These are a selection of stories written by staff members at the Lighthouse of Collier. Our team members develop unique and special relationships with each client, which is reflected in this retelling of each clients’ successes.
Jack is a long time client of the Lighthouse of Collier. He came to the Lighthouse looking for guidance after having had a stroke and losing most of his vision. He also lost the majority of the functioning of the left side of his body.
During the first meeting with the instructor, Jack expressed his deep grief over the trauma of losing his eyesight and functioning of the left side of his body. The first sessions were spent allowing Jack to express his feelings and talking about the phases of the psychosocial adjustment to blindness. Jack understood the process of adjustment to blindness, but he could not accept his losses.
Anastasia is a very energetic and lively three-year-old living with macular dystrophy. She was referred to us about two years ago. Since referral, Anastasia and her family have had frequent home visits from a Lighthouse Instructor focusing on crucial areas such as fine and gross motor skills, and visual efficiency skills. Additionally, the parents have continued to be provided with important resources, and information about Anastasia’s vision and how best to support her in the home.
Recently, her parents made the leap of faith in deciding to send her to a local day care center so she can continue to grow and learn, and meet other kids her age. Anastasia was very excited to start going to “school”.
Soon after, her parents reached out to Lighthouse of Collier to let us know that she was having some growing pains and so the instructor began providing visits to Anastasia at the daycare.
During visits, this instructor noticed that Anastasia was primarily getting frustrated during transition times, such as when the class would go from the classroom to the playground, indicating some light sensitivity, and that she was having trouble locating things in the classroom. So this instructor spent time creating bold large print labels for the different toy cubbies, a large print name tag for Anastasia, and discussing possible accommodations with Anastasia’s classroom teacher for future activities. Also, it was recommended to the family that Anastasia be sent with a hat to the daycare to see if this may help with the dark/light adaptation.
There has been such a change seen in Anastasia since then! She is able to locate everything she needs in her classroom, and she no longer has bouts of frustration when going outside – she has even been line leader when heading to the playground a few times.
Her parents are so thrilled and endlessly grateful for the support they have from Lighthouse of Collier.
Matilda is a 75-year-old client of the Lighthouse. She was diagnosed with Glaucoma and Dry Macular Degeneration 22 years ago.
Matilda was always exceptionally independent and everyone in her apartment knew her as someone that would selflessly help others. However, her advancing vision loss made her feel that she had to confine herself to her apartment. She was very nervous about cooking for herself, she could not read her own writing, she was constantly bumping into and stumbling over obstacles indoors and outdoors. She felt that she could no longer be independent.
Her friend brought her to the Lighthouse of Collier.
Lighthouse of Collier recently selected the recipients for our scholarship fund. One of the recipients is a 19-year-old boy living with retinopathy of prematurity. For this story, we will refer to him as Derek.
Derek has been a client since he was 13 years old. He is a great example of our mission. Throughout his time with Lighthouse, he has worked on job readiness skills, independent living skills, assistive technology, and many other areas of instruction. He regularly worked as a camp counselor for the children’s summer camp and completed work-based learning experiences in the community.
Let’s face it, Collier County is mainly a car-dependent town. The roads are wide, traffic volume is high and for the most part neighborhoods do not connect. Collier is not a pedestrian friendly town. Therefore, crossing these wide streets can pose a challenge for the Collier County residents who cannot drive.
Now imagine trying to navigate streets as a person who is blind or visually impaired. Add to that, crossing a multi-lane intersection with high volume traffic. This is no easy task. Not all people with vision impairment are willing to take the risk.
Whether, working as a TVI in the schools or as a CVRT in an agency (such as the Lighthouse), vision specialists have the unique privilege of following their students’/clients’ growth and successes over a long period of time, sometimes throughout their entire educational career! This is a story about one such young man (“Wyatt”) who has been a Lighthouse client (off and on) since he was in 6th grade.
Self-determination is the ability of a child to advocate for their own needs and desires and make independent choices about their personal preferences and goals in life. It is one of nine areas of the Expanded Core Curriculum that we emphasize with Lighthouse students. Tyler is a 10-year-old boy whose strength is self-determination. His vision is affected by retinopathy of prematurity and absence of a lens in both eyes, but he does not let his condition deter him. He takes an active role in all of his sessions at the Lighthouse, always contributing ideas, opinions and suggestions for activities. Although the instructor prepares a lesson plan, it always transforms into much more based on Tyler’s input. He has an incredibly inquisitive mind and is the go-to guy to assemble games and figure out how things work. With an innate mind for detail and our strongest advocate regarding our move to a new office space, Tyler was intrigued by a tour of the new Center and offices for Lighthouse of Collier and can’t wait to view the renovations. In the meantime he has scoured the blueprints in great detail and indicated his goal of becoming an architect or designer.
Many tools and accommodations have been made available to assist Tyler with his vision, including magnification, talking books, classroom recommendations, touch typing and lighting. Whether playing Monopoly, cooking or viewing blueprints, Tyler makes choices about what tools work best for him. His persistence, problem solving ability, and self-advocacy will serve him well in life. Working with Tyler is a joy and allows one to see things through his unique, inquisitive perspective; he is every bit a teacher as he is a student.
Mary lost her vision about ten years ago from a car accident and complications of diabetes. During the last ten years, Mary had to move home to her mother’s and learn life from scratch. Due to many various reasons, Mary struggled the first few years and had a few setbacks.
Since I met Mary about three and a half years ago, she has completely changed. She is a strong independent woman who decided enough was enough and took charge of her life. She put a renewed sense of self into learning all she can learn not only from the Lighthouse of Collier, but from the Florida Division of Blind Services and other sources. She no longer lets her vision loss define her.
Mary has taken charge of her life and in doing so, Mary now is back in the workforce and just recently moved out of her mother’s place into her own apartment with a roommate.
I started working with William from the very first day I began as an instructor for the Lighthouse of Collier. William has been totally blind now for a few years. He participates in many different group classes provided from the Lighthouse such as: iOS class where we provide instruction on using iPhones, weekly support groups, history club and book club as well as spending time with me once per week going over his iPhone.
Dan is a 78-year old client of the Lighthouse of Collier. He sought out the services of the Lighthouse because he was having trouble reading. He has hereditary cataracts in addition to glaucoma.
His vision impairment was affecting his activities of daily living. But, what upset him the most was how difficult it had become for him to read print. He is an elder in his church. His greatest passion is teaching the Bible and providing sound guidance regarding its interpretation. In order to accomplish his ministry, he spends many hours studying history and theology. He had a CCTV, and magnifiers that were supplied to him by the instructor. However, these low vision devices were not helping him to continue his studies to the extent that he needed. His eyes would become too tired.
Purchase Seeing Beyond Blindness
If you would like to own one of these cocktail table books, please donate a suggested selling price of $35.00 to Lighthouse of Collier and we will send you one straight away.
Lighthouse of Collier dedicated the book to Art Bookbinder, a man who could see beyond blindness. He was a great friend and leader. May he rest in peace. August 1942 – April 2020.