Little changes make a big difference to Zavier
For six-year-old Zavier Price and his mum Stacey Hampson, the little things are helping him make the most of school.
Thanks to a team of support workers including orthoptists at Vision Australia, Zavier has the confidence to go to school and match his classmates.
Zavier was born with Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis, a rare genetic eye condition that affects the development of cells in the retina, the portion of the eye that detects light and colour.
He is legally blind and colour blind with 6/60 vision – he can see at 6m something that people with average vision can see at 60m.
Stacey says Vision Australia has worked with Zavier since he was a year old, and is working diligently to smooth his transition to classroom life at Eaglehawk North Primary School.
Virginia McDonald is a Vision Australia orthoptist. Orthoptists are eye care professionals who specialise in detecting, diagnosing and treating vision and eye disorders and offering interventions to optimise a client’s visual potential.
“I can’t tell you how satisfied this makes me feel when my skills and knowledge impact the lifelong visual outcome for a kid and their development,” Virginia says.
Virginia has provided a detailed assessment of the conditions Zavier works in at school – lighting, furniture positioning, his seating position in classrooms and the technology he’ll use.
Lighting in various parts of the school was upgraded with brighter fluorescent tubes, with some dimmer switches installed for finer adjustment.
He uses a magnifying desk lamp in his class and the art room, with a specialised lamp for computer work. The school fitted curtains to reduce glare.
Vision Australia has loaned Zavier an iPad, with settings configured just for him.
He now has Magic computer magnification software that also adjusts screen colour and contrast and speaks as Zavier types, a CCTV desktop magnifier for reading, a high-visibility keyboard, a large computer monitor.
Virginia also has coached Zavier to improve his social skills and coached his schoolmates and teachers about his condition and the social skills they need to interact with him. He also has a braille teacher.
Virginia says many of the changes weren’t difficult or costly but allow Zavier to access the classroom like any other child.
“I visited his class and I was delighted to see all the changes I recommended had been implemented,” she says.
“His assistive technology, lighting and magnification, seating position and contrast strategies had all been set up as I had outlined. I went home with a big smile on my face.”
Stacey says Zavier has grown remarkably since starting school.
“When he started school, Zav was doing tests but he wasn’t able to complete them because he can’t see colours and he can’t see pencil lines,” she says.
“Vision Australia has also worked with specialist teachers who have brought in labels so that he can use his colours. Little things like that have been so helpful and let him do the same things other kids do.”
Stacey says life for Zavier would have been much harder without a hand from Vision Australia.
“He wouldn’t be able to read without his technology. He’d come home with a lot more bumps and bruises because Vision Australia helps with keeping the classes set up so he doesn’t trip over,” she says.
“He’d be struggling so much more with social skills. That would be huge.”
Virginia says Vision Australia will work with Zavier right through his life.
“It’s reassuring for his family that we’re here every step of the way through Zavier’s school years, university, or when he wants to get a job - whatever he wants to do in his life,” she says.
· Vision Australia experts including occupational therapists, orthoptists, occupation and mobility specialists, assistive technology consultants, specialists in NDIS and My Aged Care and recreational support workers are based in Bendigo to serve the blind and low vision community across northern Victoria. Phone us on 5445 5700.