Samantha Gough, 18, of Lasswade, Midlothian has been visually impaired from birth due to cerebral visual impairment (CVI) – a condition which means the eyes are healthy, however the brain’s visual pathways do not work, resulting in sight loss.

For the last year, Samantha, who is now severely sight impaired, has had a flexible placement with Sight Scotland’s Royal Blind School in Edinburgh. Her schooling is split between attendance at her mainstream school and the Royal Blind School, where she receives teaching and support from the Royal Blind School’s specialist team, including Qualified Teachers of Children and Young People with Vision Impairment (QTVIs) and habilitation specialists.

Samantha says this tailored specialist teaching and the opportunity to learn independent living skills with specialist teachers has been “life changing”.

Samantha said: “My sight started to get worse in 2014. As my sight has deteriorated over time, I’ve had to relearn how to live. I needed to do mobility training to find my way around the world again.

“At the Royal Blind School I’m learning how to use braille, which I love because I had lost the ability to read and write as my sight was taken away from me due to my condition, and reading and writing in braille has helped me reconnect with that.

“That feels amazing. I feel like I’ve found a part of myself again which I had lost when my sight deteriorated. I’m now working with different technologies, such as a BrailleNote Touch, to be able type and learn how to use a computer.

“The Royal Blind School team have also been teaching me independent living skills. It’s things like learning cooking skills, and learning how to go to the shops and advocate for myself by saying what support I need. I’m just learning how to use the bus independently, which will hopefully progress to train travel.

“When I’m at the Royal Blind School I can independently travel around on my own because I’ve mind-mapped the whole school. I’ve also been given the opportunity to teach Goalball to other pupils in PE class. Sport is one of my favourite subjects.

“The Royal Blind School teachers have also been helping me with self-advocacy. Now that I have this support to learn all these independent living skills, as well as specialist teaching in things like braille, I feel like I can be confident. I can be an 18-year-old.

“There are still struggles and things I’ll always need help with, but it’s about learning coping strategies and how I can do things on my own. It’s about building that up and being prepared for the future.

“Having this flexible placement with the Royal Blind School and their specialist teaching and support has been very beneficial. I’ve been here for a year, and it’s been life changing. I think giving pupils with vision impairment the opportunity to have this specialist support is the best thing.”

Find out more about specialist teaching at the Royal Blind School.