Adventures in Advocacy / DC + MD AER Conference

It’s been a busy couple of weeks here at CVI Momifesto. Spring is conference season.  Time for the experts in everything  to get together in quaint or exotic places to compare notes, to share their research, and, maybe to learn a new trick or two.

It’s been a great conference season in terms of building momentum and raising awareness about the learning needs of children with CVI. Needs that continue to be unmet in most educational settings across the country.

(Then, it’s Spring Break, and all bets are off for writing any blog posts as your children run amok in your house demanding to be fed, nurtured, and challenged at board games.  But I digress.)

So far this year, CVI was a hot topic at the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus.  Also, several AER conferences admitted presentations by educators and parents about Cortical Visual Impairment.  The  Northeast AER conference included presentations on CVI (from Dr. Christine Roman-Lantzy, Ellen Mazel, and Peg Palmer among others) in each slot in their schedule.  Virginia AER had several presentations including a parent’s perspective on the challenges of getting a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) for a child with CVI.

At the Pacific Northwest AER conference, MaryAnne Roberto, a CVI Endorsed Teacher of the Visually Impaired (Envision CVI Consulting), presented on Current Trends in CVI to standing room only crowds.

On March 15th, this CVI mom drove to St. Michael’s in Maryland for the DC / Maryland AER Conference to reach out to Teachers of the Visually Impaired and Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialists.   Thanks to Karen Frank and the AER folks who allowed me the chance to talk up the urgent need for educators to get more training to help children with CVI build functional vision.

 

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Image: Rob Hair,  Michelle Horseman, and Karen Frank from the Maryland School for the Blind
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Image: Dr. Michael Bina from the Maryland School for the Blind and Rebecca Davis

The Executive Director of AER, Lou Tutt, attended this conference and sat in on my presentation.  When I suggested to the audience of teachers that they contact AER to tell them they support more training for TVI in Cortical Visual Impairment, I didn’t have to give Mr. Tutt’s email address.  I just said, “There he is.”   He was a great sport about it.

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Image:  Lou Tutt and Rebecca Davis

If you have any luck sharing your stories at a conference or a meeting of educators or doctors (or legislators… or anyone who will listen), send us your story!  CVI Momifesto would love to expand the scope of both personal stories and adventures in advocacy.

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 / NE AER / Part Two of Three

Hello Fellow Families of Delightful, Sometimes Exasperating Children Who Happen to Have CVI and Who Sometimes Knee You in the Neck,
Why yes, maybe E did wake up at 4:30 this morning and kneed me in the neck while climbing into my bed. Once settled comfortably (for her) on my chest, she leaned over to kiss my forehead about a dozen times. It was pitch black, so let’s just say she missed a few times. In my semi-consciousness, I dreamed I was being water boarded.

This is an accurate description of the power dynamic in our relationship.

Moving on.

I promised more information from NE AER.  This post turned into a doozy.  So, I am splitting it in two.
To recap: There were 6 presentations about CVI at this conference! This is a big deal. Bravo to the Co-Chairs of the 2017 NE/AER Program Committee, Sharon Marie and Martha Delaney for their development of this year’s CVI track.
(You may want to reach out to the folks planning your area’s next AER conference. You could ask how many presentations they will be having on Cortical Visual Impairment. Just a thought.)
I was present for Peg Palmer’s presentation “Assessing children with CVI using Dr. Roman-Lantzy’s CVI Range,” Dr. Christine Roman-Lantzy’s follow up discussion following her “Implications of CVI in the Development of Literacy, Language, and Social Skills” presentation, and Ellen Mazel‘s presentation, “Serving our students with CVI: Learning Assessments and Intervention Strategies.”

Here are some of my takeaways from this conference:

The Perkins-Roman CVI Range endorsement is a necessary starting point and here’s why.  (Good to know for future stare-downs with school administrators about the importance of proper training for the teachers who work with our children.)

