Recently, I have discovered a wonderful new book entitled, "All Children Have Different Eyes." The story features children who have significant visual problems such as nystagmus, and strabismus, low vision, and how they can deal with day-to-day social situations. It is written by author Edie Glaser, who has lived with visual disabilties her entire life along with child-psychologist Dr. Maria Burgio. It contains vibrant and inviting illustrations by Doina Paraschiv.
I was lucky enough to interview Edie Glaser:
Dr. B: "All Children Have Different Eyes" is filled with many positive ways for children with vision problems to handle social situations. As a child with nystagmus, strabismus, and low vision, how much of the book came from your own experiences?
Edie: Almost every scene from Tommy and Wendy's story represents a common occurrence in my own childhood and that of most children with low vision, such as not being able to share a book with a classmate or being asked questions like why I don't get better glasses. However, I did not handle these situations as confidently or competently as Tommy and Wendy do. Like many kids with low vision, I tried to fake not being able to see things and I didn't understand my condition, so I often stayed quiet. Because of my silence, teachers and other kids often misunderstood me and teased me. I felt very alienated. Tommy and Wendy are my heroes for how they handle themselves.
Yes, Tommy and Wendy are tremendous role-models. And their stories are good for children with and without visual disabilities. As a child with visual problems, you surely went to many eye doctors throughout your life. What were the best eye doctors like?
My favorite eye doctors have been the ones who have clinical training and experience treating my own particular condition known as "nystagmus". I only met these doctors a few years ago. Before that, I went to general ophthalmologists who knew very little about nystagmus. They were so excited to see my eyes wobble that they showed me to all of their interns and staff and the result was always the same. They'd say nothing could be done for me. When I met the specialists in the field, that's when I discovered treatment options.
I agree that it is important for patients of all ages to educate themselves as much as they can about their health and find the very best doctors. People should feel comfortable questioning how much experience their doctor has with their type of case or condition. With books such as yours and information available via the internet, do you think it is easier for children with visual disabilities and their parents than it was when you were a little girl?
Yes and no. With the internet, it's definitely easier to find competent medical care for a particular condition or to get help advocating for special services in the classroom, but most parents and teachers are still in the dark about how low vision affects a child's social development. Accommodations need to be made in this area, too; but unfortunately, social competency is not an educational standard and so it often gets ignored and overlooked. Kids are still fending for themselves in this most important aspect of development.
You should be very proud of this book. How is the book being used to work with children with vision problems?
I am very proud and very fortunate to be the co-author of this book. Every time I hear a success story about how it has helped a parent or child to better deal with their condition, it gives my life a sense of deeper fulfillment. In addition to parents buying the book for their child, it is being used by teachers of the visually impaired with their low-vision students to help develop their social competency. It's also being read to whole classes to make all students aware of how a classmate with low vision sees and plays in different ways. This is a crucial step to helping the low-vision child become accepted among his or her peers.
What else are you working on?
I have another book recently published that explains the medical condition of nystagmus to the lay reader, especially the new parent who is desperate to understand what is happening with their child's vision and what can be done about it. I am also in the process of writing a book about what it's like to live with wobbly eyes and low vision from early school days to driving/not driving to dating to interviewing for a job.
How long did it take to write and publish "All Children Have Different Eyes"?
It took four hours to write the story and several months of editing the text and adding/removing scenes to ensure that the language and social situations were both engaging and appropriate for ages 4-8. Then it took several more months for the professional illustrator to do her magic. I'm very proud of how we made such a complex and emotional subject so accessible and useful to this age group in both words and pictures.
Well all of that work has truly paid off. Now that you have published this book, are you surprised that there haven't been more books like yours?
Yes, I am very surprised at how many books exist for blind children and children who have perfect vision when they wear glasses, yet there is nothing for the child in-between--until now.
Thank you for this opportunity to share the message of All Children Have Different Eyes with your readers.
You are welcome! Thanks so much for sharing your time and message.
If you are interested in "All Children Have Different Eyes," go to the website www.lowvisionkids.com. You can order copies of the book, access the free teachers-guide, and find many, many resources (including a great hand-eye coordination game) that are not just for parents of children with visual disabilities.
Nathan Bonilla-Warford, OD
Bright Eyes Family Vision Care
Located in the Westchase area of Tampa.