candace pearson
Junior Blind of America
We conveyed this annual’s theme – Inspiring Independence – in text that featured interlocking stories of children and adults with enlightening statistics.

For several months, Sarah Masso smiled and laughed, eager to greet the world like any newborn. Her mother and father, Paula Serna and Leonardo Masso, were overjoyed. Overnight, everything changed.

Suddenly, nine-month-old Sarah couldn’t even sit up, much less crawl. Her gaze turned upward. She began having small seizures, which left her dazed. She no longer smiled. “It was as if she wasn’t really here,” recalls her mother. Paula frantically started looking for answers. The first doctor she saw said Sarah might be depressed because her mother worked too much, so Paula quit her job in door-to-door sales. Sarah only got worse. A trip to an emergency room and many tests by a pediatric neurologist followed. The diagnosis: global developmental delay – cause unknown.

It was a frightening time for the young family, which includes daughter, Manuela, five. Then a counselor at the San Gabriel Pomona Regional Center, which provides services for people with developmental disabilities, told Paula about Junior Blind of America.

Today, nearly a year later, Sarah is progressing step by step. Her constant upward gaze is almost gone. An Infant-Family Specialist comes to the family’s home to improve Sarah’s hand-eye coordination and her ability to focus, literally creating new pathways in her brain. On a recent visit, Sarah eagerly grabs a bright red ball, then a green one. She watches herself in a mirror and pushes a noisemaker. She looks at her mother and laughs.

Sarah hasn’t started to crawl again, but she scoots herself across the floor. Best of all, her mother feels hopeful, inspired in part by other parents at Junior Blind. “When Sarah got ill, I felt she was lost to us. Now, I am so happy. My baby has come back.”

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There are approximately 55,200 legally blind children in the U.S. The top three causes of blindness in children are cortical visual impairment, retinopathy of prematurity and optic nerve hypoplasia.