What Is CVI?

How Is CVI Different?

There are fundamental differences between cortical visual impairment and ocular visual impairment.

CVI is brain-based. CVI is a problem with the visual processing centers and visual pathways of the brain, not the eye.1 Because the brain has the ability to change, known as neuroplasticity, it is expected that the functional vision of a child with CVI can improve.

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“A congenital or acquired brain-based visual impairment with onset in childhood, unexplained by an ocular disorder, and associated with unique visual and behavioral characteristics.”

American Conference on Pediatric Cortical Visual Impairment


This interdisciplinary definition was crafted by professionals from the fields of visual education, ophthalmology, optometry, and occupational therapy. It serves as the beginning of a common language between disciplines.

Though ocular disease can co-exist in a child with CVI, it does not explain the visual loss that the examiner is witnessing. Children who have CVI demonstrate unique visual and behavioral characteristics. Note that there is no mention of visual acuity, visual field, color vision, contrast sensitivity, or stereopsis in this definition.

In addition to a doctor’s diagnosis, children with CVI should receive an appropriate functional vision assessment with a specific protocol for CVI, known as the CVI Range©.2 With early, intentional interventions based on the CVI Range score, children can improve their functional vision.

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1 Jan, J.E., Groenveld, M. (January 1993). Visual Behaviors and Adaptations Associated With Cortical and Ocular Impairment in Children. Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness, 87(4).

2Roman-Lantzy, C. (2018). Cortical Visual Impairment: An Approach to Assessment and Intervention. 2nd ed., New York, NY: AFB Press.


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