The Lea Puzzle

The Lea Puzzle

On one of our visits to the ophthalmologist we were told that we should start familiarizing Becca with the Lea shapes (as to why, you can find more about Becca’s journey here).  Because of her retinitis pigementosa, which is a retinal disease associated with Usher Syndrome, she will need to start vision testing much earlier than most children.  The Lea shapes are made up of four shapes that children can easily identify, they are the outline of a square, circle, apple, house, and primarily used with young children.  These shapes will eventually be used to test Rebecca’s visual acuity, similar to an eye chart that you would see at an eye exam visit but instead with shapes that a child can more easily identify.   This is typically not necessary for a child with normal vision but in Rebecca’s case they want to be able to begin assessing her vision by the age of one and a half  – two years of age where as in children with normal vision it is more around 4-5 where they already have an understanding of letters, numbers etc, and can use the normal eye chart.  We left that appointment with a black and white paper print out of the symbols that we were asked to review with Rebecca.  Not surprisingly Rebecca was not amused with the piece of paper and actually tried to eat it a couple of times.

We started to think of a different method of teaching her the shapes and in one of our visits to Rebecca’s audiologist (Ashleigh) for her Cochlear implant turn on, I saw that she was associating sounds to an object in the room.  Each time she made a sound she would flip a switch to a light up a toy and direct Rebecca’s attention to it.  I did a bit of digging and found that there is a whole theory behind this method in teaching kids to learn to hear called “sound-object association”.  I’m not sure if this is exactly what Ashleigh was doing but after reading an article on the topic by Ellen Rhodes, an Auditory Verbal Specialist, it made sense to me why it was important to help facilitating learning to hear.  Rebecca can’t really tell us when she heard a sound as her hearing is still in the infant stage and she does not fully understand what sound is at this point.  After reading about this approach and seeing it in practice, a light bulb (so to speak) went off that I could do something similar with teaching Rebecca the Lea shapes.

The idea was to create an interactive 3-D puzzle with the four Lea shapes that Rebecca could physically hold in her hand and place into corresponding spots on a puzzle board.  When she placed the shape into the proper spot on the puzzle board she would then get automatic visual stimulation through the smart lights in her room.  The “visual reward” for lack of a better term would correlate to the color of the block giving her another dimension of association, that being color.  So here is the finished training tool that we created.

Here is the nearly finished prototype of the puzzle, the only thing missing is that the electronics are not mounted yet and a plate to cover the back needs to be made.

One thing to note in the video…. I used five lights to demonstrate the puzzle.  Five lights however are really over-kill and this can be accomplished with one.  When I finish everything up and move it to Rebecca’s room it will use a single light.

Videos about The Lea Shapes