
  • Use more CVI supports in place when developing weaker visual fields.
  • Introduce yourself and use the child’s name so she knows you are talking to her
  • Limit touching and moving children while they are trying to look.

I’ll end with Ellen’s explanation of “infused advocacy,” or teaching the children how to problem solve for themselves.

Parents and teachers can start teaching a child to become a self-advocate by teaching her about the characteristics of CVI and by including her in the process of making her own accommodations and modifications. When a child understands that how she perceives the world is different from other people, she can learn to articulate her unique needs. She could ask other children to say their names when they approach her to help her identify them.   She could explain to her mom that cluttered rooms make her feel anxious or scared. She could tell her teacher that new places are confusing and ask for extra time to get to know a novel environment.

This part of a child’s education, learning how to articulate her needs, is so important.  We spend so much time talking about the kids.  Listening to them (or, in the case of a non-verbal children, quietly observing them) is even more important.

This is a fascinating and busy time in the history of Cortical Visual Impairment.  There is a solid foundation of knowledge and a growing current of educational strategies and research.  There is an active and vocal community of families around the world.  There are teachers who can guide us!

At the center of all of this activity remains the children who have to be equal partners in putting together the puzzle that is their picture of the world. 

 

 

 

 

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!