FAQ about cortical visual impairment (CVI)

What is CVI?
According to Dr. Roman-Lantzy, “CVI is a term that may be used to describe a condition when a child or adult is visually unresponsive, but has a normal eye examination or an eye exam that cannot explain the individual’s significant lack of visual function.” CVI differs from other types of visual impairment which are due to physical problems with the eyes. CVI is caused by damage to the visual centers of the brain, which interferes with communication between the brain and the eyes. The eyes are able to see, but the brain is not interpreting what is being seen.
For more information about CVI, please refer to our What is CVI? page.

Is there a cure?
There is no cure, per se. However, with intervention dramatic improvement is possible. To get started, read our What to Do page.

Does my child have CVI?
We are not able to diagnose any child with CVI. The first step is to review the characteristics of CVI listed on the What is CVI? page. If you feel these characteristics are representative of your child, we suggest you contact a vision specialist for a diagnosis. Ophthalmologists may not diagnose CVI as they are primarily concerned with the physical condition of the eyes. Diagnosis may come from a vision teacher, vision specialist or other professional familiar with CVI.

What can I do once I know my child has CVI?
Learn everything you can about the condition and begin intervening immediately. Unlike many physical issues most CVI children have, this one is relatively simple and straightforward to improve.

For more information about strategies for helping your child with CVI, see our What to Do page and our Tips & Ideas page.

Where can I learn more?
A book we recommend is Cortical Visual Impairment: An Approach to Assessment and Intervention by Christine Roman-Lantzy. There is also an online class offered by Gordon Dutton, M.D., a pediatric ophthalmologist from Glasgow, Scotland. The American Printing House for the Blind offers research papers on CVI. For links to these and other resources, check out our CVI Resources page.

What makes Little Bear Sees qualified to provide this information?
We are not experts, but we have a child with CVI and have worked with him every day using the information and strategies that are provided on this site. We have seen enormous changes in Little Bear’s vision as a result of this intervention. During this process we have been frustrated by how little information is available about CVI. We believe that many children are misdiagnosed or not diagnosed, and the purpose of Little Bear Sees is to provide this information to as many people as possible.

What causes CVI?
There are many possible causes of CVI. Populations that are typically at risk include premature babies, and those with neurological disorders or brain injury. According to Dr. Roman-Lantzy, “CVI is attributable to damage, injury, or insult to the brain”.

Why isn’t CVI more well known?
We don’t have a concrete answer to this question. It may be a result of the fact that babies born prematurely and children with various brain injuries are now surviving at higher rates than ever. According to Dr. Roman-Lantzy, CVI is the leading diagnosis of visual impairment in children in the U.S. As these children enter the health care and education systems, CVI is beginning to get the attention it deserves. When we first learned that Little Bear had CVI, we were amazed and excited that there WAS something we could do about it. At the same time, we have been shocked and dismayed at how little information is available and how this is preventing other children with CVI from getting the help that they need. That is why we have built this site. We believe everyone who has children with CVI need as much information as possible.