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Children who have a diagnosis of Cortical Visual Impairment, or have some form of brain damage related vision loss, have distinct needs when it comes to literacy exposure and experiences. There are very few commercial books on the market that meet these needs, but by following a few guidelines, “CVI Friendly” books can be created at home or in the classroom setting. When children are learning to use their vision for functional purposes, pre-reading skills can be worked on with custom made books. As students move into Phase III and are resolving CVI Characteristics, there are many strategies that could be used to develop important literary concepts and by creating your own books, individual needs can be met.
Guidelines for creating CVI Friendly books
- Use flat black (non-glossy) heavy paper for the pages. Pro-Click makes a product, which provides Spines and Covers in black, which can be cut to size. The covers are pre-punched to accommodate the spines. This product can be found in most office supply stores.
- Use black, spines or binders, which can be easily opened and closed, as needed (Pro-Click spines can do this). Sometimes you may want to only show one, or maybe two pages at a time, to give choices, and therefore want to click open the spine, take out a page or two, then re-close it.
- Make sure your choice of picture style is appropriate for the student. Does the student need color photos of real objects? Do black and white line drawings work better? Do color illustrations work best? Generally, students in Phase II are better able to interpret color photos of familiar, real objects. Photos should be of only a single object, or person, against a solid contrasting color, such as black, especially when the student is functioning in Phase II.
- Use clear, rubber Bumpers (sold at hardware stores) at the top, right corner of each page, to help separate the pages. This encourages turning the page independently by little fingers and helps with fine motor skills. (NOTE: Bumpers are often used as “little protective feet” under a vase or used on the back of a frame hanging on a wall, so it won’t mar the wall).
- For students in Phase II, use only one item or person in the picture per page. For students in Phase III, two or three items or people can be in the picture, but the picture must be simple (low in complexity and detail).
- When making a book of familiar people (mom, dad, siblings, grandparents, etc.) photograph the person against a solid colored wall (no wall hangings), the upper body of the person and make sure the person is wearing a solid colored shirt. The person’s face should stand out with limited complexity around it.
- When words are added to pages, make sure the font is simple and bold. Use of Ariel or APHont (by APH) works well.
- When words are added to the pages, make sure the font size is appropriate. I find that 24pt. font works well. When your student is in Phase III and many words/sentences are used per page, you may find that double spacing between words and using double line spacing between sentences also helps to create less “visual clutter”.
- When possible, let the student help choose the topic of the book.
- Make custom books using Tablet and/or PC Applications (Apps) such as Pictello, Book Creator and iBooks. Use the App SmartImageSearch to locate specific pictures on the Internet when creating your books. For example, if you are working on the Word Family “at” and want to have pictures representing “at” words, you might search for pictures such as Elmo with a Cat (Elmo’s Cat), Elmo with a Hat (Elmo’s Hat), and Elmo with a Bat (Elmo’s Bat), using SmartImageSearch.
- When your student is ready to have print added to their books, start off with one word to represent the photo or picture on the page. For example if the picture is of Elmo, you might simply add the word, “Elmo” below the picture. When the student is ready for more print, describe the visual target(s) in terms of its salient features. For example, if the target is a favorite ball, you might say, “This is an Oball. The shape is round and the color is orange. When you shake it, it makes a sound like rain coming down.” This same concept can be used when creating books on your Tablet and/or PC using iBooks, PowerPoint, Pictello or Book Creator.
Suggested books to make for the child in Phase II or early Phase III
Favorite People Book which shows one familiar, favorite person per page such as Mom, Dad, brother, sister, caretaker, teacher, grandma and/or grandpa.
Time to Eat Book would include not only familiar, favorite foods the child enjoys, but also familiar mealtime utensils, bowls and cups. If the child enjoys bananas, you could photograph a bright yellow banana placed against a solid, black background. If the child used a favorite sippy cup every day, photograph it alone against a solid contrasting color background.
Favorite Toys Book might include all of the familiar, favored “toys” the child plays with or interacts with. This might include pictures of unique “toys” or favored items the child loves, such as a mylar-like gift bag, a reflective silver pie tin or a cell phone. The photograph should be of one “toy” only. When photographing the “toy”, present it against a solid colored, contrasting background.
Shape Book could focus on simple shapes such as circle, square and triangle. Cut the shapes out of reflective, bright red or yellow mylar-like paper. Use only one shape per page using heavy, black, non-glossy paper. Use SpotLIGHTing techniques to focus visual attention on the reflective shape.
Suggested books to make for the child in Phase III
Experience Book might be about a daily routine that the child is familiar with, such as breakfast. Photograph real objects for the pictures on each page such as the child’s familiar, red bowl, the favored cereal and the chair the child regularly sits in. A single word can be added below each photograph such as, “Cheerios”.
Alphabet Book would have 1 letter on each page with a picture of a familiar target to represent the letter. For example, the first page might be “A” and if your student loves apples, use a photograph of an apple. For “B”, you might have a picture of “Big Bird”, if your student has and is familiar with the Sesame Street big yellow bird.