Insight E-Newsletter - September 2012

Welcome to the September edition of “Insight”! This month, we talk to students with vision loss about their school experiences and learn the importance of transitional skills for youth participating in CNIB’s SCORE program. Next, we look at what parents need to know about eye exams for their kids.



Mind over matter: Young students with sight loss talk about their will to learn

Image of BreannGetting the most out of the classroom experience can be a challenge when you are blind or partially sighted, particularly if you‘ve been affected by vision loss at a young age. So we asked students with sight loss to share their experiences and success stories.  

Anthony, 17, Acton, Ontario  

The teacher at Anthony’s school always wrote with red chalk on the blackboard. Anthony, then 13, had to walk up to the blackboard every time so that he could read it. The teacher refused to use white chalk when asked, thinking Anthony had a learning disability. 

He didn’t. Anthony had severe myopia. 

Glasses helped him see better, but it was because of CNIB that Anthony was able to regain confidence in his ability to learn. CNIB provided him with a CCTV to magnify class materials and large print books. 

He also credits his educational assistant with helping provide his teachers with alternatives to visually-based assignments, making it easier for his teachers to accommodate Anthony’s individual needs. 

With confidence restored in his ability to learn, and new tools at his disposal, nothing holds Anthony back from achieving whatever he puts his mind too. Nowadays, he’s happy he can read and learn just like everybody else.  

Brieann, 16, Edmonton, Alberta

Brieann admits she wasn’t always very outspoken about her vision loss.

“I was not really confident in my younger years, because I didn’t want to inconvenience others,” she says.

Brieann has oculocutaneous albinism and can’t see blue or green. While she prefers print, some teachers still wrote out their comments in handwriting, making it difficult for her to read. 

Her advice? “Be your own advocate: ask the teachers to write in black. Teachers tend to respect you more if you advocate for yourself,” she says.  

She admits to learning a lot about the importance of being outspoken from CNIB’s independent travel specialists. Edmonton transit doesn’t have audio announcing the stops (though there are plans to implement this in the future), and CNIB’s specialists helped her be more confident in asking the driver to announce the stops.

When asked what she wants to do with her future, she replies quickly and without hesitation: “A vision consultant, braille consultant or a teacher,” she says. 

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Youth SCORE top marks with specialized program preparing them for the future

Image of a woman reading brailleCNIB’s dedicated employees and volunteers work with children and youth to ensure they have the confidence, skills and opportunities to fully participate in life. To help further this mission, CNIB’s SCORE program, which stands for Skills, Confidence and Opportunities through Recreation and Education, offers four levels for children and their families, empowering kids to explore their world, improve their self-confidence and build a better future for themselves.

We had the opportunity to hear how kids participating in SCORE from different parts of Canada were doing in this year’s program. 

Shelby, 17, Sudbury, ON 

Shelby has been to CNIB’s Lake Joe camp nine times since grade 5. Now going into her final year of high school, she’s back as part of the SCORE 4 program, the first week of which is a fun-filled orientation at the beautiful Muskoka, Ontario facility.* 

Throughout the week, Shelby got a chance to meet adults and kids her age who are also blind or partially sighted. She says the orientation puts her in a comfort zone, while the educational games teach the importance of socializing. 

The second part of SCORE 4, which she affectionately calls “Toronto Week,” taught her the importance of volunteering. At the Good Shepherd homeless shelter, Shelby learned what kind of commitment it takes to help others.

“It made me more aware of the system of volunteering and how important it is to be on time, because others are always relying on you to be there for them.”

That commitment to helping others is something Shelby, who has retinopathy in one eye, wants to express through art. She loves to draw animals and nature and wants to illustrate books or study art therapy, believing the best way to help others is through your talents.

Jordan, 19, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

He’s too humble to admit to being a leader, but Jordan certainly has all the qualities of one – including the ability to motivate others.

As part of CNIB’s SCORE 4 program for teens, Jordan and his group visited the Good Shepherd homeless shelter, making beds and folding towels for the city’s homeless population. The work is hard, so when Jordan saw his group’s enthusiasm dropping, he reminded them of why they were there. 

“To know that someone’s going to be warm at night is what gives me the most gratification, because I know that I had something to do with that.”

He says his experiences at SCORE have inspired him to continue volunteering, and he’s been in contact with career counselors to make this happen when he gets back to Saskatoon.

What he’ll miss the most about SCORE, though, is the people.

“The people are the most important thing about SCORE. It helped me to know others had similar vision challenges,” says Jordan, who has optic nerve hypoplasia. 

Meet more amazing teens from SCORE 2012

Want to learn more about CNIB’s SCORE program​? You can get the story straight from this year’s inspiring young participants, who recently joined CNIB president and CEO John Rafferty in the studio for a special SCORE edition of our Visioncast podcast.

* CNIB’s Lake Joseph Centre, located in beautiful Muskoka, Ontario, is also host to the iFactor, a nationwide singing competition for Canadians living with vision loss. Thank you to Accessible Media Inc. and The Kololian Foundation for their generous support for this year’s competition.

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Kids and eye exams: what you need to know

Image of child and optometrist during an eye examAs you shop for back-to-school notebooks and new clothes for your kids this fall, consider this: new data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) suggests that while 32 per cent of children between the ages of 12 and 18 wore corrective lenses, more than 20 per cent living without had reduced vision as a result. 

Despite this, many parents don’t get their children’s eyes checked until it’s clear they need their first pair of glasses. That’s why CNIB is urging you to get the facts about your kids’ eye health. 

Early detection through eye exams 

The reality is that vision loss can happen to anyone at any age, and many eye conditions have no symptoms in the early stages. Eye exams at an early age are absolutely essential to detect an eye disease or a condition that could lead to vision loss. 

“We as Canadians can do a lot more to maintain our kids’ vision health,” commented Dr. Keith Gordon, CNIB’s Vice President of Research. “They only get one pair of eyes and they need to last them a lifetime.”

CNIB recommends that parents should take their child for their first eye exam between six and nine months of age. Children should also have at least one eye exam between the ages of two and five, and regular yearly eye exams should take place until the child turns 19. 

The exception to the rule 

It’s important to note that kids who have eye disease or have risk factors that make them more prone to develop eye disease may need to see their eye doctor more frequently than the guidelines given above. 

Since all medical situations are unique – as are the risk factors that apply to eye disease – we encourage you to follow the recommendation of your child’s eye doctor with respect to your individual need for eye exams.

As Dr. Gordon explains, many serious eye diseases have no symptoms, so even if they have 20/20 vision they could still be at risk of developing an eye disease. 

Finally, it’s also important to note that you should always see your eye doctor right away if you notice changes in your child’s vision. 

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Image of a woman reading brailleMonthly Giving - Become a Partner in Vision

More than three million Canadians are unable to read print because of vision loss. And yet, less than five percent of published materials in Canada are available in alternative formats like audio and braille. Your monthly support isn’t just about purchasing reading materials. It’s about improving lives and giving Canadians who are blind or partially sighted the joy of reading and lifelong learning.​ Become a Reading Partner today.​​

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