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Hands-on Learning: Teaching First Graders About Vision Loss at The John Thomas Dye School

Los Angeles, California -- On May 15, 2023, Partners for Pediatric Vision staff, educators, and volunteers gathered at the John Thomas Dye School for their 16th Annual Low Vision Awareness Experience. This is part of the school's disability sensitivity and philanthropic commitment.

PPV set up five different stations and experiences for fifty students: walking through a mobility cane course, learning what happens at a low vision exam, trying out low vision devices, having the opportunity to hear about what a guide dog does, and making bright stuffed animals that will be donated to children who receive our services. The students made their way to each station while wearing special eye masks that simulate different types of visual impairments.

Students were eager to meet Pam, and her guide dog, Franklin. Pam lost her vision as a young adult and when she went through guide dog training and took Franklin home, she felt truly independent. Pam explained to the first graders about the skills and tasks guide dogs can perform for their visually impaired owners. The students were happy to pet Franklin afterwards and he was thankful for all of the belly rubs! Heather, whose son Jett is our Early Childhood program volunteered her time to help with our event.

PPV Executive Director Diane and her daughter, Nicole, introduced the first graders to mobility canes. The students learned the proper way to hold a cane and how to move the cane from side to side using the tip to detect differences in surfaces and obstacles. The students wore their simulated masks as they safely navigated a mobility course.

Dr. Gary Asano talked to the students about what happens during a low vision eye exam and the different types of visual conditions that require this specialized vision care. Dr. Asano is a PPV volunteer and donor and a Low Vision Rehabilitation leader, teacher, researcher and speaker.

Our Bilingual Family Specialist, Mackenzie, showed the students how to use the low vision devices such as handheld magnifiers and electronic video magnifiers, dome magnifiers, a slant board for reading and writing, a monocular telescope for distance viewing, and high contrast keyboards. The students used the devices with the simulated masks to experience the benefits of these "cool tools" for children and adults with permanent vision loss.

Volunteers Jane and Barry Gerber led the "Bear Buddies" craft station and helped the students stuff bright fabric animals. Jane chose high contrast bright colored fabric and hand sewed each animal to prep the project for the first graders. After stuffing the adorable animals, the first graders wrote messages to the PPV children who will receive these sweet gifts at eye exams or in a care package.

The John Thomas Dye School generously donated $1,500 to add to PPV's John Thomas Dye fund that helps cover the cost of glasses and devices for families in need.

Please visit our donate page to contribute to The John Thomas Dye fund that is Keeping Kids in Sight:


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