CVI Program Manager
Perkins School for the Blind
I have been a TVI for 40 years. When I began working, the students on my caseload had visual impairments due to ocular conditions such as ROP, coloboma, albinism, retinal issues or optic nerve issues. I only remember 2-3 children that were classified as “cortically blind”. When working with those students diagnosed as having cortical blindness, I do remember feeling as if my ocular assessment tools and my ocular strategies just didn’t seem appropriate or effective. I thought these students might just be too cognitively involved to use their vision. I often placed these students on “consult” but never really felt I was giving the team much direction. Around 2002, my caseload exploded with more that 50% of my students diagnosed with “cortical” or “cerebral” visual impairment. I attended a lecture at Perkins School for the Blind by Dr. Roman and learned about the capacity for the visual brain to improve its function. What a huge responsibility for me as a TVI! I was no longer working around the eye issue but building visual recognition through the brain’s visual pathways. I knew I needed to understand CVI better and needed to understand what other theorists were saying about CVI. I needed to understand how the visual brain works as well as I understood how the eye worked. I attended lectures and took classes by Dr. Christine Roman, Dr. Gordon Dutton, Dr. Carey Matuba, Dr. William Good, Dr. Lea Hyvärinen, and Dr. Mary Morse in an effort to learn more about how to assess, provide strategies and provide the appropriate environments for learning. This professional journey has given me a new way to look at my student’s visual skills and a new way to assess my students based on the visual characteristics that impact students with CVI. With assessments and tools based on the CVI issues, I get an accurate assessment and can plan the best service to my students with CVI.
Preschool: Birth – five years
Department of Rehabilitation Services
Board of Education and Services for the Blind
My journey to deepening my understanding of CVI began with an optional textbook from my Multiple Disabilities and Vision Impairment course while obtaining my Master’s degree from UMass Boston. Although I was an elementary school teacher and had years of experience with young children, I had limited experience with learners with multiple disabilities. In addition, like most TVI programs, my studies were primarily for learners with ocular visual impairments and total blindness, so I bought all the books.
When I entered the field and had my first caseload, one-third of it was children with a visual diagnosis of CVI. What!? Where was that book? My next step was reaching out to one of my colleagues, Peg Palmer, and asked if she would mentor me so I could better serve these children. And so began my search for knowledge and understanding.
I began attending lectures from experts in the field such as Dr. Christine Roman-Lantzy, Dr. Mary Morse, Dr. Merabet, and TVI’s. I watched YouTube videos of Dr. Dutton. As well as webinars from Perkins and West Virginia Department of Education. I attended 3 and 5-day intensive workshops, completed the NEC CVI Leadership Project and joined and attended the Pediatric Cortical Visual Impairment Society Conferences. In addition, I continued, and continue to, read, read, and read! I searched for, and participated in, whatever I could on the topic of CVI, particularly in the area of neuro-plasticity and brain functioning. All for the sole purpose of trying to learn how to best assess, provide appropriate instruction, and support to the learners on my caseload, and their families and teams.
I am also very fortunate in that I work for a state agency with a group of dedicated professionals who are on this journey with me. Together we are able to share ideas, discuss challenges, deepen our understanding and grow as professionals so that we can learn as much as possible from each other and better serve our learners with CVI.
CVI for the TVI and other Professionals is the next step on this wonderful journey. I am looking forward to learning and growing with you and from you. Welcome.
Preschool: birth – five years
Board of Education and Services for the Blind
My combined interests in young children, child development and vision loss led me to become a TVI. Without realizing how helpful it would be, I had also majored in cultural studies as an undergrad. These studies were very helpful in encountering families from various cultures, especially when home visiting.
As a TVI for over 25 years, I have seen the makeup of my caseload change during the course of my career. The program where I trained to become a TVI focused exclusively on children with ocular vision loss or total blindness. I came into the field feeling prepared and ready for the challenges!
It didn’t take long for me to question that feeling! Children without ocular issues, but very low vision were puzzling to me. Teams and parents looked to me for ideas, strategies and answers but I had nothing to offer. As much as I loved being around these children, I felt unable to help them. Many of my colleagues in Connecticut felt the same way and we began our search for more information. We attended lectures by Dr. Gordon Dutton, Dr. Mary Morse, Robbie Blaha to name a few. Dr. Merabet introduced us to the idea of neuro-plasticity and our discussions with him led him to become interested in Cortical “Blindness” or CVI.
One day, two of my colleagues brought a speaker to Connecticut named Dr. Christine Roman. (kudos to BESB administration, who always took our efforts to learn more seriously and found ways to bring in speakers!). We were stunned by what she presented. The “Ten Characteristics” made our heads spin. I remember leaving her workshop terrified by the idea of getting a slinky and a flashlight to try on some of my students who didn’t use their vision at all.
From those initial lectures, five TVI’s at BESB were selected to study CVI with Dr. Roman (through a Perkins / New England Deaf-Blind Consortium grant) for four years, spending several days with colleagues from all over New England several times each year. Here, we learned about these children in a way we had never dreamed possible: not just getting children with CVI to USE their vision but to help them IMPROVE their vision!
My hope for this nationwide phone call with TVI’s and other professionals working with children with CVI is to share ideas, problem solve, challenge each other and learn more about CVI. At the end of the ten call series, I hope we will all have more tools in our “CVI toolkit” so that our students can progress and learn.
Director of Professional Development
Perkins School for the Blind
I first became aware of CVI when I was an administrator in the Deafblind Program at Perkins in 2000. I have to admit that at the time I really did not understand the significant impact of CVI and/or the potential for improvement. Dr. Roman-Lantzy did provide some trainings at that time with the support of the New England Consortium of Deafblind Projects under the leadership of Dr. Tracy Evans-Luiselli for the staff in the DB program and, at the time, I thought we had all the information we needed!
Well…..now I know better! Since moving into my current position as Director of Perkins eLearning and the Perkins Training Center in 2010 I have seen first hand the desperate need for training that teachers and related service providers have in this area. It has become clear to me that the development of expertise in CVI is ongoing, multi-faceted, and challenging.
Since 2010 Perkins eLearning has held many webinars and webcasts on CVI which include experts such as Dr. Roman-Lantzy, Dr. Dutton, Dr. Lueck, Ellen Mazel, and Matt Tietjen. We also developed the Perkins-Roman CVI Range Endorsement as a way to ensure that professionals who are using that tool are doing so with fidelity. We also offer numerous online moderated and self-paced classes and tutorials on CVI as well as onsite and customized training and we still are not able to keep up with the demand from the field for training.
I hope that the opportunity to engage monthly with professionals in the field will serve to continue to inform us as we continue to develop content as well as be a resource for everyone.