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Breakfast Chat at CHF - Cerebral Visual Impairment

07 March 2024

Chailey Heritage Foundation (CHF) held a Breakfast Chat event on Thursday 7th March surrounding the topic of CVI – Cerebral Visual Impairment. We were very lucky to have Janet Harwood from the CVI Society presenting about the subject, at this informal on-site event. A group of fifteen parents and staff attended. Hannah McCarthy, CHF lead for Visual Impairment, was also on hand to explain her role and the support she offers to young people, parents, and staff. 

Cerebral Visual Impairment (commonly referred to as CVI) is a form of visual impairment caused by the brain not being able to process information from the eyes passing along the visual pathways in the brain. Janet explained the breadth and impact of CVI on children and young people. Vision is the biggest developmental driver; what a young child sees is what motivates them to move and begin developing. Janet has a wealth of knowledge, experience and insight about the condition and its impact, and she shared this with the parents and staff over coffee and pastries. Janet’s presentation raised awareness of the many environmental barriers that exist for people who have CVI. Through greater awareness, we can start to implement measures to minimise these barriers or remove them altogether. A quiet, uncluttered environment will help children and young people with CVI to focus and learn. Standing still is the most important thing a teacher can do to help a young person with CVI! Janet’s clear explanation of the brain’s system for receiving, processing, and storing visual information helped us to understand CVI and its effects.  

Janet’s approach is pragmatic. Her advice is to start with the child – and start with what you know they recognise and build from there. Real objects are always going to be more effective than a visual representation - but never assume. A child who is non-verbal is already reliant on the people around them to make the world a less scary place and CVI adds another layer of complexity. Janet referred to Nystagmus, visual field deficits, health, tiredness, anxiety, and over stimulation as factors which will worsen the effects of CVI.  

Hannah, who is also a teacher here at Chailey Heritage Foundation, talked to the group about the training she delivers to all school staff, so that they can be confident in supporting CYP with CVI. Using the amazing resources at CHF to their full potential does require expertise and Hannah includes this in her training sessions.  

The presentations led to lively and informative discussion, as everyone there had questions to ask and experiences to share.  

As always, we are keen to hear suggestions for topics that will be of interest and value to parents and families of children and young people here at Chailey so please do let us know your ideas! 

For more information about CVI, please visit: 

Breakfast morning -CVI

Paula Marten 


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