Causes of CVI can include:

  • Asphyxia; 

  • Stroke;

  • Traumatic brain injury; 

  • Infection (such as meningitis or toxoplasmosis); and 

  • Tumour. 

CVI can coexist with ocular vision impairment.



If you believe you or a family member may have CVI, you may like to talk to your regular health care provider who may suggest referral to an ophthalmologist and other medical and allied health professionals who can provide support.

CVI is indicated when all the following characteristics exist:

  • An ocular eye exam that is normal or cannot explain the functional vision impairment; 

  • A history of a significant congenital or acquired brain injury or neurological disorder; and 

  • The presence of unique visual characteristics and behaviours associated with CVI.



Each child and person with CVI is unique in the way they perceive the world around them. There are 10 common characteristics and behaviours that may be present in children with CVI. These characteristics may appear to fluctuate depending on the complexity of the surrounding environment.

Row of Colored Pencils

Many children with CVI show a strong colour preference by visually attending to objects of a certain colour.

Geography Lesson

Visual latency is when there is a delayed response to look towards a visual target. These delays can be significant, up to 20 seconds or more.

Shopping Mall Escalators

Visual complexity involves three parts:

  • The pattern or complexity of an object itself; 

  • The visual background surrounding the object (i.e. the visual array);

  • The total sensory environment. 

Children with CVI may become overwhelmed and unable to process what they are seeing depending on visual and sensory complexity. Sensory complexity includes any other competing sensory input such as sound or touch, and it also includes physical (postural) demands and fatigue.

Distant Waterfall

As objects are further away, they become a smaller part of the overall picture, and may not be as easily discriminated.


Distance viewing is associated with visual array complexity. The closer an object is when viewed, the less cluttered the background appears to be.


Children with CVI often respond best visually to shiny and reflective objects, or objects that move.

White Vegetable Composition

Children with CVI may have difficulty visually attending to unfamiliar objects, showing preference for familiar objects that are of a particular colour or pattern.

Foggy Pier

Many children with CVI have strong visual field preferences (e.g. left or right side, or upper visual field).

Forest Trees

Children with CVI may stare at light sources for extended periods of time.

Image by Brandon Day

There are two visual reflexes:

  • One is where the child blinks simultaneously to a touch at the bridge of the nose.

  • The second reflex is when they blink as a visual threat (e.g. an open hand) moves quickly towards the face at midline. A child with CVI commonly presents with absent or delayed visual reflexes.

Asking for Pacifier

Visually guided reach refers to the ability to look at and reach for an object simultaneously. A common pattern seen in many children with CVI is to look toward an object, look away, and then reach for it.


Any child who has a diagnosis of CVI from an ophthalmologist or other medical specialist should have their functional vision assessed.


One assessment is the CVI Range.


If a child does not have a diagnosis but has sustained brain or neurological damage and is displaying the visual behaviours and characteristics associated with CVI, a functional vision assessment using the CVI Range is still recommended. If you believe you or a family member may have CVI, you may like to talk to your regular health care provider who may suggest referral to an opthamologist and other medical professional to confirm the diagnosis.


How CVI is assessed


The CVI Range assesses for both the presence and the impact of each of the visual characteristics and behaviours described above. This information is collected through:

  • An interview with parents and educators,

  • Observation of the child in the home and education settings, and

  • Direct assessment of the child.


Information from all three elements are used to determine a CVI Range ‘score’. From this score, the child is assessed at being at one of three phases of CVI. This information is used to determine appropriate intervention for the child.

Interventions are individual but providers may also help to connect you with other families and professionals.