The Austin Assessment website is live! What this means to me

Nicola introduces the Austin Assessment website, developed to support a screening tool for CVI she has been developing.
19 May 2023
Nicola McDowell
Nichola and Lachie from Springload looking at cards placed in a table. They look like working on the app creation. There are also notebooks, coffee cups and stationery on top of the table.

Read this blog on CVI Scotland

After developing cerebral visual impairment when I was 16 years old, I have been on a personal journey to not only make my life easier living with this visual condition, but to also help others experiencing the same challenges as me. But unlike most journeys, I haven’t had a roadmap to guide my way and I still don’t know where the final destination is going to be.

This has made it an extremely challenging journey at times, and I am positive I have taken the scenic route on many occasions, where a much quicker and more direct route would have got me to my current position more easily.

As with all journeys, I have learnt so much along the way, the most important (and probably the hardest lesson) being – don’t focus too much on the destination, just sit back and enjoy the ride. On many occasions I have wanted to give up on the journey or find an exit that would take me somewhere easier and safer, but then I remember who I am doing this for.

This journey is for every single child who has sat in a classroom utterly bewildered and struggling to understand why it is so difficult for them to learn when it seems so easy for their peers. For every child who has stared at a jumble of information on worksheets, in books, on blackboards, on whiteboards, on posters and on handwritten notes, wondering why it doesn’t make any sense. For every child who has struggled to understand what the teacher or their peers were saying. For every child that has had to fight the rising anxiety and panic every time they walk through the crowds in their school environments. For every child who has had to work so hard every single day to function in a world of visual uncertainty, while everyone else seems to be able to glide effortlessly through their day. This was me in my final two and a half years of school and it almost broke me.

This journey is also for every single parent who has supported their child through endless vision assessments. For every parent who has had to watch their child undergo confusing and demoralising vision tests that always leave both of you with a sense of failure. This is for every parent that has walked out of a vision assessment feeling anxious about their child’s vision or uncertain that your concerns were heard. This is for every parent who has had to comfort their child following a vision assessment and reassure them that it will be ok. This is for every parent who has felt unsure of their next step following a vision assessment. My parents and I had to endure the confusion and uncertainty of endless vision assessments with nowhere to go to find information to help us understand what had been assessed and where to go for the next step in the journey.

For the last five years I have been working on a simple screening tool, involving an iPad / iPhone game of matching cards, to identify where CVI might be the cause of visual difficulties. It is called the Austin Assessment App, and the website is now live.

The website is just another short layover on my journey on the way to the final destination. The Austin Assessment website has been created to give parents and professionals the important ‘So what, now what?’ information once they have completed an assessment using the Austin Assessment App. My hope is that it will provide the information I wish my parents and I had been able to access all those years ago.

It does not provide all the answers, but it is a resource to be used to help guide you to the next resource you need for your own journey. Once the dust has settled and the excitement of the website going live has passed, I will get off this layover and continue on with the journey to the next checkpoint – the launch of the ‘Personal’ and ‘Professional’ Austin Assessment Apps.

I had wondered whether the launch of the Apps would be the final destination on this journey, but knowing the twists and turns the journey has already taken, I very much doubt it.

There is still so much work to be done to make the world a better place for those of us with CVI.

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