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!

 

 

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.

 

 

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 than 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 impossible combination of utter physical exhaustion and adrenalin fueled hypervigilance that thrives in mothers of children with special needs.

I personally found that early morning hours were the worst for this cruel phenomenon.  My whole body ached from being awake 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 expert of the day.  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 well because it also works for middle of the day, afternoon, and evening worrying.

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. Staring 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 mean spirited joke produced by my 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 #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,

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.

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 child suffer.  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 encourage more medical and education professionals to 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.