Right off the bat, Dr. Roman-Lantzy asked the discussion group if any of them were unsure about the CVI Range endorsement.
As a parent, I was surprised by this question. I’m just glad an endorsement exists  to give teachers the skills they need to improve educational outcomes for our children. I was more surprised when a few of the teachers raised their hands.

Dr. Roman-Lantzy asked them why they had reservations.
One of the teachers explained that she knew several experienced TVI who did great work with children with CVI but did not have the endorsement. Some teachers did not see the point of the endorsement. Some thought the CVI Range endorsement was extra work – more hoops to jump through at their own expense- for teachers who already had substantial experience working with children with CVI.
Dr. Roman-Lantzy acknowledged their doubts and agreed that there are experienced TVI who are more than capable of working with children with CVI. She mentioned that she herself is not endorsed.  (My mind was blown.)
Her point – an important one – was that while CVI has been discussed over the years within the field of the education of children with vision loss, there has yet to be a rigorous, commonly accepted standard of training for teachers to work with children with CVI.

(This leads me to paraphrase Ellen Mazel. My apologies to Ellen Mazel. )

The 2 most dangerous teachers Ellen Mazel has ever met are
1. The TVI who has never heard of CVI
2. The TVI who has been to one workshop / conference on CVI.
Boy, did that resonate with me. I wonder how many of us have had a teacher tell us – “Oh, I know CVI. I took a workshop once.”
Surely, it’s not just me. I bet I’d recognize the slight indentation on your forehead where you banged your head on the table after hearing these words. It’s okay. I’ve got one too.

We have been affirmed by the CVI Teacher herself!

This was worth the whole trip to Vermont, including losing my driver’s license, and, the resulting extra security patdowns to get home.
Now some history on the development of the CVI Range endorsement.

(Use this when you begin advocating for your child by telling your school system that a CVI Range endorsed educator is a requirement for your child’s ACCESS to her education.)
The lack of a standard educational protocol for training TVI to work with children with CVI has been a concern for Dr. Roman-Lantzy for years. In recent years, she went to the associations that recommend topics of study for university TVI preparation programs.

She asked them to recommend that CVI be included, to no avail.

Then, she approached Perkins School for the Blind.

Perkins met the challenge of training teachers to educate children with the #1 pediatric visual impairment in America and
First World Countries
(and tomorrow and 9 months from now and 2 years from now).

It’s not going away, folks.

To address the growing need, Dr. Roman-Lantzy and Perkins collaborated to create the endorsement and other classes surrounding specific aspects of CVI.
For their willingness to address the issue of CVI, this CVI mom applauds Perkins and its President and CEO, Dave Power. Dave Power is also the father of a son with dual sensory impairments. It does not surprise me that a parent of a special needs child made the decision to move the CVI Range endorsement forward.
During the discussion session, Dr. Roman-Lantzy explained that “no one is getting rich off of the CVI Range endorsement.” There are administrative costs to running the classes which are offset by the fees.
She further explained that the creation of the CVI Range endorsement was a way to acknowledge that every endorsee has the same foundation of knowledge about CVI and has the ability to use the CVI Range accurately and effectively.  The endorsement means you know how to use the CVI range, however, knowing how to address the unique learning needs of every child identified with CVI is an ongoing learning process. CVI is a complex diagnosis. It covers a wide spectrum of children with varied abilities. Research is still unfolding.

Learning all things CVI is happening for all of us in real time.
Hearing this discussion, I can understand why an overworked Teacher of the Visually Impaired with too many children on her caseload and fewer available resources would be dubious about extra training for a “new” visual impairment.

She does not have extra time. She is being pulled in too many directions. Depending on the state and depending on the day, she may be expected to provide early intervention in the morning for an infant with albinism in a neighboring county; at lunchtime, she may be pulled into an IEP meeting for a 4th grader with nystagmus; in the afternoon, she may be transcribing civics homework into braille for a high school senior who is blind.
Changes in our educational system to give TVI fewer caseloads, more resources, more extensive professional development, and the time it requires to do their job well need to happen yesterday.
It is simply too much to ask these teachers to do more.

