Eliza's story

When Eliza was just nine-months-old she was diagnosed with Optic Nerve Hypoplasia and Septo Optic Dysplasia, and was registered blind. Eliza’s parents came away feeling so overwhelmed. They had just been handed this life-changing information and didn’t know what to do next, where to go or who to speak to.

Eliza’s Mum, Lauren, said: "At first we were just shocked. She was such a happy little girl and she just wanted to get up and go; we couldn’t understand that all this time she couldn’t see us or anything around her".

Lauren said: "We had no idea what to do, we were grasping at straws and trying to find out everything we could.

"After going through every possible scenario, we took the mindset that just because we found this out, nothing had really changed about her. We tried to continue with her as normal as possible – with some extra sensory toys and a lot more music".

Lauren saw the Guide Dogs TV advert about a young girl, who in the advert is learning to navigate her way around a school with the support and encouragement of a member of staff. Another family suggested they should contact Guide Dogs.

They rang Guide Dogs and asked if there was anything available for Eliza, with her being so young. Lauren said: "Guide Dogs put us in contact with their family support team, referred us to the community team, and the education team helped us to make sure we got a nursery place which Eliza would benefit from the most".

Guide Dogs’ Children and Young People (CYP) Services helps children to develop a wide range of skills, with the focus on key early years development areas such as early movement, self-help practical skills (including feeding and dressing), and social and communication skills.

Although the CYP services are not new to Guide Dogs, they are not as well-known as the furry, four-legged kind that the public know and love.

Eliza now gets regular visits from her Habilitation Specialist, Lindsey, who is a dedicated member of staff that teaches Eliza how to learn about her environment.

Meet Eliza

We have focused on fine motor skills, walking, moving around and a little bit of self-care. Eliza loves singing and nursery rhymes, so [Guide Dogs] always comes with new songs to match the activity they want to do that week.
Lauren, Eliza's mum

Lindsey said: "I’ve seen a huge difference in Eliza’s confidence and skills. She’s so determined and is becoming so independent. We're starting to explore more of the outside world now and will soon be introducing her to a long cane.

"Eliza has a real sense of humour and she’s flying with her progress. She’s a real superstar!"

Guide Dogs has made a huge difference to Eliza’s life, but it has also provided Eliza’s family with support and reassurance. Lauren said: "I ask quite a lot of questions and they have cleared up a lot of my worries. They also introduced us to local visual impairment groups, and that’s helped to see how older children have managed".

Eliza has now been getting support from Guide Dogs for 18 months and her family can see the changes already. Lauren said: "Nothing will stop Eliza, she is going to find her own way through life. This has made it easier to accept her diagnosis and we’re giving her as much independence as we can.

"I don’t know where we would be without Guide Dogs help".