Senior Piketon overcomes visual impairment to study animation

PIKETON— Emma Knipp worked hard to overcome her physical limitations to become a creative and intelligent graduate of Piketon High School.

Knipp faced vision problems throughout his life, as well as osteomyelitis and arthritis in his right arm. With the help of her family, there is nothing she cannot accomplish.

She is a digital artist who will be heading to Shawnee State in the fall to study digital animation. She grew up watching cartoons and was inspired by shows like ‘The Amazing World of Gumball’, ‘Adventure Time’, ‘The Owl House’ and ‘Gravity Falls’.

She is also an avid reader who enjoys exploring new worlds within books.

“[I use an] iPad to read books or take pictures of things, especially for books, because I can’t read normal book text anymore,” Knipp said. She uses a special app to download books for free where she can zoom in and read the text more easily.

An avid reader of fantasy books, her favorite series is “Wings of Fire”, a popular novel about young dragons following their destiny. Although Knipp can’t easily read traditional paper books, she still enjoys owning them so she can hold and display them in her bedroom.

With her creative mind and go-getter attitude, many would be surprised by her early health issues as a newborn.

Knipp was born three months early and weighed only about a pound. Her mother, Amanda Leeth, said that during her daughter’s first days of life, her retinas detached from her eyes. Surgery to correct her retinas, Leeth knew, could threaten Emma’s peripheral vision.

Painful conditions in her right arm from a faulty IV when she was a baby necessitated more operations. She needed emergency surgery to remove a bone from her elbow and an additional operation to manage the pain.

In total, Knipp underwent five surgeries: one at birth, two for his eyes and two for his arm. After spending nearly four months in the hospital, Knipp returned home weighing less than five pounds. She still needed oxygen, a feeding tube and an apnea monitor.

She became stronger and was able to live independently of the equipment within a few months at home. She grew up challenging and conquering her vision issues and arm with the help of a loving and supportive family.

Her younger brother, Isaac, drives her to school and helps her carry her school supplies. Her parents ensure that she is always enrolled in programs to help her succeed in her academic career.

Knipp was part of Help Me Grow, an Ohio Department of Health program that promotes the whole health and development of children. The ODH would send therapists to participating homes and help babies with developmental disabilities.

With the help of her parents and Help Me Grow, Knipp started kindergarten when she was just three years old. She got her first IEP, or Individualized Education Program, in kindergarten.

An IEP is an individualized learning plan for students with special needs. His parents and teachers came up with a plan that would allow him to sit in front of the class and have more time to take tests. The words on the worksheets also need to be bigger.

As she got older, Knipp helped her parents and teachers set her IEP so she could have a say in what she needed to thrive in school. “She does a really good job of speaking for herself,” Leeth said.

The local Scioto Valley School District provided him with scalable technology to enhance his learning. Her first big rig was in third grade when she bought a portable projector. The heavy machine was on a dolly and would be moved behind Knipp throughout the school day. She needed a teacher or a classmate to help her carry the cart through the halls.

She used the projector until the first year when it was no longer possible to move around the school with the trolley due to the layout of the building. That’s when she got an iPad, a much more portable solution.

Now that she’s older, Knipp is getting help from Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities. Since she lost access to her school-sponsored technology after graduation, OOD provided her with a new iPad to use for reading.

Knipp will be one of the first Shawnee State students to study in the new digital animation program beginning in 2023. She is excited to start college classes in the fall.

Piketon High School held its graduation ceremony on May 22.

Megan Becker is a reporter for the Chillicothe Gazette. Call her at 740-349-1106, email her at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @BeckerReporting

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