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Functional Vision Evaluation … Seeing What Children See
By Beth Ramella, M.Ed., TVI/COMS

A functional vision evaluation (FVE) is an educational assessment tool for children with diagnosed or suspected visual impairment. Not the same as a routine eye exam, a FVE is an observational analysis conducted by Teachers of the Visually Impaired to determine the extent a child's functional use of their vision and the impact it has on everyday learning.

What do they actually see and where do they see it best? The experts at the Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children (WPSBC) Outreach Program will help answer these questions and make recommendations to help your child learn to use his or her vision more effectively.

WPSBC offers two different approaches to visual evaluations depending upon the child's diagnosis. For children with ocular forms of visual impairment, a FVE is conducted. An ocular impairment is any condition, such as refractive error, that affects visual function.

The FVE considers the following areas:

  • Visual field use
  • Functional acuity
  • Visual pursuit
  • Eye-hand use
  • Eye-teaming behaviors
  • Color/pattern/contrast considerations
  • Lighting needs

In addition to the FVE, WPSBC also offers assessments specific for children with Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI). The CVI Range Assessment (Roman, 2007) is an evaluation for children with diagnosed or suspected CVI, a neurological disorder that affects the visual pathways to the brain. Each child is assigned a score between 0-10 after being assessed for each of the 10 behavioral characteristics associated with CVI.

Characteristics associated with CVI include:

  • Color preference
  • Need for movement
  • Visual latency
  • Visual field preferences
  • Difficulty with visual complexity
  • Light-gazing or non-purposeful gaze
  • Difficulty with distance
  • Typical visual responses
  • Difficulty with visual novelty
  • Absence of visually guided reach

For either a FVE or CVI Range Assessment (Roman, 2007), information is gathered through observation, play and parent interview and can conducted in the home, school or other appropriate setting. A full report containing information about the child's vision, suggestions for adaptations or modifications to learning materials or environment and/or recommendations for service is provided following the evaluation.

For more information, contact Beth Ramella, WPSBC Director of Outreach, at (412) 621-0100 or ramellab@wpsbc.org or visit www.wpsbc.org.

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