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.
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.
Jeremy is an 18-year-old student with cortical vision impairment and cerebral palsy. Communication is a challenge for Jeremy, as he is nonverbal and has difficulty controlling his movements. As a result, it is important to communicate with Jeremy’s family to formulate goals that are meaningful to him. One particular goal was to increase social interaction with family, friends and teachers using a voice generating switch.
Lighthouse of Collier, Florida Division of Blind Services (DBS) and Jeremy’s parents all contributed to purchasing a switch, heavy-duty mounting arm and mounting plate. Jeremy’s father and brother pitched in to record approximately ten messages, ranging from hilarious movie quotes to favorite foods and music preferences.
Marion is a cultured and intelligent retired art-dealer (“Colorist”) and self-described “foodie” who is functionally blind from a history of issues with her vitreous fluid. She has little remaining vision, which occasionally enables her to see high contrast icons on her phone. However, Marion is unable to read print and requires the white cane for mobility outside of the home.
Marion has been a client off/on for the past few years and has participated in the art/clay classes and ILS workshops. She also received assistance with using the CAT Bus and self-advocacy training to request shopping assistance at Publix (to purchase hard-to-find cooking ingredients for her artistic cuisine).
As a result of the legislative grant, Lighthouse of Collier is able to provide a robust home services program. Through that program, services are provided to Nathan. He is an elderly veteran man living alone and has no family to take care of him in the area. Nathan cannot drive and did not have access to resources that would provide him rides when he initially became a client.
Nathan has learned tools, tips, techniques, and trainings to make his everyday life easier. One of the most useful tools he has learned is how to use Collier Area Paratransit System to take him around town and to important appointments. Nathan has become more independent because of his ability to obtain transportation. More information on this service can be found at: https://www.colliercountyfl.gov/your-government/divisions-f-r/public-transit-neighborhood-enhancement/our-services/collier-area-paratransit-system-7568
Justin is a 10-year-old boy living with Down syndrome, amblyopia, and a recent diagnosis of congenital cataracts. Justin’s mother reports what a difficult time the pandemic has been for Justin. Video conferences cause significant stress for him and have been triggering behavioral problems.
Justin’s mother reached out to the Lighthouse because Justin had a recent eye exam and was prescribed new lenses. She explained that these new lenses enabled Justin to read independently with ease, which is something he had struggled to do for some time. These struggles were frustrating for Justin, who loves to read. She stated how these lenses would meaningfully help him this upcoming school year, especially with the new online platform, but it would be difficult to afford them.
Lighthouse of Collier and the Naples Lions Club agreed to each provide half of the amount needed to purchase the new lenses. When Justin’s mother was informed of the good news, she was ecstatic. She stated that this was a “ray of light in the midst of these difficult times,” and that she was beyond grateful for the generosity of the Lions Club and Lighthouse of Collier.
Kathy is a young, working-age woman who went completely blind about eight years ago. She has been receiving services from the Lighthouse on and off for the past five years. The first four of those years, Kathy made minimal progress while she struggled with medical issues. However, over the past year her health has improved, making it possible for her to attend classes on a regular basis.
In that time, Kathy learned how to navigate a computer using only JAWS screen reading software and Windows keyboard commands. She is quick to grasp and retain new concepts with little assistance. In fact, she often troubleshoots a problem on her own. Kathy’s newly learned computer skills make it easy for her to attend remote classes the Lighthouse offers. She regularly attends the Tuesday coffee chat, independent living workshops, Wednesday support group, and history/book club, and meets for individual technology lessons.
As a new client with the Lighthouse in 2013, single, totally blind, and having just moved from Chicago to Naples, Susan required extensive orientation and mobility support. After several months of instruction, Susan learned to navigate her apartment community and nearby shopping areas. She also gained an understanding of the city layout after being provided with her own tactile/braille map of Naples.
Susan became a familiar face at the Lighthouse. She attended braille classes, pursued technology training for JAWS screen reading and voiceover, and received one-on-one lessons to learn skills such as using her Instant Pot, creating calendar appointments through her Google Home Mini, and help with tips to sort and identify her medications. Over time, Susan’s technology skills were so advanced that she was one of only a few clients who had mastered the ability to play podcasts and free library movies on her iPhone.
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.