Saturday, December 16, 2017
Health

Winning a contest opens a colorful new world to second-grader

TAMPA — Skyler Fletcher peered through his new eyeglasses at the purple bougainvillea and declared the flowers pink.

"It looks different from before," said the 7-year-old second-grader. "It looked more blue."

He had never seen the color purple, so apparently, pink was what it most resembled, his father said. Pink was the color he saw when he looked at something dark gray.

Suddenly, Skyler could tell purple from blue, red from orange, brown from green, green from orange and pink from gray. He liked the glasses — they look like the shades Tom Cruise wore in Risky Business but he was rather nonchalant about the new world opening up for him last week in his grandmother's back yard.

Parents Allyson and Brendan Fletcher, however, were thrilled that special glasses seemed to be correcting his color blindness.

"It's amazing to see that," Allyson Fletcher said.

Skyler, a student at Dale Mabry Elementary, was one of six color-blind children in Florida and 75 across the nation to win a pair of EnChroma eyeglasses for children. The contest asked children to make a video on what they thought the future would look like. The dark-haired, dark-eyed Skyler, talking into the camera, envisioned a cure for cancer and an end to war. He plans to invent a machine that can create everything but people — and also can fly.

"It is built for help and fun," he said.

EnChroma several years ago introduced the glasses for adults, but since the lenses were made of glass, they weren't considered appropriate for youth or athletes. The company introduced polycarbonate lenses last fall, said company spokesman Kent Streeb. They retail for $269 to $469.

EnChroma officials say the lenses make colors appear brighter and more saturated. In user trials, people with color blindness said the lenses helped them differentiate textures and hues within a single shade of color. But it doesn't work in every instance. About 20 percent of people with color blindness are not helped, the company said.

More than 260 kids submitted videos in the contest, which was sponsored by EnChroma and Clorox. The bleach and disinfectant maker got involved because of a video that went viral; it showed a man in EnChroma glasses reacting to seeing a Clorox bottle in purple, a color he was seeing for the first time.

The glasses improve color vision but do not correct it 100 percent, Streeb said.

Skyler's parents discovered his color blindness when he was nearly 3 years old. He kept skipping over colors in the Candy Land game.

Skyler said people told him he saw colors differently, but "I kind of found it on my own. One time, I was trying to get a gray Crayon, and I accidentally got the pink one," he said with a grin.

Just recently, Brendan Fletcher said, he was watching football on television when Skyler walked in and laughed at the players in dark gray. "He said, 'Look, Daddy, that team's wearing pink!'"

The parents had arranged a panoply of color for the first time Skyler put on his glasses. Color markers, Skittles and toys were set out on a table, adorned with a bouquet of balloons. Before putting on his glasses, he munched on Skittles while putting the candy in piles according to color.

The only ones he got wrong were the green ones; he thought they were orange, though he decided they were green upon closer inspection. He's good at figuring out what colors should be, his parents said.

Skyler found that the Skittles were indeed green when he donned the glasses. He realized, too, that the brown marker did not go in the pile of green markers. And the purple marker did not go with the blue ones.

"It's so neat to be able to see him recognize colors when he's had a difficult time identifying them. You can think of so many ways (the glasses) can help him," Allyson Fletcher said. "It's definitely a color-focused world."

Contact Philip Morgan at [email protected] or (813) 226-3435.

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