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Let's go Strawberry Picking 🍓 - By Laura Garcia and Dr Bronwen Scott

We are truly fortunate to live in a beautiful part of the world where our Winters are filled with many warm sunny days…and opportunities to do so many fun things like Strawberry picking!

I have to confess: we have been living in this gorgeous part of the world for 9 years now and the Strawberry Farm is ten minutes from our house…but I have never been 😲 It’s obviously not something you do every weekend as the price to pick your own strawberries is fairly steep (about $18/kg; which would cover people eating the strawberries as they pick which is a big no-no) but it is a fun family activity to do every now and then. And if your kiddos are anything like mine, they have a keen interest in gardening including how fruits and veggies grow. Unfortunately for my 2 however, I do not have a green thumb, so we take any opportunity to show the children how fruits and veggies grow! 🤷‍♀️🤪

For our CVI kiddos, an activity such as this is perfect! 👌 The Strawberry Farm we visited is fairly relaxed in allowing families to roam free in the fields they ask you to pick from (I would assume most are like this), and the fields are huge, so it was a great opportunity to walk slowly amongst the field without bothering other patrons as we were stopping often to talk about the salient features of the strawberry plant:

· The round green leaves with bumpy edges

· The thin green stems holding the strawberries

· The white flowers with yellow buds in the middle

· The small green strawberries starting to bud from the white flower

· The red strawberries ready to be picked

Pointing out the white flowers to Eva.

It wasn’t difficult for Eva to focus on the juicy strawberries, they were a beautiful bright red.

The fields to walk between are narrow but Eva was happy not using her cane as there was enough contrast for her to see where to step so. Following on from our Zoom Consultation with Eva’s Orthoptist, Natalia, we started using Proprioception to help Eva visually attend to smaller objects such as the flowers blooming or the small green strawberries that can be difficult to see against the green leaves.

By definition, Proprioception is the perception or awareness of the position and movement of the body. By helping Eva point to the object we want her to look at, it helps her eyes direct to it as well.

The narrow fields had enough contrast against the soil for Eva to navigate carefully using her vision.

Another fun activity completed incorporating visual lessons! I would love to hear what family fun activities your family do that makes using vision fun 😊

Proprioception, O&M and CVI

Dr. Bronwen Scott

As Laura has described, proprioception is the awareness and understanding of the position and movement of our body parts in relation to each other and to the environment.

In orientation and mobility (O&M), we are working to develop purposeful movement. Purposeful movement usually develops in children through a combination of the visual system, the proprioceptive system, and the vestibular (our sense of balance) system. When a child has a vision impairment, whether that is through an ocular condition or CVI, the development of purposeful movement may be delayed.

What can we do about that? Firstly, it is really important that your child understands the concepts of their body – the names and functions of all their body parts. You can develop this understanding by talking to your child about their body within the context of their daily routines. Bath time and dressing time are perfect opportunities to practice naming each body part and you can include important spatial concepts like left and right - “I’m washing your left arm”, “Let’s put your shoe on your right foot”. It’s also important to do lots of physical activities and games to develop motor skills. Often O&M specialists will work in collaboration with a physiotherapist if appropriate.

Children with CVI might need to use a lot of their attention to concentrate on developing motor skills, such as sitting, standing or walking. It can be especially challenging for children with CVI and Cerebral Palsy to coordinate their vision and motor skills. This is why you may notice your child seems to use their vision less effectively when learning a new motor skill, but as that motor skill improves, they are able to use their vision more efficiently.

You may also notice your child has difficulty in looking and reaching accurately toward objects. The strategy that Natalia suggested for Eva – pointing to something to help direct her vision – is one way of helping your child understand how to coordinate their body movement and vision together.

If you would like to read some more about the importance of the proprioceptive system in knowing where we are in space, you can read a short blog post by Gordon Dutton here.

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