A brain-related visual disability, which until recently was thought to be rare, may affect one in every 30 children according to new studies on the prevalence of Cerebral Visual Impairment [CVI]. There is no doubt that many children suffer from different kinds of learning difficulties that impede their academic performance. What these disabilities are, though, is sometimes unclear or badly described. For instance, vision difficulties are among the many disorders impacting children’s ability to learn effectively.
The University of Bristol-led findings published in Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology aims to raise awareness of CVI among parents and teachers to help them identify signs of the condition earlier.
The brain is almost as important as the eyes when it comes to seeing, and often vision issues are caused by regions of the brain that are required for vision not to function correctly and cannot be overcome by wearing glasses. Brain-related vision issues cause challenges in turning the eyes, seeing things around in space (visual field), and identifying objects correctly and easily.
Impairment is termed Cortical Vision Impairment (CVI) and has been studied by researchers at Bristol University, based in Bristol, England. Though scientists know that the brain is almost as important as the eyes for seeing, certain vision disorders are caused by brain regions. These regions of the brain are required for vision, and the resulting deficiency cannot be overcome by wearing glasses while it is not functioning properly. Any of the brain-related vision issues include difficulty with turning the eyes, seeing items around in space (visual field), and identifying objects correctly and easily.
Although eye chart tests verify how well a person can see the specifics of a letter or sign from a certain distance, many children with CVI whose acuity is normal or near-normal lack these visual acuity diagnoses (they can read down a chart). The report, sponsored by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), looked at how often school-aged children could have undiagnosed brain-related vision issues.
Researchers at the University of Bristol Medical School gathered information on 2,298 children aged between 5 and 11 years across 12 schools using teacher and parent questionnaires. About 10% of children (262 pupils) were invited to carry out a comprehensive evaluation using standardized assessments to classify children with brain-related vision difficulties indicative of CVI.
The team observed that on average, any class of 30 students, based on their findings, will have one or two children with at least one brain-related vision problem. They observed that no particular condition was more common: issues with eye movements, visual field, object perception, and seeing objects in mess. The team also found that children who had been struggling with literacy and had already been offered additional support at school were more likely to have brain-related vision issues: four of every ten children with special educational conditions had one or more brain-related vision problems, while for all children there were just only three in every 100.
Dr Cathy Williams, the study’s lead author and Associate Professor in Paediatric Ophthalmology at Bristol Medical School: Population Health Sciences and Consultant Paediatric Ophthalmologist at University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust (UHBW), explained: “While this does not prove that these kind of vision problems are the cause of the difficulties with learning for any particular child, it does suggest that attending to children’s visual needs, such as making things bigger or less cluttered, might be a good place to start. If interventions can work to reduce the impact of these problems on children’s learning, it might improve both educational and wellbeing outcomes for children.”
In the future, the writers propose that a comprehensive vision check on all children who seek additional assistance at kindergarten, as well as current pediatric and educational psychological tests, may increase outcomes for children.
“We would like to thank all the teachers, parents, and children who helped support this important study, which is part of the CVI project.”We would like to thank all the teachers, parents, and children who helped support this important study that is part of the CVI project.”While this does not prove that these kinds of vision problems are the cause of the difficulties with learning for any particular child, it does suggest that attending to children’s visual needs, such as making things bigger or less cluttered, might be a good place to start. If interventions can work to reduce the impact of these problems on children’s learning, it might improve both educational and wellbeing outcomes for children.”
While this does not show that these kinds of vision problems are the cause of learning difficulties for any particular child, it does indicate that attending to the visual needs of children, such as making things bigger or literally bigger.