Complications during heart surgery led to Clive losing his vision. Now, three years on, Clive and his family receive support from RIDBC Teleschool from their home in Canberra.
To look at Clive you might never suspect that he is legally blind.
“Clive had heart surgery at two weeks of age and went into cardiac arrest,” said Clive’s mother, Emma. “Fluctuating blood pressure during surgery damaged his optic nerves, causing vision loss.”
In October 2013, Clive started accessing RIDBC Teleschool, which supports families across Australia using high-quality videoconferencing technology.
“When you are from Canberra you get used to going to Sydney for appointments,” said Emma. “So finding RIDBC Teleschool was fantastic.
“In April this year we attended an RIDBC residential vision week for families. We thought Clive’s vision was OK as he could get around quite easily, so speaking with other parents was a real eye opener. We discovered our ‘he’ll be fine’ attitude wasn’t uncommon. Children who are young appear to cope quite well!”
Clive is now learning braille with support from RIDBC.
“When a child is young everything in their world is quite big, so they might cope with print with magnification – but this will eventually affect their reading speed and fluency,” said Clive’s RIDBC consultant, Kylie.
“The smallest font Clive can read is size 24 and for him that’s like reading a phone book – it’s exhausting.”
RIDBC is helping Clive develop his tactile skills.
“We are giving Clive access to braille, print and voiceover technologies so that he isn’t restricted by his disability. We’re getting him used to the idea that you can read with your fingers!” said Kylie.
“Clive doesn’t yet have a braille machine so we’re using games like placing balls in a muffin tin to make braille code. We are also working on touch discrimination, placing toy animals in a pillow case and asking him to reach in to find a particular animal.”
Clive’s parents are optimistic for his future.
“We don’t want Clive’s identity to be ‘I’m vision impaired’. He is vision impaired, but he’s also a bright, engaging child who is capable of doing anything he sets his mind to,” said Emma. “RIDBC is giving him the skills he needs to achieve that.”