Lucia has grown up with visual impairment and complex needs as a result of a brain haemorrhage which struck when she was two years old.
Doctors were uncertain as to what Lucia’s capacity for speech and vision would be, however Lucia is now a very verbal and active 16-year-old who loves the outdoors. She has adapted extremely well to using her limited vision.
Following a fun summer at Kidscene – Sight Scotland’s after school and holiday club based at the Royal Blind School campus in Edinburgh – Lucia started attending the Royal Blind School at the beginning of the 2021/22 school term. Lucia’s mum, Tracy, says the holiday club was the perfect way for her daughter and their family to meet some of the school pupils and staff, and to familiarise with the campus.
Lucia has been settling into her new school routine and residential placement at the Royal Blind School, with a tailored programme combining one-to-one sessions, lessons with her classmates and therapy.
Lucia’s mum Tracy said: “Lucia just needs that extra input to really help broaden her interests and social group and to really help her blossom as a young adult.
“The move to the Royal Blind School and its residential services would give her the opportunity to really build on her social skills, increase friendships, enjoy more group activities and, with the help of the staff, increase her independence as much as possible.
“Lucia has a day that’s tailored to her needs and interests and to the goals that the school are starting to set for her. She’s responded to that really positively. She’s spent a good bit of time working on stories and been out in Hagrid’s Hut in the school grounds.
“Lucia is interacting with a variety of people – not just the pupils and the teaching team, but the therapists as well. I’m quite astonished at just how much blending learning there is and support between education and therapy, such as with speech and language therapy, which now seems to be well embedded in the curriculum for Lucia.
”It’s been really lovely to see that, as well as her interactions with the teachers and in other activities she’s doing, like mobility sessions. I can see that Lucia is really happy.”
Lucia’s father, Callum, commented: “The transition so far has gone really well and everyone is heartened by just how resilient Lucia is proving to be in adapting to her new life away from home during the week. She really is blossoming.”
‘Skills, knowledge and experience that stands out’
The Royal Blind School’s expertise in specialist education for children and young people with visual impairment was a driving force for Lucia’s move to the school and residential services, says Tracy.
Tracy said: “There is a paucity of trained, skilled staff for visually impaired children and young people in the education field. But at the Royal Blind School everything about the way the school is organised and run is with an understanding of the needs of people with vision loss.
“The team’s skills, knowledge and experience has really stood out. Everybody on the education team has the training, expertise and experience in supporting children and young people with visual impairment, and that makes a huge difference because they are tuned into it constantly.
“The thought that goes into the planning, resources, and the teaching and learning environment is geared to young people with visual impairment, helping to bring pupils on and give them confidence – not just in education but practically and socially too.”
‘Having fun and building confidence’
Tracy says Lucia’s experiences of staying at the school’s residential home have also been helping her to flourish.
“Lucia’s got a lovely room and the building is so nice,” Tracy said. “It’s a warm atmosphere, and I think she felt relaxed and that it was a happy place quite quickly. She’s now made a particular friend where she’s living, too. She’s told me she likes being there. It’s all exciting and new, and she seems to be stepping up to that and building her confidence.
“It’s just lovely to see her there, happy, confident and relaxed; at play and at dinner, interacting with lots of people and having a nice time with people who are interested in getting to know her.”
Support for the whole family
Lucia’s parents agree they feel extremely well supported by the team too.
“It’s absolutely fantastic to have this specialist education support in place. It feels like this was absolutely the right move, and this is the best place for Lucia to be,” Tracy said.
“As Lucia’s mum I’ve found there to be very good engagement and support from the team. I get daily feedback from the school, and I do feel that Lucia's needs are central to everything.
“Lucia’s 16 now, so what’s in my mind is using her years in senior school to try and help prepare her as much for life after school and build up that resilience and confidence to help her find her way forward.
“At the Royal Blind School and with Sight Scotland I can relax in the knowledge that the people working with Lucia will be able to understand her, work out how they can best support her and how they can push and stimulate her that little bit more to try and learn new things.
“One of the other special aspects of the charity Sight Scotland is that it doesn’t just do one thing – there are lots of different branches to Sight Scotland’s work, supporting visually impaired adults as well.
“There’s so much expertise, and an understanding of what destinations for school leavers might be. They can help guide a family in helping that young person make decisions as they grow up.
“The Royal Blind School gives Lucia the advantage because of that collective experience and knowledge it provides. That’s a real treasure that I don’t think you can really find anywhere else.”
Callum adds: “There is so much love, care and understanding on show from the experienced and professional teaching and residential staff, it’s no wonder Lucia is having such a great learning and living experience, widening her world away from home.”