A youngster with microcephaly started in the mainstream nursery this morning and it was an interesting if challenging experience. So for the benefit of all concerned and other teachers out there who are supporting young children with CVI I will offer some reflective thoughts.
I’ll give him a name, ‘Georgie’ – obviously not his real name. My first observation is that he was sat at a table with Playdo and a number of other things in front of him. Now it has been said many times in these pages that CVI gives rise to attentional difficulties. In practice this means that when looking at a crowded scene Georgie will usually be initially confused and this was the case today. He did not reach out to take the clay and he did not look at it. But then we removed everything but the clay from his field of view and low and behold what did he do? He reached out straight away and took hold of the clay. He saw it for the first time. When it was surrounded by other things he didn’t see but when it was on its own he saw it. Admittedly he didn’t hold it for long but he did hold it. Unfortunately he was actually quite soon after distracted away from it and he let go.
Distraction is one of his main challenges in the nursery. There is a lot of patterned background on the floor and on the walls. There are many, many objects, musical instruments and toys and all sorts of things in a child’s immediate surroundings. All of these likely provide a form of visual distraction for Georgie. Then there are the several adults’ smiley faces and Georgie loves to look at smiley faces. He is real charmer and can get anyone to smile back. The trouble is that those faces can too easily become a distraction for Georgie and take him away from the Playdo and other objects and surfaces he could be experiencing. Then after an hour other children started to come into his space and the noise level rose and that wasn’t good for Georgie. He started to look around and lost his concentration completely.
However there were some really positive things today. Georgie sat on a rug (heavily patterned unfortunately but never mind), and started to play with a drum. This occupied him for a good few minutes until he fell over backwards and banged his head and needed some serious comforting. But for all the time he was banging on the drum he was getting positive feedback and he turned the drum over and around and explored it and then banged his hand on it again. A wonderful experience. I suspect he has a drum at home and he takes to this because it is familiar. Familiarity is important for kids like Georgie. They take time to get used to anything new and giving him something familiar to play with is a great idea.
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