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CVI Clinic at Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children Provides Expert Vision Assessment
By Nancy Kennedy

A lot of wonderful things happen at the Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children, the region’s renowned institution dedicated to the education and development of children with visual impairment and other disabilities. It is an exemplary organization that has for 130 years pioneered numerous innovations and programs that have vastly improved the lives of children and families and it continues to do so in 2018.

Evidence of that leadership can be found in the WPSBC’s Cortical Visual Impairment Clinic, commonly known as CVI Clinic. CVI is a form of visual impairment in which the interference in visual function does not exist in the eye itself, but in the brain; the structures of the eye, including the optic nerve, are healthy. CVI occurs in the vision pathways and visual processing centers of the brain. Simply stated, cortical visual impairment is brain based, while ocular visual impairment is eye based.

“The problem is in the transmission from brain to eye,” says Beth Ramella, Director of Outreach Services and CVI Project Leader, who oversees the CVI Clinic program. “CVI is the result of an insult to the brain or neurological disorder. It can be from anoxia (lack of oxygen), trauma, non-accidental trauma, stroke or brain hemorrhage, near-drowning, or ventricular shunt malfunctioning, or it may be due to a congenital brain anomaly. At WPSBC, 80% of the kids on our campus have been diagnosed with CVI. It is often undiagnosed or underdiagnosed; this is an underserved population because there has traditionally been a ‘wait and see’ approach but eye doctors and pediatricians are increasingly aware of it and are making referrals to us earlier. This is critical because early intervention makes a significant difference; the plasticity (ability to adapt and change) of the brain of an infant is even better than initially thought.”

Held several times throughout the year, the CVI Clinic provides expert assessments and recommendations for children who have been referred by ophthamologists. Ramella runs the clinic, but she will see an individual child anytime. She and her colleagues perform CVI Range assessment and functional visual assessment and provide recommendations based on the results for home and school. Parents receive a detailed report and plan for interventions, including educational resources to call.

There is no charge for the service if parents can travel to the WPSBC campus. Parents and siblings can come along and stay in the Guest Room while the child is having the assessment. The child’s teachers and entire team are welcome to attend, too.

“We are a resource to school districts, also,” Ramella explains. “We go to school districts and teach the teachers, offering CVI training and other services. At WPSBC, all staff members receive CVI training. We want people to know about us; if you need help, it’s available here, and it‘s free.”

CVI clinics in 2018 will take place on January 12, February 9 and March 2, with additional dates to be announced.
To learn more, visit www.wpsbc.org.

To contact Beth Ramella or make an appointment for CVI assessment, call (412) 621-0100 Ext. 379 or email her at ramellab@wpsbc.org.

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