Putting Pen (or in our case, big blue marker) to Paper

Back when Eva was first diagnosed and we were processing everything that had happened and everything that was going to happen in our new future, I held grave doubts on what she would be able to achieve. Navigating the world with a vision impaired child was completely new to us. I had no idea how she would complete simple tasks, make friends, or read and write.

I started reading at an early age; my thirst for reading anything and everything was fuelled by my daydreaming about fictional worlds, whilst also having a passion about history. My youth (and now adulthood) was surrounded by books, I wanted Eva to learn, daydream and live through books such as Enid Blyton and Roal Dahl, just as I had done but was completely unsure where to start.

We have come a long way since those days of having no idea what Eva would be able to achieve…and boy has she come so far! I want to focus today’s post on how I have recently taught Eva to start putting pen to paper.

Eva has always loved to draw. She scribbles all over the page using different colours (colour was the first CVI function to resolve) and tells me what she is drawing. She uses appropriate colours and placement (the yellow sun at the top of the page) and has started to put some shape structure into her pictures, for example, she likes to draw flowers which to her are little circles for the bud and then the petals in wiggly shapes. At times she can draw a circle and kind of draws a square…in a nutshell, she is trying really hard to make sense of the shapes she is learning to see by visualising them whilst she draws. As she had been doing this for a quite a long time (6mths plus), I thought it best to start pushing her a little by teaching her to copy what I would draw. I probably should have started this much sooner but I want her to be a typical 7 year old and find joy in drawing rather than having to find everything she does be a ‘visual lesson’.

To start with, I grabbed a white sheet of paper and drew a red line in the middle of the paper, and asked Eva to find the red line on the page. Once she did that, I asked her to grab her favourite coloured marker (blue, everything is always blue!) and see if she could put her blue marker on the red line and copy this. After the first attempt I noticed that if she copied the line from top to bottom or left to right, she couldn’t follow the red line as her hand is covering it (Eva is right handed), so I asked her to copy the line from bottom to top and it made the exercise much easier. Our results are below. Rarely does she place the marker directly on-top of the red line, but it is clear she is copying it, and using her vision to see where the red line is. It is challenging to for Eva to follow the red line using her vision, whilst also keeping the blue marker straight, and ontop of the red line. But this is progress!

We have been taking ten minutes out of each day to do a few pages of line drawing, We do vertical and horizontal lines, short and long lines. I am constantly reminding her to ensure she is watching the line where it begins and where it ends. The prompting won’t be required when she has mastered this task, but for the time being, I am trying to give her brain a break from having to remember so much. There is a theory (and I cannot remember where I read this) that the age of the child is the age you spend doing intense visual tasks per day. Eva is 7 years old so we do approximately 7-10 minutes per day. If you have heard this or other contradicting information, I would love to know please as I am unsure of the validity of this theory.

We have also started trying to connect the lines together, so I have created simple L and V shapes. Initially, I covered one side of the shape so Eva was only seeing one line, and then when she became comfortable with the ‘clutter’ (i.e. the lines) I stopped covering them.

Right now, adding more than three or more lines to make a triangle or square is beyond Eva’s visual capacity so we are working to strengthen this task. Below you can see how Eva is tackling three plus lines:

You can see it’s challenging and I do not want to overwhelm her so we are taking it slow. The same can also be said for round shapes – we attempted this and as much as Eva got the concept (she can freely draw circles but the ends do not join), I feel that we need to take a step back and go slow. Her first effort below was fantastic though, if I don’t say so myself!

Size was another factor, especially when it came to drawing shapes with 2 or more lines. Through trial and error, we worked out what was too small, and what was just right. The shape above the circle in the image above, was probably too big. In the image below you can see with the same shape slightly smaller, Eva would trace the lines much better. The images next to it where too small, even thought they are only a few sizes smaller – size makes a huge difference and needs to be kept in mind (along with everything else…I know, it’s so hard to keep remembering all of this!). Before we started on the ‘just right’ shape, I asked Eva to put on reading glasses. Professor Gordon Dutton (https://www.cviscotland.org/) points out to never discount a CVI child’s need for glasses. He has suggested getting the child checked out by a professional that understand CVI as well as Optometry. A refraction of at least 1.5 should be tested on children and then work from there. The reading glasses I asked Eva to wear had a refraction of 3.0 and immediately she said she couldn’t see anything…which was fantastic! because once again she is old enough to be tell me what is working and what is not.

I could have started this writing project so long ago, as I mentioned above, but apart from wanting her to enjoy drawing and writing, I feel that she has the capability NOW to be able to do this – she is age appropriate, she has more visual awareness, and she is starting to say things like “I am going to write a letter to so-so, instead of using my Brailler” so she is aware of the differences and is keen to try different methods. I am more than happy for her to explore both methods of writing if she is capable and interested.

Until next time, and please do let me know what methods have worked for your children, I am also very keen to hear what other amazing parents are up to!

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