What is CVI?

Cerebral visual impairment (CVI) is an umbrella term for several different vision impairments that are caused by the brain as opposed to the eyes. A child with CVI can be affected by one of these impairments, or many.
Two hands holding an illustration of a brain on top of a light blue background

People with CVI experience the world differently

Children with CVI can have visual perception difficulties and issues, which means they experience the world differently to people without CVI.

This simulation video has been created from the described experiences of people affected by CVI who attend or attended mainstream schools.

A child with CVI might:

  • look like they are not paying attention
  • struggle to stay focused
  • appear easily distracted
  • be overly sensitive and startle often
  • struggle with friendships and be socially withdrawn. 

A child with undiagnosed CVI will often have the following challenges:

  • only see one thing at a time
  • struggle to move their gaze
  • find their vision gets stuck on one thing
  • find their gaze darts about, not finding anything to see
  • struggle to find what they are looking for visually
  • have difficulty with reading and writing
  • find sports and play times sometimes stressful and even frightening
  • quickly become overwhelmed, or feel stressed
  • become visually very tired, affecting their eyes
  • struggle to look and listen at the same time. 

The child is not aware of any of the above happening, as these difficulties are all unconscious brain processes. Their world is an endless exhausting battle against an invisible unconscious enemy. 

The child, unaware of any good reason to explain the difficulties, inevitably blames themselves. We have heard this over and over. 

The Austin Assessment is a screening tool designed to identify these children, to get them the support that we know transforms lives.

Further reading and resources 

This ten-minute video is a basic introduction to CVI and incudes simulations, showing what the world is like for people with CVI. It is narrated by leading international CVI expertProfessor Gordon Dutton. 

The Austin McDowell Foundation works in close collaboration with CVI Scotland, leading CVI experts. There is a wealth of information and resources about CVI that you can access on the CVI Scotland website.