Amanda is a long time supporter of the Nystagmus Network UK and our unofficial US spokesperson. As a professional freelance writer, who also has nystagmus, she is well placed to tell her amazing nystagmus story …
My Nystagmus Journey: Fifth grade diagnosis and beyond
Fifth grade – that’s when my life changed because of my nystagmus; that was the year I got my large print books and was registered as a student with a visual impairment.
Before I tell you about my reflection of that year, we must go back into my history. My mother knew something was not right with my vision from the time I was born. She took me to several eye doctors who basically said the same thing – Nothing is wrong with your child. For now she can read the print that is provided; just make sure she sits up front and rests her eyes when needed.
As I entered the school system and started to struggle with my school work, the doctors and teachers started to change their diagnosis. The first issue they found was that I had cerebral palsy; to fix this difficult issue I had all different kinds of therapy to help improve my muscle function. Then, in second grade, because I struggled with reading, writing and spelling I was found to have a learning disability called Dyslexia. This helped solve part of the problem, except for the fact that I still could not see well.
In fourth grade, the medical doctors started saying that I needed large print books and that my vision was poor. My teachers also started to really notice the problem. So, during the end of the school year, teachers started doing more advanced testing and that testing showed that, indeed, I needed large print.
My mother was so excited that her fight with the school system was successful and that I was going to receive the large print textbooks I needed. I, on the other hand, was not happy about this. I knew that I was different.
The next year came and so did the large print books. They were quite large and heavy. I surprised my teachers by being able to read better despite my Dyslexia. My grades even improved. This improvement did not come without a cost; I was teased by some of my classmates and some of my teachers were slow to understand all this new information. I still did well in my fifth grade year.
A year and a half later we moved from Texas to Florida. The school system for the visual impaired did things differently. They started taking away my large print books and they sent me to a low vision specialist who prescribed low vision aids. I was confused. The reason they did that was to prepare me for the adult world. For the first year I played their game and used my low vision aids, which made them happy. However, it made me unhappy, because I felt so limited on what I was able to see. The years passed and, in my last year of high school, I was almost rejected from the program because I was not using my low vision aids and I kept advocating for my large print when needed. During my last program interview, I told them why I did use my low vision aids. The program staff did what they could to help me until I graduated from high school.
After high school, I went to college with the help of two other programs and I was very successful. Now, with the help of the American Nystagmus Network and the Nystagmus Network UK, I’m sure I will be successful in my freelancing career and personal life.