Opening our eyes to the difficulties facing blind and partially sighted kids

RLSB

I’m a great believer in charity and helping those less fortunate than ourselves. I already donate to four charities direct from my salary, which means they are able to reclaim tax via Gift Aid.

So when I was contacted by the RLSB (the Royal London Society for Blind People) about promoting a new report, I was happy to help spread the word.

RLSB

To start with, here are some general statistics from RLSB’s website:

  • One in four blind and partially sighted children under 12 are depressed.
  • 40% of blind children don’t have neighbourhood friends to play with.
  • 90% of those who lose their sight in youth won’t work for more than six months in their lives.

Just think about those numbers for a second. A blind or partially sighted child has a high probability of being depressed, friendless and growing up unable to work.

Today, the RLSB and the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) have launched their Sight Impairment at 11 report. It finds that blind and partially sighted 11-year-olds face a tough reality. Not being able to see fully, or at all, can have a major impact on every aspect of a child’s development and wellbeing.

By 11, most blind and partially sighted children are less confident than their sighted peers. They find it harder to make friends, are more likely to be socially isolated, and are more likely to live in financial hardship. Parents and teachers say that children with sight loss are twice as likely to be bullied or picked on by other children. No child should have this to look forward to.

This can be avoided with early intervention through expert support for the children, their families and schools. Results from the report clarify that by teaching blind children how to make friends and build resilience, they can flourish in the school environment.

Key findings of the report include:

  • Responses from parents and teachers indicate that children with sight loss are twice as likely as fully sighted children to be bullied or picked on by other children.
  • Children with sight impairment and an additional disability are particularly at risk of emotional difficulties, being socially isolated and doing poorly at school.
  • Children with sight impairment are less likely to be physically active.
  • Over one in four live below the poverty line.

To help young blind children reach their potential, the RLSB provides support at an early age at their family drop-in centres, where they also assist parents how to bring up a blind child. Unfortunately these life-changing services are limited and they are hoping to open more in 2015, making support more accessible to families who need it.

The RLSB are currently running a Christmas appeal to enable them to open three more groups in London and the South East. Here is a link to the appeal outlining more about their services and also showing the story of Sylvia, who makes a 50-mile round trip each week to take her granddaughter Zoe to one of RLSB’s family drop-in services, as there isn’t one closer to her. But until that time, Sylvia says that these drop-in centres are “worth every mile to get there”.

Both the RLSB and RNIB say that they are committed to working with local authorities to support the work they are doing with vision impaired young people and their families.

But we all have a role to play too. From donations to participation in events or just being aware of the social problems vision impaired children can face, there is something more each of us can do. We just have to open our eyes to what is going on around us.

The full Sight Impairment at 11 report can be found via this link.

This post was produced on behalf of the RLSB. I have received no payment or benefit in kind. To make a donation or to find out more about the services and events the RLSB and RNIB provide, visit their websites http://www.rlsb.org.uk/ and http://www.rnib.org.uk/.