Mia, 14, was born with multiple conditions, including cortical visual impairment, third nerve palsy and photophobia, and her family didn’t know where to turn for help. But after contacting Guide Dogs, Mia received support and habilitation training and is now enjoying life like any other teenager. Here, mum Bernadette tells their story.
“It took us months to get a diagnosis after Mia was born – it was a real battle. As she got older, she became painfully shy and kept falling over when we went out; she was in so much pain after every fall, she just clung to any adult. Mia’s school wasn’t accessible either so she became trapped at home, desperate to go out with her friends. Things got really difficult for our family, and we were struggling.
“That’s when our liaison at the hospital suggested I contact Guide Dogs. They helped us put together an education, health and care plan for Mia, and worked with the local authority to make it happen – it was brilliant! They also supported us when Mia moved to an excellent new school, and helped us find the right assistive technology, like Braille readers, to help her do more of the things she loves.
“Mia’s habilitation specialist from Guide Dogs, Amy, has really helped boost her confidence. She started by teaching her how to get around safely using a long cane, then they started practising regular routes like going to the local shops to buy something. She’s also helped Mia develop some skills to make life easier, such as learning to cook and handling money. Now, she can identify the different coins by feeling their weight, shapes and edges.
“Soon, Mia started talking about the places she’d love to visit by herself. She even told me ‘now I have a cane, I have a life’. She’s able to go out by herself and get a coffee with her friends, which is great. That shy girl has completely disappeared – now, Mia loves singing and performing on stage! She even held a school assembly to tell all the other children about her life.
“Amy taught us all how to guide Mia when we’re out and about as family, too. Her brothers and sisters – Paige, 16, Noah, 12 and Faith, seven – are also a huge help at home. For example, if the sound on the TV is terrible, they’ll describe what’s happening to her. Mia has a very special bond with Noah, who’s hearing impaired; he acts as her eyes and she’s his ears.
“Mia says that Guide Dogs have helped make her who she is today, and I couldn’t agree more. Before, it felt like it was one problem after another but Guide Dogs have helped us find a solution for all of them. I used to go to bed crying but now I’ve got a smile on my face instead.”