Magnifier makes life a little easier for Uppingham teenager Jake Wallace

Photo: SM100712-017ow'Jake Wallace, 14, who has Galactosemia, pictured at Simmons Optometrists with electric magnifying equipment. From left, optometrist Jane Mason, Jake's mum Mel Smyth, owner of Simmons Optometrists James Alexander and Jake.
Photo: SM100712-017ow'Jake Wallace, 14, who has Galactosemia, pictured at Simmons Optometrists with electric magnifying equipment. From left, optometrist Jane Mason, Jake's mum Mel Smyth, owner of Simmons Optometrists James Alexander and Jake.

A 14-year-old with severe learning difficulties and disabilities has been given a life-changing piece of equipment.

Jake Wallace, of Hornbeam Lane, Uppingham, is a pupil at Catmose College but has been struggling to complete his homework due to his sight and learning difficulties.

Jake was born with glactosemia, which means he is extremely lactose intolerant. Babies born with the condition are likely to have an enlarged liver, kidney failure, cataracts and brain damage.

His mum Mel Smyth said: “We didn’t know about it until he was 17 days old. It’s not something that’s screened for in a lot of places until the infection becomes a big problem.”

Jake was initially diagnosed with liver disease but that cleared up within weeks of him being born. He has been left with nystagmus in both eyes and cataracts, meaning that his eyes are constantly moving and he finds it very hard to see.

But staff at Simmons Optometrists in Burley Road, Oakham, have worked with Catmose College, The Karen Ball Fund and Melton company Bierley which makes electronic magnifiers to provide Jake with a desktop magnifier so that he can read words in big print.

Optometrist James Alexander, who owns the firm with his wife Manjula, said: “It is equipment that we have only stocked for about a year and is aimed at the elderly but we knew it would benefit Jake.

“It is unusual for someone so young to use this kind of equipment.”

The Bierley MPD12 looks like a computer mouse and is moved over the page to project words in large print onto a computer screen.

Jake also has learning disabilities and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder which means he struggles with school work.

Mel said: “Before we got the magnifier Jake was bringing home school work that he couldn’t see to read and he was really struggling with books.

“Now he can sit down and concentrate.

“They say children with glactosemia don’t do well in maths and science but he excels at them. When he finds something he’s interested in he works really hard.”

Jake is a big fan of The Gruffalo books and has started to read the Harry Potter series.

Mel has two other children, Stacey, 22, and Sam Wallace, 19, and she says she would not have been able to afford the equipment on her own.

She said: “Jake has such a specialised diet that all the money I have goes into finding things he can eat.

“You have to check the packets of everything and ingredients are changing all the time.”

After Simmons Optometrists recommended the equipment, staff at Catmose College suggested contacting Rutland charity The Karen Ball Fund to ask for help to buy the magnifier. Menphys, a Leicester-based charity which supports the families of children with disabilities, assisted the family in getting the money from The Karen Ball Fund.

The charity donated £300 to cover the costs.

Jake has also had a lot of help from Leicestershire and Rutland charity for the blind Vista which is considering getting him a buddy dog so that he can have some independence and leave the house on his own.

Mel said: “We want to say thank you to the Karen Ball Fund, the staff at Catmose College and Simmons Optometrists. We could not ask for a better opticians. Jake has been going there for years and they have welcomed him with open arms.

“Not a lot of people know much about Jake’s condition so it’s nice that it’s being mentioned and people are taking note.”

Simmons Optometrists was joint winner of the Business of the Year category at this year’s Mercury Business Awards and also won the Customer Care category.