Where will Lily LightAide live?
Visually impaired Olivia Ault, the 6-year-old daughter of Tom and Anna Ault, hopes it's her home in East Springfield, but she needs online votes from the public by midnight Sunday to make that happen.
The Ault family is one of six families across the country in competition to keep for free the assistive device that uses multiple LED lights to visually stimulate and encourage learning.
Online voting began Dec. 9 and continues through midnight Sunday at wonderbaby.org. The winner will be announced Monday.
Wonderbaby.org, a project funded by Perkins School for the Blind, is "dedicated to helping parents of young children with visual impairments as well as children with multiple disabilities," according to its website.
It features a database of articles written by parents "who want to share with others what they've learned about playing with and teaching a blind child, as well as links to meaningful resources and ways to connect with other families."
Olivia is an Edison Local School District pupil who attends Hills Elementary School in Mingo where the visually impaired unit is located.
"Olivia has cortical visual impairment," her mother explained. "It is due to a stroke that she suffered before birth. She had severe brain damage from the stroke, which caused her to have developmental and cognitive delays as well as becoming visually impaired. She has never looked at regular books or watched TV. She struggles with learning letters, numbers, shapes, etcetera," she said.
Anna applied to be part of the Backpacking LightAide program, and the Ault family was one of six chosen to host the device for a two-week visit. Who gets to keep it permanently is determined by the most votes tallied in a one-week period. Voting can be done daily.
"We received it on Nov. 15, then at the end of the stay had to send it to the next family," Anna explained. "She has never looked at regular children's books, watched cartoons or even had many toys that she identifies with, but she literally lit up when she saw the LightAide. It motivated her and encouraged her to learn," Anna said.
According to its website, the LightAide "creates a variety of interactive displays of color that support core learning goals and help instill the building blocks of literacy and mathematical concepts in learners with low vision, cognitive disabilities and other special needs."
"I encourage people to go on my blog - www.Oliviacansmile.blogspot.com - to read about our adventures with Lily LightAide and to read more about Olivia," Anna said. "Watching the videos of her using the LightAide gives all the answers."
Anna's blog notes the device has "motivated and engaged" her daughter.
"The LightAide has literally brightened our days and increased our hope for the future," she writes.
"Looking back on this experience we would like to thank those who chose Olivia to be a part of the Backpacking LightAide Program," Anna writes. "We are thrilled to be involved with anything that can be done to raise awareness, encourage participation, advance research or educate others about Cortical Visual Impairment. Understanding CVI can be challenging, but living with it is an adventure," she notes.
"She has come so far, but there is still a long way to go," Anna said.
"The LightAide can help her get there."