Cortical Visual Impairment

Hello Fellow SLPs,
Many thanks to Eric for inviting me to do a guest post on his blog. In my district, I am a specialist in AAC; I especially enjoy working with students who have multiple or complex disabilities. This post is an addendum to Eric’s recent post regarding Linda Burkhart’s presentation at CSUN on cortical visual impairment.

I, too, attended this workshop, although it was earlier this year, in North County (San Diego, CA). I came back inspired, and got to work immediately to create some materials for my elementary students who have visual impairments and are (as Dynavox puts it) “Emergent Communicators” (i.e. possibly ready to learn simple symbolic communication at a single-word or single-phrase stage; not yet talking). Below is a description and a link to those materials.

The context for these materials is this: students with cortical visual (and, in this case, low vision) impairments need high-contrast, low-complexity visual stimuli if they are to access them. For AAC symbols, students also need a competent model to learn from. Teaching the symbols is not enough – they must be used, in context, by a role model (such as ourselves!). But perhaps I am preaching to the choir. Let’s talk about the symbols I made and am now sharing (through Eric and his excellent blog) with any of you who would like them.

These particular icons have black backgrounds and red, yellow, or bright green symbols, without visually distracting elements. They are large (about 4″ by 4″). I chose the target words/concepts based partly on pragmatic intentions, as described by Gayle Porter in her PODD system (Pragmitically Organized Dynamic Displays). I use the icons myself during activites; for example, if I make a mistake, I might point to the “Uh-oh” icon, say “uh-uh,” and make an exaggerated facial expression. In our class, the icons are presented in pairs, in a folding booklet with two on one side and two on the other. At any point, we might be using the booklet with, for example, “more” and “all done” on one side, and “like” and “don’t like” on the other. Then, we can comment (“I like this!”), ask for more, and so forth, throughout a play-based activity. You will see on the file that the pairs print together, and are in contrasting colors so they are easy to tell apart. But feel free to adapt them to your own needs, of course.

The Boardmaker file, entitled High-Contrast Symbols, can be accessed here on Adapted Learning.

Greetings to you all, and keep fighting the good fight. 🙂


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