As a result of suffering a stroke during birth, I have an eye condition known as Hemianopia, which means I can’t see out of the right side of my eyes. As well as Hemianopia, I also have Hemiplegia – a form of cerebral palsy that affects the right side of my body, mainly my right leg and arm. Hemiplegia affects my ability to do everyday tasks such as tying my shoelaces or using escalators and causes stiffness and pain when doing other things such as exercise or writing.

Living with an eye condition can be incredibly challenging at times, but because I was born with it I’ve never known any different which has helped me to adapt well. One of the biggest challenges I often face is trying to explain to others how my sight loss affects me; even sometimes to my closest friends and family! I have two younger sisters, who at times can be very annoying, but also help me sometimes too and I enjoy being an older sister to them!

I was first introduced to Blatchington Court Trust when I was 3 years old. I don’t remember much, but my Mum tells me about the time that Alison (Executive Manager at Blatchington Court Trust) visited my family and me at home. As well as reassuring my Mum and Dad that help was available, Alison also showed them how my eye condition affects my vision by using SimSpecs – glasses that can be worn to simulate various eye conditions. Looking back, I feel so grateful for this as it gave my Mum and Dad an idea of how I saw the world around me.

A few years on and aged 14, I attended an event at Blatchington Court Trust where we made Easter eggs. As well as making chocolate eggs, I also remember enjoying meeting other young people with sight loss and feeling comfortable in the group. It wasn’t long after attending this event that I was invited to join a similar group of young people on a theatre trip organized by Blatchington Court Trust, to see Annie. These events were not only fun, but also enabled me to make friends and socialize with lots of friendly people without feeling uncomfortable or out of place.

I attended a main stream school in Brighton and was thankfully given the support I needed, with a one-to-one assistant who enlarged work given out by the teachers. Unfortunately, I found making friends incredibly difficult and was bullied by other students – to the extent that I was threatened with a Bunsen burner and pushed down stairs.

Because of the bullying at school and the difficulties I faced with my disabilities, I quite often found myself becoming very angry and frustrated, even with little things. When I was 13 I started counselling sessions with David (Counsellor at Blatchington Court Trust) which really helped as he helped me build my emotional resilience, confidence and gave me tools and techniques I could use when I was feeling upset, angry, frustrated and even suicidal. Without this support I couldn’t have got through these dark times.

Blatchington Court Trust also very kindly provided me with an iPad which was brilliant as it meant I could read books and stay in touch with friends via social media and email. It was particularly helpful when reading books as I found it difficult to turn pages of a printed books because of my Hemiplegia. My school allowed me to take my laptop home which really helped too as it was quite difficult to use the family computer because I had to keep changing the settings to suit my needs. Once I had left school Blatchington Court Trust then provided me with a laptop that I could use to carry out my college work and later on to find employment. I also started working with Lorna Payne (Life Coach at Blatchington Court Trust) who really helped me to feel more positive about seeking employment and setting goals for myself.

I am so grateful for all of the help and support provided by Blatchington Court Trust and because of this I’ve enjoyed many incredible experiences, including an unforgettable cultural exchange to Thailand with Blatchington Court Trust and climbing Mount Snowdon with my friends. I am so thankful that I was given these opportunities that helped me build my confidence, improve my independence and make some lifelong friends on the way.

I am now working with Blatchington Court Trust as part of their befriending service, providing help and support to another young person with sight loss in my community. This has allowed me to improve my CV, helping me to recently secure employment in a children’s nursery.

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