When 3-year-old Walter Collins tried on his first pair of glasses, he immediately wanted them off! He didn't like the feel of them. Besides, he was happy enough climbing, jumping, laughing and being full of life. He didn't yet understand what he was missing.
Born with congenital cataracts, early surgery left him without the lenses needed for focusing. Involuntary eye movements made his already blurry vision even worse. At the Tampa Lighthouse for the Blind, one of several local partners who receives funding from the United Way of Central Florida, a low vision specialist prescribed special glasses. However, even with his glasses, Walter would be legally blind.
An early intervention teacher from the Lighthouse came to Walter's home to conduct a formal evaluation. She assessed his development as lagging by as much as 18-24 months. He had significant speech delays, limited life experiences and difficulty understanding basic concepts.
Working in close partnership with Walter's family, his teacher searched for activities he enjoyed so that she could encourage him to wear his glasses while doing them. Before long, he got used to having them on and it opened up his world!
Suddenly, he discovered his passion for learning new things. He was like a sponge, soaking up the world around him. Pictures, words, games, puzzles and toys all became new adventures. Before long, he was learning his ABCs, identifying colors and counting to 100!
Summer programs at the Lighthouse offered further opportunities for him to make friends with other children with visual impairments and to enjoy activities such as field trips to the Florida Aquarium.
Walter graduated from the Early Intervention Program this past spring and is now in kindergarten. His post-assessment showed that he had gained nearly 400 new skills since starting the program.
But most importantly, he and his family have discovered his thirst for learning about the world around him. This priceless gift is one he will carry with him throughout his lifetime.
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