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Life Changer: Tiffany's Story

The following was shared with us by Tiffany R., a student who attended the 2018 OAA Leadership Conference in Charleston, South Carolina. It is her story in her own words, one she felt inspired during the conference to share with others.

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My son had behavioral issues from the time he was born. 

He cried constantly unless he was held, and absolutely hated being set down or left alone, even for a minute. Over time, we also saw some minor delays in development. We thought he had colic, but our doctor said he was fine, just really fussy. 

Life in the first year was quite tough. 

My husband, who works from home, was also affected. The constant crying broke him down to the point where he was diagnosed with “stress-induced depression” and had to be put on medication to cope. 

When Ethan's one-year checkup came around, he had a vision screening—as part of a service that just so happened to be practiced at our pediatricians office. He was flagged as myopic, and we were referred to a pediatric ophthalmologist. Come to find out, he was not only myopic, but a high myope (-6.00 +3.00cyl). 

He finally got his first pair of glasses. 

And from the moment they were put on…our lives were forever changed. 

The baby that constantly cried was finally a normal giggly little boy, able to play independently without being scared of his surroundings anymore. 

However, as a parent and wife who helplessly watched my child and spouse suffer, I was riddled with guilt. I wondered what I could have done better: what I could have known, what I could have been taught on the importance of early preventative vision care for infants and kids. So much heartache could have been prevented if we had been made aware sooner that our son needed something as small—yet so monumental—as a pair of glasses. 

Because of our experience, I decided that I wanted to become an optician, so that I can help raise awareness regarding the value of pediatric vision care. I want to help assure that no parent has to go through the heartache we went through. And more importantly, I want to make sure no baby has to go through what my son went through. 

I feel we owe it to our kids to make sure they have the best start possible, and to ensure future potential leaders of the world won't be held back because of vision impairment.

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Tiffany touched base after returning from the OAA Leadership Conference. Here's what she's been up to in the short time since:  

• Joined together with several other students to re-establish the Student Optical Society, a long forgotten organization for opticianry students at their school.

• Connected with OAA board member Kyle Beaudet regarding starting a wonderful mission through the school and beyond.

• Contacted the grants foundation in our school to establish an opticianry scholarship in honor of our classmate Junita Burr, who recently passed away, with the aim to see the scholarship fully established before graduation next year.

• Visited the Georgia state capital to celebrate the proclamation of National Opticians Month with several legislators and to raise awareness for the opticianry profession.

• Along with another Leadership Conference attendee, Tyjia, submitted formal interest to the OAG in becoming student members on the board. 

Thanks for the inspiration, Tiffany!