Three years ago, Shanklin was diagnosed with hypomyelination syndrome, a genetic defect that causes stiffness in her legs and difficulty seeing. She was diagnosed when she was just two years old, but the extent of the diagnosis wasn’t known until more recently.
“We found out in February that she is legally blind,” Shanklin’s mother, Christa Coleman, said.
That doesn’t mean that she can’t see anything, just that she can’t see small things in detail or read books. Coleman had been creating large flashcards to help her daughter read with her glasses.
“They use to send books home and we would sit and work on them for hours,” Coleman said. “She’s really smart because she learned a lot before we knew what was going on.”
Shanklin also recently had surgery on both legs to lengthen the tendons and relieve some of the stiffness she experiences. With both legs in casts, she is limited in what she can do, but her vision problems also limit her reading and coloring to entertain herself.
“I got my glasses and I can read some now,” Shanklin said.
On their last trip to the optometrist, the doctor recommended that Coleman get in touch with a program called Sight Savers.
Sight Savers is a nonprofit that serves Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana by providing tools to increase children’s ability to see. Sight Savers provided Shanklin with a magnifier that allows her to enlarge things up to 79 times their normal size.
Two members of the Sight Savers team, along with former Miss Alabama contestant, Haley Barber, visited Shanklin at home to deliver the equipment and teach her how to use it.
This magnifier allows Shanklin to see books, pictures and anything else that she might want to see in detail.
One feature of the machine is that Shanklin can change the color of the image, important since some colors can cause pain to certain children with vision issues. Shanklin listened intently as each feature was explained to her, but when she learned that the image could be projected in green she got very excited.
“I love green,” she said, “It’s my favorite color.”
In fact, she read her first book on the magnifier, a children’s book called “Ducks in Muck” with the green feature turned on.
One of the Sight Savers team members also brought Shanklin another present, a watch that tells her verbally what time it is at the push of a button.
“I’ve been asking momma to buy one, I’ve always wanted one,” Shanklin exclaimed.