Is Your Child Thriving In The Midst Of Vision Loss? Is Your Loved-One Succeeding Without Sight?

Seven years ago a pediatric ophthalmologist called me at work to say that our 10-year-old son’s retinas were deteriorating. I was so stricken and confused by the words he used – deterioration, progressive, no cure, no treatment – that before we hung up I asked him, “Are you telling me that he’s dying or going blind?” “Blind,” he replied.

The way the news was delivered was so shocking that the memory still brings a visceral pang of grief. With one quick phone call, our lives were changed. We learned that our precious, youngest son, Kai, would go blind. The life we had envisioned for our bright, active child would be dimmed by blindness. We were shattered. We had no template and no understanding of what it meant to live without sight. We had never even met a person who was blind.

Unfortunately, for the first several years our family had to go it alone. We live in a small rural area 3-hours from the nearest blindness advocacy group. Kai was the first child in our county to experience progressive vision loss. We had to chart our own path, figure out our options and make the necessary connections to obtain services for our son.

It’s been 7 years now and we’ve overcome so much. Our son is thriving because of a few very important factors which are highlighted in Kristin Smedley’s new book Thriving Blind.

“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet,
then you must write it.” ― Toni Morrison

Thank goodness Kristin took Toni Morrison’s wisdom to heart and wrote Thriving Blind! Oh, how I wish that our doctor had sat us down and explained what to expect and that our son could still have a wonderful, rich, fulfilling life. Oh, how I wish our doctor had handed us a copy of Kristin’s book which introduces her two sons who were each diagnosed with blindness at 4-months of age. Continue reading “Is Your Child Thriving In The Midst Of Vision Loss? Is Your Loved-One Succeeding Without Sight?”

Managing Money as a Person Who is Blind or Low Vision, Featuring Joe Strechay

A few months ago my oldest, typically-sighted son, Cash, called to say that he and his girlfriend were out hiking and found a beautiful log bridge over a stream. As they were crossing the log bridge, they decided to sit down and relax a bit. After getting comfortable they found themselves free-falling into the water below. The log broke! After air-drying in the sun he realized that his wallet was no longer in his pocket. (I later found out that he’d also lost his passport! But that’s a different story.)

Knowing that he was away from home without a wallet stressed me out and I immediately spun into full-blown-problem-solving-mom-mode. But in the midst of lecturing him and outlining all the steps that would be required to replace his items, I realized that this is his problem to solve and he can handle it. I relaxed, took a deep breath and offered suggestions while feeling a wee bit of satisfaction knowing he was about to embark on a total pain-in-the-butt journey and learn a lot of valuable lessons along the way.

So when my husband found our missing credit card laying on the floor in the van, I’m sure he felt a twinkle of justice knowing that I had been feeling the stress of my disorganized money management methods. Typically, I pay for my purchase then drop my payment method or change into my cavernous disorganized pocketbook. And, sometimes, when I hit the brakes just right the disorganized contents spill out of my unzipped purse onto the floor of the van.

When the hubs pays for something, no matter how long the line is behind him, he painstakingly places his change, payment method, and receipt into the proper spot in his wallet. It. Drives. Me. Nuts.

Now that my youngest, legally blind son, Kai, is spending money away from home without parental supervision, I catch myself wondering: Will he pay too much? Will he get proper change? Will unauthorized charges be placed on his bill? Will he drop his money? Continue reading “Managing Money as a Person Who is Blind or Low Vision, Featuring Joe Strechay”

Noah’s RP Diagnosis Story

Blindsided by Blindness: Noah’s Diagnosis Story By Karen Tantzen

When my son was four years old I found out he was going blind – and I had no prior clue that anything was off with his vision.

Our story starts in September of 2015. I had taken my eldest son, Noah, to his pediatric ophthalmologist in Baton Rouge, Louisiana for a follow up visit. His acuities were off and he’d been prescribed a pretty strong pair of glasses the previous winter. The past spring, his doctor still wasn’t happy with how much Noah’s visual brain had developed since he’d begun wearing glasses, so he’d asked us to come in for an extra check up.

At this appointment, though, Noah’s acuities weren’t what concerned the doctor. The issue was his retinas. Continue reading “Noah’s RP Diagnosis Story”

Kai’s RP Diagnosis Story

When Kai was 4 he had a concussion. We took him to the ER and they did a CT scan. We were told to watch him and he was sent home. He recovered right on schedule.

When Kai was 5 my dad came for a 2-week visit. Our home is small, so having one extra person makes a big difference in our routines — changes in rooms, changes in schedules. Kai began having anxiety during this visit. He had a really hard time with “things being different.”  This anxious behavior continued for a while after the visit but calmed back down eventually.

When Kai was 6 he was on a basketball team. We noticed that when he played he would press and pull on his eyes.  It was worse during the games, but the behavior continued. Some days Kai would actually have what appeared to be bruising at the outside edges of his eyes. And sometimes when he was really tired, I’d notice that his eyes would sort of shoot off to the side repeatedly. We took him to the doctor and were told it was probably allergies and a different manifestation of his anxiety.  (We now know this behavior is called the oculo-digital sign, characterized by poking, rubbing, and/or pressing of the eyes and is very common in visually impaired children.)  Continue reading “Kai’s RP Diagnosis Story”