A photo of Becky Kilby holding her young daughter, Avery.

Becky Kilby sits on the floor in her family room holding a shiny gold toy above her daughter’s face. It may not seem so unusual, except that toy happens to be one of the keys unlocking the world for a happy little girl.

At 18 months old, little Avery has already had more medical procedures than many people will have in their lifetime. Born seemingly healthy, Avery was six weeks into her life when she began having seizures as many as 30 to 60 in a day. Her parents who should have been looking forward to their infant’s first steps found themselves fighting for their precious girl’s life. Ultimately, it was a 12-hour surgery to disconnect the blood supply to Avery’s right brain that saved her life and gave her parents reason to start believing in the future.

CABVI was another reason. The little girl who was starting to make noises and smiled for the first time, developed cortical visual impairment, a condition where the brain has trouble processing what the eyes see. CABVI’s Early Childhood and Youth Services was recommended by Avery’s ophthalmologist.

CABVI Early Intervention Vision Specialist, Michelle Woods, has been working with the family ever since. Becky and her husband, Brian, were taught that to help Avery develop functional vision, they should work with her using objects with bold, contrasting color. Faces, Becky and Brian learned, are actually pretty difficult for Avery to look at because expressions change rapidly. The plan is to slowly add visual stimulus and more movement to Avery’s world, at a pace to which she can adjust.

In just six months Avery has already shown huge progress. Most kids with her condition can’t look at something while having a hand on it, but Avery can now. “Avery looked directly into my face,” Becky recalled of what was probably her most memorable moment as a mother. “I said ‘hi’ and smiled, and she smiled back. That was the first time Avery ever focused on my face and I couldn’t wait to tell her dad.”

Thanks to the nurturing diligence of Avery’s parents and CABVI, the little girl with that infectious smile has a future ahead of her. “In the long term I would like for her to be able to comprehend letters and read and write. It’s not going to be easy but I’m optimistic she’ll get there,” said Becky.