Specs4Us: Cheery Eyewear For Children With Down Syndrome


It really began as a quest for a solution for Maria Dellapina, founder of Superior Precision Eyewear for Children who are Special, otherwise known as Specs4Us. Her youngest daughter was diagnosed with Down Syndrome at birth and like almost all other children with Down Syndrome, needed glasses by the age of two. But for years after that, Dellapina was unable to find a proper eyeglass frame to fit Erin’s face – one that would not keep slipping off and cause the little girl frustration that she would hurl them across the room, damaging them in the process.

“Children with Down Syndrome have lower bridge placement, they can have higher or lower temples and ear sets, so typical glass frames do not fit them and the kids just don’t want to wear them,” Dellapina says.

Dellapina had worked in the eyewear industry for many years but never on the design side. Unable to find anything that would fit her daughter, and not wanting to keep on having Erin’s glasses fixed or replaced, and realizing that other parents who have kids with Down Syndrome were facing similar issues, she set about designing a prototype of her own.

Her goal, she says, was to not just create a frame that would fit a child with Down Syndrome, but would also look “like an accessory and not like a necessity.”

Glasses Courtesy of Specs4Us

After tinkering around with glasses in her spare time, Dellapina, a single, working mother of four, had designed a prototype. A friend gave her the money to hire a manufacturer in South Korea, who after a couple of attempts, understood exactly what Dellapina had in mind and sent her around eight samples.

She reached out to several people she knew, offering them cash to put lenses into her frames and try the glasses on their children (including two infants). The feedback was more than positive.

“I’m proud to say that those people are still wearing the same frames today,” she says.

From there, Dellapina ordered three models in two sizes, both of which arrived from the manufacturer on her daughter’s ninth birthday.

Erin’s World, as she christened the line, sold out at a Down Syndrome conference Dellapina attended, and “we returned from there with seven pages, filled out back to front, of names of individuals who wanted frames for their kids, including older children and teens.”

But even as her name and her glasses became more and more well known among the Down Syndrome community, opticians were reluctant to take them on. It took a long time to convince glasses shops to carry her frames, and to make opticians realize the value of a line of eyewear specifically designed to fit the face of a child or teenager with Down Syndrome.

Today, Specs4Us sells frames wholesale to opticians all over the world. The company exports to 29 countries around the globe and supplies ophthalmologists who operate on babies with cataracts. Dellapina also donates her frames to Special Olympics events.

Although Specs4Us primarily makes frames for individuals with Down Syndrome, the company has recently started working with other communities that have distinct facial features as well, including the dwarf community. Dellapina also made glasses for Adalia Rose, who has a rare genetic condition called Progeria.

Her efforts have not gone unrecognized: in addition to receiving the Exceptional Meritorious Service Award from the Nation Down Syndrome Congress in 2013, Dellapina was awarded Toyota’s Mother of Invention Award in 2015 and is the recipient of the Best Company for Innovation by SCORE in Washington DC.

Currently, Specs4Us only makes metal frames but Dellapina is hoping that soon she will be able to manufacture plastic frames as well, with the same intent of designing glasses that are “fun, funky and serviceable all at once.”

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2020 is Around the Corner: Here's How To Design Your Next Decade

Personally, I am over the top excited that we are on the cusp of turning the page on not only a new year but also on a new 10-year window of opportunities and possibilities!

You may be thinking, whoa…I am just embracing the fall season…yikes… it is tough to think about a new decade!

Yet it is this groundwork, this forward thought that you put in place TODAY that will propel you and lead you into greatness in 2020 and beyond. Designing a new decade rests in your ability to vision, in your willingness to be curious, in your awareness of where you are now and what you most want to curate. Essentially, curating what's next is about tapping into today with confidence, conviction, and decision. Leading YOU starts now. This is your new next. It is your choice.

Sometimes to get to that 'next', you need to take a step back to reflect. Please pardon my asking you to spend time in yesterday. Those who know me personally, know that I created and continue to grow my business based on enabling the present moment as a springboard for living your legacy. So, indulge me here! True, I am asking you to peek into the past, yet it is only in order for you to bring the essence of that past forward into this moment called NOW.

One of the best ways to tap into what's next is to clarify what drives you. To design a new decade, ask yourself this question about the past ten years:

What worked? What were my successes?

Make a list of your achievements big and small. Don't type them, but rather use ink and paper and sit with and savor them. Move your thoughts and your successes from your head, to your heart, to your pen, to the paper. Remember that on the flip side of goals not attained and New Year's resolutions abandoned, there was more than likely some traction and action that moved you forward, even if the end result was not what you expected. Once you have a full list of a decade's worth of personal and professional accomplishments, think about how this makes you feel. Do you remember celebrating all of them? My guess is no. So, celebrate them now. Give them new life by validating them. Circle the successes that resonate with you most right now. Where can you lean into those accomplishments as you power into the decade ahead?

Now comes a tougher question, one that I used myself in my own mid-life reinvention and a question I adore because in a moment's time it provides you with a quick reconnect to your unique inner voice.

If it were 10 years ago and nothing were standing in your way, no fear or excuses to contend with…what would you do?

Don't overthink it. The brilliance of this question is that it refocuses purpose. Whatever first came to mind when you answered this for yourself is at its core a powerful insight into defining and redefining the FUTURE decade. Bring your answer into the light of today and what small piece of it is actionable NOW? Where is this resonating and aligning with a 2019 version of yourself?

Then, based on your success list and your answer to the above question, what is your 2020 vision for your business and for the business of YOU?

Designing a new decade begins as a collection of 3,650 opportunities. 3,650 blank slates of new days ahead in which to pivot and propel yourself forward. Every single one of those days is a window into your legacy. An invitation to be, create, explore, and chip away at this thing we call life. One 24-hour segment at a time.

While you have a decade ahead to work on design improvements, you have the ability to begin manifesting this project of YOU Version 2020 right NOW. Based on exploring the exercises in this post, begin executing your vision. Ask questions. Be present. Let go of 2019 and the past 10 years so that you can embrace the next 10. Position acceptance and self-trust at the forefront of how you lead you. One choice at a time.

Don't get bogged down in the concept of the next 10 years. Instead position clarity and intention into each new day, starting today. Then chase every one of those intentions with an in-the-moment commitment and solution toward living a legendary life!