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EYE-Q and Able Advocates Join Forces to Provide Support for Visually Impaired Kids with Special Needs

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able-advocates-eye-q-fresnoEYE-Q supports a number of non-profit organizations and meaningful causes throughout the Valley – all are extremely worthwhile, but some hit a little closer to home. One of those is Able Advocates – a local organization in Fresno that works with severely disabled special needs kids. EYE-Q recently donated $1,000 to Able Advocates to help them address vision impairment in children with special needs here in the Valley.

According to EYE-Q low vision specialist Dr. Kim Vuong, vision impairment is a common problem in children who are severely disabled. Many children with neurological conditions, such as cerebral palsy, experience significantly decreased vision in addition to the cognitive impairment experienced. In many cases, vision is the only way to communicate with a non-verbal child.

“Vision is one of our most important senses. It affects every part of your life. Limited vision can exacerbate developmental delays in these kids who are already facing a number of challenges,” said Dr. Vuong. “As an eye doctor, my job is to try to maximize a patient’s vision potential and also to connect them with outside resources like Able Advocates to help improve their quality of life.”

Able Advocates mission is to provide support and resources to parents and caregivers of kids with specials needs in order to help them more easily navigate the health care system. Able Advocates founder and President Katrina Oh found herself struggling to communicate with her severely disabled, non-verbal child. She wanted to make sure that her child had access to all of the support and development aids available so he could lead the fullest life possible. Katrina recognized a need within the community and jumped at the chance to fill it. She started Able Advocates as a support group for parents of disabled children, but it quickly grew into much more.

As support of the group grew, so did their resources. Soon Able Advocates was able to open an equipment closet; a place where families with special needs kids can get access to expensive equipment while waiting for authorization from insurance or when insurance has denied a certain piece. Today, the closet has over 300 items, from wheelchairs and walkers to tricycles and tumble forms.

Realizing that so many children with special needs have vision problems, Oh reached out to EYE-Q. Her goal was to gather information about the resources and equipment available to visually impaired kids. When the doctors at EYE-Q heard about Able Advocates, they felt that it was a natural fit for the EYE-Q Cares program. Beyond making a cash donation, as vision experts, they could provide valuable input and advice, serving as a mentor to the organization. The partnership with EYE-Q would prove to be invaluable for Able Advocates and vice versa. Oh met with Dr. Vuong who immediately jumped into action, providing her with a list of resources and equipment to assist these kids.

Vuong is excited about the relationship with Able Advocates, stating, “I think it’s great that we can help provide services to organizations like Able Advocates, but it’s actually a two-way street. As doctors we want to make sure our patients are getting the full extent of the care they need. Unfortunately, we can only do so much for our patients in the limited amount of time we spend with them. Once they leave the office, we don’t know whether they’re actually getting the help they need. Organizations like Able Advocates are able to spend an immense amount of time and resources to help these patients. I think they can potentially do even more than we can to help these individuals.”

Oh is also thrilled about the relationship with EYE-Q. “Our organization depends on donations from individuals and organizations like EYE-Q. Not only will this donation allow us to purchase useful equipment to share with our families,” said Oh, “being able to rely on EYE-Q as an educational resource is priceless.” She already has a wish list of low vision devices recommended by Dr. Vuong that includes magnifiers for grade school kids and a light box to help improve eyesight in infants and toddlers. An iPad is also at the top of that list. Oh’s goal is to conduct workshops for families highlighting the digital technology and apps available for the visually impaired. Oh continued, “Many families already have tablets or smart phones, but we want to help them use these tools effectively.”

Oh is looking forward to a lasting connection with EYE-Q. “She’s been amazing,” said Oh, speaking about Dr. Vuong. “I knew we’d be a good fit. I just knew that she had a good heart.”