BUT,

nothing about having a child with Cortical Visual Impairment is simple. 
Until we can get universities to add CVI to their teacher preparation programs

AND,
until we can make sweeping changes in the system of educating children with vision loss

We have to ask.

Our children can’t wait. (Ellen Mazel again, everyone!)

Yet, they are waiting.

Every day a child with CVI sits in a classroom without appropriate accommodations – without ACCESS – to her education, she is losing learning time.

The awareness of time lost is the motor that drives CVI parents to ask overworked teachers to learn more about CVI.  It is why we ask them to help us give our children access.

To wrap up this post, I will repeat what I said to the TVI and COMS in my presentation.

We need you to believe that our children can learn.  

We don’t expect you to have all the answers.  

Help us find the answers.  

We have to start somewhere.  

Thanks to these formidable ladies, we have a starting point.  

 

CVI ladies

Adventures in Advocacy / NE AER / Ellen Mazel / Standing Room Only, Part 1

standing room onlyThe Northeast AER Conference in Burlington, Vermont wrapped up Friday, November 17th.

Thursday, it was standing room only for Ellen Cadigan Mazel, M. Ed. CTVI. Ellen is the CVI Program Manager for the Perkins School for the Blind. (Her blog, CVI Teacher at wordpress.com is required reading for CVI parents, TVI and anyone who cares about a child with CVI.)

The information and discussions that arose from the presentations at NE AER should be another post topic.  I will do that one next.

For now, I will share briefly what I experienced and what I learned from discussions in and around the presentations.

First, it made my mom’s heart glad to see so much interest in CVI.  The fact that Ellen’s presentation was standing room only and Peg Palmer’s would have been if it had been in a smaller room was encouraging.

Many TVI, COMS, and administrators showed up to learn more about the condition that affects our children’s access to the world.

There were 6 presentations on Cortical Visual Impairment during the 3 day event.  Dr. Christine Roman-Lantzy was there!  I was present for an eye-opening discussion session. (Saved for Part 2) 

(I couldn’t stay for Matt Tietjen’s presentation on What’s the Complexity, but I really wanted to.  I highly recommend parents and teachers familiarize themselves with his work around complexity and literacy.  It is a perspective we all need to understand to help our children make progress visually and to understand what they are seeing. Check out the Perkins CVI Hub for the next class or webinar.)

This amount of information and discussion about CVI at an AER (the Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired) conference was unprecedented.

It would be great to see this kind of interest at every 2018 AER conference in every state or region of the United States and Canada.

Wouldn’t it? 

To share this opinion, you can find your state’s AER at http://www.aerbvi.org.

Find the president of your state’s AER and send her/him an email about your child, about CVI, and about the need for more teachers trained in understanding CVI.

You could ask them how we as parents can support our TVI in this training.  You could ask them what we need to do help make progress in getting CVI recognized as the #1 pediatric visual impairment in First World Countries. 

I mean, since it is.

Also, you can send the email to these folks too:

AER’s Executive Director, Lou Tutt, lou@aerbvi.org 

AER’s Chair of the Personnel Preparation Committee, Olga Overbury at olga.overbury@umontreal.ca

AER’s Chair of the (provisional?) Neurological Visual Impairment Committee, Susan Sullivan at ssullivan@aph.org 

Since I had given my presentation to essentially the same audience at Peg Palmer’s presentation the day before, I shared other parent stories from the previous post where I asked you what you would say to a room filled with TVI.

This is what I shared:

From Kathryne in LA:  “My theory on the lack of interest in addressing outcomes for CVI is that our kids have all been lumped as multiple disabilities.  Incompetence is assumed. That is not to say that blind children can’t have multiple disabilities, but CVI is more prevalent in the multiple disabilities class.  Since it’s more work other therapists and teachers ignore it. 

