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Techniques to support your Child with CVIs at School – A Parents’ View - Part 1

In my last blog, 'CVI - how to support your child's learning in a mainstream setting - a parents' view', I talked about our personal journey to make educational progress. In this blog, I take you through the methods that have made a difference to us in preparation for learning, English and language.

It is important to remember that these are our experiences and whilst much may transfer to other children with CVIs, some may not.

Learning is a major challenge for our child. It's difficult to concentrate, to dual process, to follow multi-step instructions, to have a go and not to get distracted. We now understand we may only get a 10-minute learning 'window' in an hour, so we must grasp that time when we get it.

We notice that if a 'sensory diet' is carried out before a learning session, concentration improves.

https://www.enherts-tr.nhs.uk/content/uploads/2019/10/LeafletdietJan12-v2.pdf

https://www.theottoolbox.com/what-is-sensory-diet/

But with CVIs there are never any hard and fast rules, CVIs fluctuate depending on personal and environmental factors so one day you might be able to do something but the next day you can't. For some it may be hard being in a mainstream setting and it may seem like everyone is better than you at learning and you are learning at a level far below your peers.

I now understand that patience and super slow, considered steps are the route to learning progress for many children with CVIs.

I look back on our child's school years and reflect on what has helped and what has not. This is personal to us and may not apply to everyone with CVIs.

Preparation for Learning

  • Walking to school helps prepare for the day.
  • Be organised - get out uniform, pack school bag and prepare lunch the night before.
  • Preparation... now/next timetables help our child to know what is happening during the day.
  • Desk position in the classroom was key and we have found an OK spot now.
  • We have discovered that the classroom is too overwhelming and so a separate room is used for all core learning.
  • Joining the class in the afternoon for subjects such as PE, art, PSHE and History works well.
  • De-cluttering the classroom/learning room helps to increase concentration. Cluttered and crowded environments create challenges to learning as they overwhelm the senses.
  • Simple visual timetables to prepare for each week help to manage anticipatory anxiety.

English Learning Tips

English has always been a challenge. Even writing your name is exhausting, writing the alphabet confusing, reading too complex and we observed even turning the head away from reading material if it became too much. But little by little, we are making good progress. Story telling helped to create a narrative, themes give a focus for learning.

Reading

  • We battled with phonics for years but made no progress. It seemed to be too abstract and did not lead to being able to read. The only words learnt during the phonics years were the high frequency words, which you learn by sight.
  • Eventually we abandoned phonics and started 'Whole Word Reading' or sight reading. We took it slowly and steadily and in two years significant progress was made in reading.
  • Get your child to read at home every day. We now only choose books with minimal visual clutter/busy pictures and stick to only a few lines on each page.
  • For a while we used a black typoscope to display one word at a time. This de-cluttered the page. https://www.partsight.org.uk/catalogsearch/result/?q=typoscopes+reading+guides
  • Create books that you read to your child made up in large font/size/spacing, (this should ideally be assessed by a QTVI with expertise in assessing a print size required for processing (not based on visual acuity ). Further information on this can be found here: https://cviscotland.org/memportal.php?article=75&k=font%20sizes
  • Books can then be bought by families (in the UK), in the appropriate font size, boldness and spacing from Guide Dogs https://www.guidedogs.org.uk/getting-support/help-for-children-and-families/living-independently/customeyes-books/
  • We chose books to read above her reading ability to help improve language, although this may not work for some children.

Writing

  • A sensory approach to learning to write works best i.e. tracing the letters in sand/chalk/paint/clay/slime to build a muscle memory of the shapes.
  • A piece of black material placed on the floor helped our child to see objects/cards/items placed on top of it.
  • Tracing over wiggly lines helps to increase hand eye coordination.
  • Any games that foster fine motor skills are worth playing.
  • Learning through play increases engagement -writing a shopping list for a birthday party etc
  • Storytelling and themed weeks such as fairy tales - read them, write them, do comprehensions, repeating the vocabulary until it embeds.

Language

Communication skills help with reading and writing. Learning 'joining words' such as 'but', 'and' etc helps improve sentence structure. Learning the word 'if' in context helps her understand that there are options and helps to reassure her. Speak slowly and clearly, clearly pronouncing each syllable. 'Declutter' your language, saying the minimum needed.

My next blog will discuss maths, general tips and most importantly, what has not helped!

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