Cortical Visual Impairment: resources and toys

This post is what I wish I had found when we first learned about Everett’s vision issues. There are resources available, so just breathe! It’s actually a great diagnosis because your child’s vision can dramatically improve with appropriate therapy (mostly environmental modifications).

Resources

If your child has been diagnosed with Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI), there are several resources you should familiarize yourself with. First, order a copy of Dr. Christine Roman-Lantzy’s book (available here).

Then, while you are waiting for it to arrive, check out the website Little Bear Sees. This website has a great list of CVI resources! They also have a great book and an iPad app for CVI Tap-N-See Zoo that Everett really likes.

Toys

OK, now that you’ve been to Little Bear Sees and seen that there are lots of resources available to you, here’s where I can be of some help. Somehow, I haven’t really been able to find a list of good CVI toys. Regular black-and-white toys are not at all helpful for CVI, and that’s pretty much all that’s available at Babies’R’Us, etc., so then what?

Many CVI people recommend going to the Dollar Store and Party City, but most of the things I found there contain small pieces that could easily cause choking or are made of paper. My son puts EVERYTHING in his mouth, so paper just doesn’t work.We bought the mardi gras beads suggested by so many CVI folks, but the plastic coating came off and stained Everett’s face and hands. I don’t even want to think about the chemicals Everett ingested that day. Most of the Dollar Store toys are fine for therapy time, when someone is giving him their full attention the entire time. But they are not so good for keeping the baby happy while Mamma cooks dinner!

Everett has progressed beyond just one preferred color (he’s in phase two), so we can have toys that are colors other than just red. Still, it is difficult to find toys with only a single color. So, although it’s a short list, here are the things we have found to be both helpful and safe.

The Fisher Price Happy Apple is a vintage toy that is available on ebay for about $20 with shipping. It’s perfect for CVI because not only is it red (most CVI kiddos’ preferred color), but there is also an audible reward for integrating motion with sight (when you see the object, and then reach out to touch it, you get rewarded with the sound). The sound is like chimes or gentle bells. Anyone who knows me will smile here because I am extremely sensitive to most noises made by children’s toys and I refuse to allow them in the house. But, I promise, this one isn’t annoying!

We also have lots and lots of slinkies (mostly red, but also yellow, blue and metal). These break easily (or get bent beyond repair). I finally decided to accept it and just replace them. I think we’ve already gone through more than five; now I buy in bulk and hide some away.

We also love the iPad and specifically the app made by the authors of Little Bear Sees, Tap-N-See Zoo. People who know me are probably smiling again because I am completely against electronics and visual stimulation from television or video games for children. We don’t have a television at our house, but, yes, my one-year-old has his own iPad. In order to use the iPad for a small child with CVI, I think you really need a good case. We use a gripcase (available here or here), which will prevent it from breaking if it is dropped, or thrown across the room, or stepped on. Ask me how I know that =) Everett also mouths the edges, but it doesn’t get the actual iPad wet, so it’s all good.

I also want to mention something that isn’t for CVI, but it’s really been a lifesaver for us. I LOVE iBooks on the iPad. My daughter comes with us for Everett’s therapy appointments and she is only allowed to ask to play with the iPad during those appointments. It really helps to keep her occupied while I am trying to pay attention to the therapy. I love iBooks because many of the books have audio, which is simply the book being read out loud. There isn’t any animation! It’s great because Adele gets to look at the picture that goes with that part of the story. I love that it isn’t visually stimulating for her – it’s no more visual stimulation that if I were reading to her and she were looking at the pictures in a book. As with regular books, we don’t allow twaddle. We have found at least ten free books that are quality literature for young children WITH audio on iBooks. There are several gems by Beatrix Potter.

I’d love to hear about some things you’ve found helpful with CVI. Please share in the comments.

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