Christmas is all about counting your blessings, so i'd like to tell you about my beautiful daughter. Emily is like any other five year-old girl. She loves music, storytime and dressing up, and can’t wait to start school next year.
The only difference between my little girl and her friends is that she is vision impaired, and has been for most of her life. When she was about five weeks old I noticed that her eyes didn’t follow me. I knew something wasn’t right.
My GP referred Emily to a specialist. After many tests, she was diagnosed with early onset retinitis pigmentosa, which causes the retina to deteriorate. At the moment, she has no peripheral vision and limited central vision. The doctors say that by the time Emily finishes primary school all her vision will be gone.
Finding out your child will go through life without seeing is a hard concept to grasp. I didn't know what to expect. Thankfully, Vision Australia has been there for us since Emily was a baby. Their support has been invaluable – I don’t know how I would have coped without them.
Amanda, a Vision Australia Early Childhood Educator, has been brilliant. She has explained the best types of puzzles for Emily to play with – ones with small objects that improve her finger control. That sort of advice has made a huge difference.
In the past year, Amanda has introduced Emily to a braille machine and she already knows the ins and outs of it. When she starts school, a Vision Australia visiting teacher will teach her how to write braille. It won’t be difficult – she’s a clever girl!
Although Emily has two younger brothers – Rylee and Aiden – it’s good for her to mix with children her own age at playgroup. Alexander is her best mate there. He helps her to sit on the red chairs they’ve placed at every table for her. But she’s not given special treatment. No-one wraps Emily in cotton wool.
My daughter is a redhead, with attitude to match! Not long ago, she tuned into a TV show on orchestras. A few days later I spied her swinging a stick around. She told me, “Mum, I’m being a conductor”. She’s also a bookworm and borrows from the Feelix Braille Book Library – the books come in kits along with CDs and tactile objects that help bring the stories to life.
The wonderful thing about Emily is that nothing phases her. When we’re in an unfamiliar place she will say, “Mummy, you should hold my hand”. She’s very aware of her vision impairment.
We’re excited about school. Vision Australia has worked hard to ensure she receives the same opportunities as her peers. Amanda has informed the teachers of Emily’s needs and has organised funding for equipment. I know Emily will be able to achieve anything she sets her mind to, especially with Vision Australia’s support.