Friday, 9 January 2015

Transitions Article for
Trafford CIL Newsletter

I was recently contacted to write an article for the Trafford CIL (Centre for Independent Living) newsletter, on the topic of the different transitions throughout life. As a severely sight-impaired person transitions have varied from being easy to very difficult depending on the amount of support I have received at the time - and I was more than happy to share my experiences with other disabled people.

Transitions: Your Stories

This edition we say a big thank you to Kimberley via Henshaws Society for Blind People for kindly sharing her personal experience of transition towards adulthood…

"Transitioning in life can be difficult, both emotionally and physically, presenting new challenges and learning curves. Nothing in life can stay the same and we all have to transition in some way; whether it's from childhood, adolescence and adulthood or further learning to employment or voluntary work. IT can be tough to adapt quickly and to accept sudden or gradual change. Now, imagine what it would be like to go through those important transitional stages whilst losing your sight.

As a young severely sight-impaired person, I have had different experiences when it comes to transitioning into the different phases of my life so far. Some have been welcome changes; others have not been so welcome. All of them have been dependent on the varying amount of support I have received at the time.

The transition from primary school to high school was an easy one; an exciting prospect, as I was still very young and most children tend to adapt to different environments easily. I received the same level of support from teachers and peers as I did previously and I still managed as best as I could and received excellent grades. However, as I grew older and learned more about the extent of my sight condition and other health issues, I developed severe depression and anxiety making later transitions more difficult.

The idea of change suddenly became terrifying. I dreaded the moment I would be leaving the high school I was confident and comfortable in during the previous 5 years. The idea of college provided me with a sense of uncertainty and apprehension. I didn't feel like I belonged because of my visual impairment - which was constantly getting worse. No support had been offered to me thus far and I was too scared to reveal the extent of my condition and the support I desperately needed, in fear of being treated to anyone else. As a sixteen year old I wanted nothing more than to fit in and be perceived as a 'normal' teenager.

After recovering from my other illnesses, and coming to terms with my dwindling vision, I began to accept who I was after being in denial for so long throughout my later teenage years. I have received life-changing support from Henshaws Society for Blind People over the past year and a half in terms of living with sight loss, daily living skills, mobility training, employability guidance and, now, a work placement with the fundraising and marketing team. Being given the opportunity to develop friendships and connect with other visually impaired people for the first time has also increased my confidence and sense of well-being. The combination of learning new skills, being offered constant support and a strong social network has helped me to become who I am today.

Becoming a volunteer and undertaking a work placement has been the easiest transition of all thanks to Henshaws and the wonderful work that they do. I have recently been matched to my Guide Dog and will undergo intense training which will eventually see me lead a more independent life; travelling alone, accessing social opportunities and being a part of the working environment - just like anyone else.

Ten years ago I would have found this to be the most daunting thing I have ever faced. Today I relish in new challenges, feel a strong sense of determination and look forward to my next transition!

You can find out more about the Trafford Centre for Independent Living and the services they offer by visiting their website here.