Addressing my son’s vision has given him more improvement in all areas.  More than any other therapy.  We are now starting to see improvements in other areas now that vision has improved.  

She asked me to point out that many of the other skills will follow if vision is improved.” 

 

From Anna in OH: Show care, compassion and patience.  If someone is asking for a CVI Endorsed provider, there is a reason.  

The good news about CVI is that we can do something about it.  Please accept the challenge to learn more about our children.  It will be worth it!

Please listen to the parents’ concerns and ideas.  Their children are their life, their whole world. Parents do know what they are talking about.

A passionate/trained/knowledgeable/driven CVI Endorsed provider is worth their weight in gold.” 

Then, I shared a couple of stories about the frustrations parents face when looking for appropriate educational services for our children.

One mom called her local university teacher preparation program for teachers of the visually impaired and asked if CVI was covered in the curriculum.  The head of the program told her no.  When she asked why, he said, We can’t be all things to all people.” 

One mom called her state’s School for the Blind when her son was identified as having Cortical Visual Impairment.  When she told them her child’s diagnosis, she was told, We don’t serve those kids here.  It’s too expensive to train our teachers in CVI.”  

If these 2 stories frustrate you, they should.  We have a lot of work to do to raise awareness and to raise our expectations of how our children are taught in their educational placements.

There will be more to come on this.

And, I wore this shirt. t-shirt

 

Brenda, the kickass mom from Seattle and the brains behind the blog and FB page, Start Seeing CVI,  made them and some proceeds of sales go the growing Pediatric Cortical Visual Impairment Society.

What a lovely holiday gift, if I do say so myself!   https://startseeingcvi.com/?s=T-shirt

More to come to wrap up NE AER.

Until then, Happy Thanksgiving!  I continue to be grateful for other parents who remind me that we in this together.

Because we are.

 

 

Northeast AER 2017 / Adventures in Advocacy / Peg Palmer knows CVI

Good morning fellow families of well loved children who happen to have Cortical Visual Impairment,

I am writing from the Burlington Hilton where the 2017 Northeast AER conference is well under way.  I have heard that the attendance is roughly 300 TVI, COMS (Certified Orientation & Mobility Specialists), Low Vision Therapists, Occupational Therapists, Physical Therapists, with some program directors thrown in for good measure.

This is a great turnout.

Thanks to the efforts of Dr. Roman-Lantzy and people who lead the DeafBlind Projects in the Northeastern United States, this part of the country is well ahead of the curve on awareness of Cortical Visual Impairment.  There are TVI here who received training from Dr. Roman-Lantzy over 10 years ago and have been honing their skills and gaining knowledge ever since.

This conference has a CVI track – meaning there are presentations on various aspects of CVI in almost every time slot.   This may be almost unheard of at a conference like this.  It certainly is from my personal experience in which I show up at conferences and ask questions about CVI just to see what the response will be.  The response is usually a cold, hard stare from the presenter who is probably wondering who let a parent in.

It is refreshing and maddening at the same time.

Yesterday, Peg Palmer, a Perkins-Roman CVI Range Endorsed TVI with decades of experience, allowed me to hijack 15 minutes of her presentation about the CVI Range.

A shout out to Peg Palmer whose professionalism and compassion knows no bounds.  Connecticut is lucky to have her.  Her presentation on working through the CVI Range was very informative.  The videos of students she showed elicited a lively conversation and a lot of questions.

Exactly what we need.

I was able to talk to a room of 50 TVI and COMS (with a few therapists and a couple of program directors thrown in) to give them a parent’s perspective.  I shared some of my story as E’s mom and how challenging it has been to get CVI recognized, let alone understood in classrooms.

