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What is cerebral visual impairment?

Cerebral visual impairment, or CVI, occurs when there is damage to the brain’s visual pathways. Children with CVI are unable to recognise visual stimuli and therefore struggle to interpret their surroundings. Many children living with cerebral visual impairment have healthy eyes but cannot process what they see.

Children with CVI interpret the world as a kaleidoscope of light and colour. While some can distinguish between the various hues and focus on something specific, they have difficulty understanding it. In addition, poor neurological function plays a significant role in CVI, affecting the area of the brain responsible for interpreting visual data.

What are the symptoms of cerebral visual impairment?

  • Preference for a certain colour, particularly yellow and red
  • Favouring a specific movement such as remaining transfixed to a pinwheel
  • Difficulty interpreting complex imagery
  • Gazing at a light
  • Absent blink reflex
  • Favour a familiar object rather than something new
  • Unable to adapt to new settings because of their poor understanding of something new or visually overwhelming
  • Poor facial recognition

Children with CVI need more time to process new images. Often, CVI is mistaken for a psychological, emotional or neurological disorder, including autism, ADHD, delayed visual maturation, and an autism spectrum disorder. An early, accurate diagnosis will ensure that thorough supportive treatment can be put in place as soon as possible.

How do we treat cerebral visual impairment?

The ophthalmologist will assess the eye’s health to check for abnormalities such as refractive error or crossed eyes that can have a long-term effect on a child’s vision. Corrective eyewear and eye muscle repositioning procedures may assist in repairing an eye abnormality. Usually, the treatment of the child's underlying neurological problem is supportive only.


“Vision is the true creative rhythm”

- Robert Delaunay