Visual Impairment

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Niamh's Journey

Early Observations

Very early on, we noticed that Niamh appeared to stare blankly into space and that she would often not acknowledge if an object passed in front of her. When we tried to startle her she would often not even blink, and she would not look at toys placed directly in front of her unless they had an accompanying sound.

Our health visitor banded about the term "Delayed Visual Maturation - DVM" which is characterized by an otherwise normal eye exam in an infant that does not fix or follow or otherwise respond (e.g., blink to threatening object or bright flash of light) to a visual object. By definition, however, at some point in time, usually by about 6 months of age, the infant will start to fix and follow and will then appear as a visually normal infant.

Unfortunately Niamh's ability to fix and follow had not improved by the age of 6 months and detailed VEP & ERG tests revealed that the structure and anatomy of her eye was normal but that her brain was simply not processing the information that her eyes were seeing thus she was not responding in an appropriate way.

Niamh was registered severely visually impaired at the age of 2 and was diagnosed with a Cortical Visual Impairment which meant that it is the brain that is responsible for the impairment and not the eyes themselves.

Treatments

There are no treatments for CVI, it is a neurological phenomenon, but we were advised that the presentation of this condition has the tendency to be intermittent and that at times her vision may process normally.

Therefore repeated attempts to simulate her vision were made and we did notice that on occasions she appeared to respond to visual stimuli in the absence of sound.
We were taught how best to help Niamh but announcing our presence with sound so as not to startle her and by using other sensory options like sound, touch and movement to simulate her development.

+ Information Sheet: Cortical Visual Impairment