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Eye On Education: Local Mom Invents Learning Tool For Blind Children

BOSTON (CBS) - For children who have special vision needs, some computer programs or an iPad can be too visually complex. A local mother noticed that her daughter who is blind was drawn to basic lights and she invented a learning tool that has had global impact.

"He loves it - every time I take the LightAide out of the package I hear 'wow!' from across the classroom," Tommy Prescott's teacher Marguerite Bilms says.

Colors, numbers, patterns, important for every preschooler but for Tommy and Casey Spooner, kids who have significantly impaired vision and hearing at Perkins School for the Blind, light can be the key to early learning

Bilms says, "It's really made more opportunities for the students to develop their skills in academics in a more motivating and fun way."

The school had been using a creative light board made of Christmas lights taped to a board until one Perkins mom saw it and thought 'we can do better than that.'

Dr. Catherine Rose, a senior product manager at Philips Lighting, has a PhD in engineering, an MBA, and, "my third degree is a Mom degree" she says.

Her daughter Alexis is considered deaf and blind and first reacted to light at four when she saw vivid lights for the first time in a Philips showroom.

"She's non-verbal so you can see how her face really lit up," Dr. Rose says. "Her eyes lit up and her whole body said 'this is the way walls are supposed to look.'"

Dr. Rose began working along with experienced Perkins teachers and LightAide, with its lights and bumps for teaching early braille - was born. It's now sold worldwide.

Dr. Rose says, "It just makes me feel wonderful - you can't be more proud that this little crazy idea from a mom turned in to such a valuable product for teachers and schools and families."

A crazy idea and some New England ingenuity have opened up a world to Tommy and Casey.

I often say the best sales pitch is the light in a kid's eye.

The LightAide was designed with Alexis in mind, but it is now being used as a tool to help teach children with autism, cerebral palsy and behavioral issues as well.


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