I asked them three things:

1.To believe in our children’s ability to learn

The presence of CVI is not an indicator of cognitive ability.  (Source:  The CVI page on the American Printing House for the Blind website)

I told them the Lego Tree story (see post on Lego Trees) and explained how easy it is for teachers, aides, and therapists to develop low expectations for our children if they do not understand the characteristics of CVI.  How many learning opportunities get lost if a teacher does not understand latency and lack of visual reach?  Too many.

2. To reach out to AER and to ask them make CVI a priority in professional development and in university teacher preparation programs

A few weeks ago, I had a meeting with the Executive Director of AER, Louis Tutt, and the Deputy Executive Director, Ginger Croce.  They very kindly answered my questions about AER’s slow recognition of Cortical Visual Impairment.  Only last year, did AER put together a provisional committee on Neurological Visual Impairment.  

Mr. Tutt told me AER responds to the concerns of its members.  So, if AER members contacted the president of their state chapter with the message that more professional development needs to happen for TVI and that future TVI needed to get more training on CVI, progress would be made.

Now we know.

Did you know that parents can join AER as a Associate Member for $98/year?  This is a non-voting membership category for anyone who is not employed in the field such as a parent or caregiver.

FYI:  Here are some email addresses you may find useful.

Executive Director, Louis Tutt – lou@aerbvi.org

Chair of the Neurological Visual Impairment Committee, Susan Sullivan, ssullivan@aph.org

Chair of the Personnel Preparation Committee, Olga Overbury, olga.overbury@umontreal.ca

You can find the president of your state AER chapter at aerbvi.org.

You could tell the powers-that-be at AER that you are the parent of a child with CVI and that you value their dedication to children with vision loss.

You could tell them that children with Cortical Visual Impairment, just like children with ocular vision loss, are not incidental learners (See how that came in handy?).

You could tell them that children with CVI require a different educational approach than children with ocular vision loss.

You could ask them to make educating children with CVI (the #1 Pediatric Visual Impairment in the United States and the Western world) a priority.  That means university teacher preparation programs need to add CVI to their curricula.  That means school systems need to provide extensive, ongoing professional development.

Understand this.  No one has all the answers.  This condition is complicated.  Each child is unique.

What we need to ask is that they join us in asking the right questions and seeking the answers.

3. To seek out more training

I told them about the Perkins-Roman CVI Range Endorsement.  I told them it wasn’t fair to ask them to do more training when that are understaffed and overworked.  I also said the training they got for children with ocular vision loss does not work with our kids.

So, to sweeten the deal, I offered pie.

Really, it’s all I’ve got. me-and-peg-e1510842788984.png

 

Northeast AER 2017/ A CVI Mom meets Vermont

Hello Fellow CVI Families,

Today, at 6:30 a.m., I boarded a plane from Dulles airport in D.C. to JFK, and then, boarded another plane to Burlington, Vermont to attend the Northeast AER conference.

AER is the Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, the professional membership organization of administrators, teachers of the visually impaired, orientation and mobility specialists, and other vision professionals.

AER chapters around the country have annual conferences.

We CVI parents are often talking about how we need more teachers with expertise in the unique learning needs of children with CVI.

How will this be achieved if we don’t start making our voices and our children’s stories heard?

The kids are already in the classrooms.

Time is passing.

This urgency put me on a plane to where I knew I could reach out to some of the educators who will work with our kids.

Now, I’m staring at my computer screen wondering just what to say to TVI who are already overworked and understaffed.

I will keep you posted.

I can report so far that Vermont has

1. So. Much. Flannel. (a big selling point for me)

2. A restaurant called The Skinny Pancake.  I didn’t eat there, but, I may move in if my return trip doesn’t pan out..

because

I lost my driver’s license somewhere between D.C. and Vermont. (Expletive deleted times 10.)

If I don’t make it back, please forward all future correspondence to The Skinny Pancake at the Burlington Airport.  I will be the woman in the corner passed out in a blissful sugar coma behind a pile of syrupy dishes and covered in crumbs.  Wearing flannel.

I can think of worse ways to go.