Jacinthe Bourgoin sits at her Timmins, ON kitchen table with her three-year-old grandson, Shayden, whom she is proudly raising. Amid her laughter and his giggles, they’re trying to master colours.
“Okay, tell me the ones you remember,” she says.
Shayden smiles. “Brown. Green.” He pauses. “Star!”
It’s the funny kind of thing any toddler might say. Except for Shayden, colours are things, not hues. He knows yellow because that’s what colour he’s been told his toy star is.
Shayden has never actually seen a star. Blind from birth due to septo-optic dysplasia, he’s slightly small for his age due to an undeveloped pituitary gland.
From the time he was seven months old, Shayden has had support from the CNIB Foundation. Our specialists are helping him learn about the world through senses other than his eyes.
Born to Jacinthe’s daughter Karissa when she was 17, Shayden’s early life was difficult. Five months into her pregnancy, screening found Shayden’s brain had a fused septum.
After his birth, he spent 11 days in an incubator, unable to gain weight.
Jacinthe says, “the unknown looked and felt very scary.”
Doctors confirmed that Shayden was blind.
Karissa struggled to care for Shayden, but the young mother couldn’t do it on her own. The family decided Jacinthe would take over his legal guardianship and she contacted the CNIB Foundation.
“I made them my main contact and organized everything through them. They are very supportive. They’ve helped with the tools I’ve needed, the workshops, the books,” she said.
The family has made their first trip to our Lake Joe summer camp near Huntsville, ON, where children and youth who are blind or partially sighted can take part in water sports, social activities and skills training in a safe environment.
“After being there for one week, we learned so much. The staff, the volunteers, everyone was so helpful and friendly,” Jacinthe says. “We made lifelong friends.”