Seventeen-month old Sora loves music; give her a drum or a toy piano, and she will be in her element, or play a beat, and she’ll dance. Her talents don’t stop at music, either. Sora, whose name means ‘sky’ in Japanese, is learning both English and Japanese, languages that are used in her family – and is excelling at both.
“We’ll say something in Japanese, and she’ll respond in English. We’re so amazed by Sora!” said proud dad, Eric.
Initially, for new parents, Eric and Kanae, being told that Sora has a genetic condition that causes vision impairment, and that she could only perceive light and shape outlines, came as a shock. They did their research to find the right support network for their family and chose RIDBC, a partnership that has provided support on many levels and led to new friendships too.
RIDBC Early Leaning Consultant, Svetlana, has worked with Eric, Kanae and Sora since Sora was four months old. Sessions take place in their home, so that Sora is in a familiar environment, where Svetlana can work on encouraging active participation within the family’s daily routines.
“In the early stages, our goal was to provide support to Sora’s family, and give them the tools and the confidence to support her development. As Sora has grown, we’ve moved on to developing her play and concept development, encouraging her social interaction and understanding of what is happening around her. Through play Sora is able to learn to discriminate between various textures and shapes which is important for recognising objects and exploring tactile books. Essentially, Sora is learning to use her hands to access information,” Svetlana explained.
For Sora’s family, partnering with RIDBC has given them an understanding of how to support Sora’s development and develop her confidence in exploring the world around her. “Sora is full of energy and loves movement – she loves swimming and exploring the playground,” said Eric.
Sora, who is a braille user, is also being introduced to tactile books as part of her sessions with Svetlana. Eric says this is a highlight for him and something he loves doing with Sora. “Most nights, I am lucky enough to be the one who reads to Sora at bedtime, and it’s one of my favourite things – she just loves books and being read to.”
Eric is confident that working with RIDBC will give Sora not only access to the tools that will support her through her school life and beyond, but also the self-assurance to follow her dreams and see that she can achieve anything. “I want her to know that she can do or be anything. She loves music – so perhaps there is a career in that!”
An unexpected outcome for Sora’s family has been new friendships with other RIDBC families. “Through our RIDBC playgroup, we meet so many families and many have become friends. It’s awesome to share the joys and challenges of parenthood with people that really understand,” Eric said.
He acknowledges that, for dads, it can be a little harder to find support networks, and he encourages other fathers to feel welcome at the RIDBC playgroup. “It can be difficult as a dad to meet others going through similar stages, but through the playgroup I have met some great dads. It’s a really welcoming place and I’d love to meet more dads and maybe even build up a more formal support network.”
Eric is looking forward to this Father’s Day because it will be the first one where his daughter is mobile and talking. “We’ll probably do our favourite things – go to the playground – or maybe even visit a farm. Sora loves animals.”
However they choose to celebrate this Father’s Day, one thing is certain, Eric will love every minute of it. “I am so lucky to be Sora’s dad,” he says. “Every day is Father’s Day with Sora.”