As three-year-old Juniper nestled comfortably in the arms of her grandfather, her parents, Pilar and Ben, looked on in amazement. This was something they weren’t sure they would ever see.
Until this past September, Juniper had been resistant to being touched by anyone outside her immediate family. But things changed over Labor Day weekend.
Juniper turned another corner on her vision loss journey.
Born with bilateral retinal detachment, Juniper has been blind since birth. In addition, she has microcephaly, a rare neurological condition in which an infant’s head is much smaller than expected, indicating a problem with brain development.
Fortunately, when Juniper was about three months old, her pediatrician recommended the Birth to 3 program to assist with her growth and development. As part of this program, Juniper began getting services in her home from Colleen Kickbush, one of our teachers of the visually impaired (TVI), who taught Juniper to reach towards objects using sound, which is an important early step toward independent crawling and walking.
Additionally, Colleen helped the family, which also includes eight-year-old brother Balthazar, better known as Baz, learn more about Juniper’s vision issues so they could better understand how to encourage her exploration using her hands (tactual skills) for learning, such as feeling tactile graphics in adapted board books.
Due to her blindness and microcephaly, Juniper experienced some developmental delays, and Pilar and Ben were told that walking would probably come later for her. However, Juniper surprised them all when she walked at 18 months, and she hasn’t stopped walking and running since!
Juniper is a very curious child and learning to walk was a major highlight because it allowed her to explore her environment more quickly. She has developed a mental map of the family home and this allows her to move swiftly to find her favorite musical toys or seek out a snack.
In late summer, Juniper was enrolled in our on-site Children’s Program and, after just one month, her parents noticed a difference.
“Juniper doesn’t cry and go crazy now when someone new touches her,” says Pilar. “This is a huge milestone!”
Then came the Labor Day vacation with extended family in northern Wisconsin. Juniper allowed grandparents, aunts and uncles to hold her without getting upset.
And just one of many more to come as Juniper continues to hone her skills and prepare for the time when she joins her sighted peers in an elementary classroom.
“We just want the best for her—happiness and independence,” states Pilar.
Thank you for investing in Juniper and others living with vision loss.
Together, with your support, we can positively change the present and future of people of all ages who are blind or visually impaired.