Elizabeth’s Path to Independence

“Before Elizabeth was born, I had never met a blind person,” says Gina, Elizabeth’s mother. Back then, Gina and her husband, Greg, wondered, How should we play with Elizabeth? Should we limit her activities? What will her life be like when she grows up? Wayfinder was there with the answers.

When Elizabeth was 6 weeks old, Gina and Greg noticed that Elizabeth’s eyes were moving a lot, but she was not visually responding to them or her toys. A pediatric ophthalmologist diagnosed a retinal issue as the cause of Elizabeth’s blindness—and referred the family to Wayfinder’s Blind Babies Foundation program for early intervention. Jeri, a Wayfinder vision specialist, began making home visits to the family when Elizabeth was 8 months old. Jeri provided activities to encourage Elizabeth to move and explore her world. Gina adds, “Jeri sang a lot of songs to Elizabeth. Elizabeth loves music. She wanted Jeri to keep singing songs all day.”

As Elizabeth got older, Jeri worked with the little girl on self-care skills, like using a spoon and putting on shoes. “Jeri brought braille and textured books,” Gina recalls. “She came to doctor appointments with us and took notes.”

Jeri helped Gina and Greg understand that although Elizabeth was blind, she was the same as every other baby. “We should play with her the same and give her the same experiences,” Gina says, “modified a little bit.”

Gina and Greg had concerns about Elizabeth’s future. “They needed support to know someone will travel that road with them,” says Jeri. “I introduced them to a graduate of early intervention—Caitlin—who is blind and teaches children with disabilities.”

Meeting Caitlin and seeing what a happy, confident woman she is made Greg and Gina very optimistic about Elizabeth’s future. Caitlin got to know the family, and she and Elizabeth adore each other.

Now age 4 and in preschool, Elizabeth is thriving. Her love of music continues, and she has begun playing the piano. “If I let her,” Gina says, “she would play for hours.” Elizabeth also loves going to the park and climbing on everything. Her new favorite sport is swimming.

To increase her mobility, Elizabeth has begun using a cane, which she likes because it makes her more independent. Also, Elizabeth is learning braille. Personally and professionally, Caitlin encourages this approach. “I started braille and mobility early,” Caitlin says. “It’s very, very important.” Mom Gina and Elizabeth’s older brother, Paul, are also learning braille, as well as some out-of-town cousins who send Elizabeth letters in braille.

“Wayfinder’s early intervention gave us confidence that Elizabeth can do whatever she wants to do,” says Gina. “Jeri gave us great tips at such an early age. Wayfinder has helped us meet many people—parents and children, blind and not—and learn about the path Elizabeth is on. We are very thankful.”•

November 19, 2019