After suffering a seizure when she was born, Ronnie has Optic Nerve Hyoplasia, Myopia, Astigmatism, Nystagmus, and Left Divergent Squint, leaving her with no sight in her left eye and 10% vision in her right eye.
Now 10-years old, like all other kids her age Ronnie has great aspirations for the future and wants to be a makeup artist.
Growing up watching her Mum do it each day, Ronnie has always loved makeup.
Ronnie’s Mum Sammy said: ‘she’s been practicing through lockdown and we do makeup stuff together a lot. She’s gotten quite good and now does mine for me! She will give anything a go and gives 100%’.
Ronnie was referred to Guide Dogs by a Qualified Teacher for the Visually Impaired (QTVI). The family didn’t know much about Guide Dogs’ children and young people (CYP) services, but within three weeks they got a call from Carla Robson, a Habilitation Specialist.
Guide Dogs’ Habilitation Service helps children to develop a wide range of skills, such as movement, self-help practical skills (including feeding and dressing), and social and communication skills.
Carla said: ‘When I first met Ronnie she was able to navigate her school safely and could visually identify people and obstacles, but she found unfamiliar or crowded areas challenging and would need help’.
Carla started by providing Ronnie with sensory information when out and about so she could get the fuller picture of her environment. Together they would identify environmental sounds, such as the increasing volume of vehicles, so Ronnie would know when she was approaching a road. Or the feel of tactile paving under her feet, so she would know important information about her environment.
Ronnie’s habilitation work will help her when she moves on to secondary school. Sammy has already seen a big difference in Ronnie’s abilities: she is more confident and looks forward to seeing Carla. In the past 12 months, Ronnie has learned balance techniques, crossing roads, feeling money and independence in a shop. She now likes to lead the way.
As Ronnie was born with a vision impairment, Sammy says she copes relatively well and that you wouldn’t know there was anything wrong. Sammy said: ‘it’s really nice knowing there are people out there who can help her with her independence and confidence. It is hard, it was very emotional for me that this is really happening – it hits you like a ton of bricks.
‘It’s a big change for me as well, it’s scary, but it’s what she needs to become independent. And she’s so happy that she’s getting help’.
Since receiving help from Guide Dogs, Ronnie and Sammy have fundraised for the charity by completing Walk Your Socks Off in 2021 and raised £1,100. Sammy said: ‘We did 15,000 steps a day for a week together. She doesn’t usually like walking!’
In 2022 Ronnie and Sammy will be fundraising again.
Carla visits Ronnie every two weeks and will soon be learning how to use public transport and how to safely navigate and use things around her home. Carla said: ‘Ronnie has come a long way already and it’s great to see her confidence grow. Our Habilitation Service is so important to children and young people with vision impairments. It’s so rewarding to see the difference we can make to theirs and their families’ lives’.
New Guide Dogs Dads' Group has launched to provide information, advice and peer-to-peer support to dads with a child affected by sight loss. This pilot scheme is funded thanks to the support of National Lottery players.