Raising a child with visual impairment makes you see the world differently.
At dinner with friends the other evening, I was astonished to see Asa’s best friend Angèle, who’s just a couple of months older than he is, watching TV from across the room.
What’s so strange about that?
Well, for Asa to see what was on the screen, he would have to stand within arm’s reach of the television set.
That had come to seem normal to me.
That may sound weird. But consider some of the other characteristics that we accept as natural for toddlers: short stature, primitive grammar, a predilection for tantrums. And their special, compensating features -- a mania for play; an exuberance that’s almost never found in adults.
The fact is, I’d gotten used to Asa not seeing as we do -- just like I’ve gotten used to him being smaller and livelier and having chubbier cheeks. And sometimes I forget that other children don’t necessarily share all of these traits.
The normalization of abnormality is part of a process of psychological adaptation.
Indeed, something like this must be going on for Asa himself.
If the scales were to fall away from his eyes tomorrow, he’d probably be very disoriented. The world would look strange and dazzling.
Like the people in Plato’scave, he’d probably prefer to keep the shades on.
For now, leaving the cave isn’t an option anyway.
What we’re trying to do instead is make little steps towards the light.
How are we going about that?
The latest thing we’re trying is bifocals.
Aren't those for old people? you may ask.
Usually, yes. But then again, so are cataracts.
In Asa's case, a cataract (a side-effect either of his cancer or the chemotherapy he’s received) effectively blinded him in his left eye until it was operated on in September.
In the cataract operation, the surgeon removed the natural lens of the left eye, which had become opaque.
This all seems to have worked out pretty well. But as a consequence he's left -- at least for the time being -- with quite poor vision in this lens-less left eye.
For the past few months, we've been patching his good eye periodically, to give the left eye practice -- or more precisely, to give his brain practice at dealing with input from it.
And to help the brain along, we’ve been fitting him out with spectacles with a very strong lens on the left side, to compensate for the short-sightedness.
The new bifocals will provide some close-up magnification as well, which may help him with some of his hobbies: writing, painting, and, um, watching The Tellytubbies on his mum’s phone.
Perhaps we should get him a pipe and tweed jacket to go with those bifocals.