Sight impaired two year old Eliza from Clitheroe learns new skills including using white cane thanks to Guide Dogs charity

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At just nine months old Lancashire infant Eliza Bardsley was diagnosed with a condition which meant she was registered as blind.

It was a diagnosis which took her family completely by surprise.

Mum Lauren Bailey said: “At first we were just shocked. She was such a happy little girl and she just wanted to get up and go; we couldn’t

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understand that all this time she couldn’t see us or anything around her.”

Guide Dogs'  habilitation specialist Lindsey Tibot (left) pictured with Eliza and Lauren  Photo: Dave Phillips PhotographyGuide Dogs'  habilitation specialist Lindsey Tibot (left) pictured with Eliza and Lauren  Photo: Dave Phillips Photography
Guide Dogs' habilitation specialist Lindsey Tibot (left) pictured with Eliza and Lauren Photo: Dave Phillips Photography
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Eliza’s parents felt overwhelmed by the diagnosis of optic nerve hypoplasia and septo optic dysplasia.

Lauren said: ‘We had no idea what to do, we were grasping at straws and trying to find out everything we could.”

But ultimately dad Caleb Bardsley and Lauren concluded that, although the news was life-changing, in so many ways there were essentials that had not changed.

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Mum Lauren (right), Eliza and habilitation specialist Lindsey TibotMum Lauren (right), Eliza and habilitation specialist Lindsey Tibot
Mum Lauren (right), Eliza and habilitation specialist Lindsey Tibot

The family live in Clitheroe and Lauren, who formerly lived in Burnley, said: “After going through every possible scenario, we took the mindset that just because we found this out, nothing had really changed about her. We tried to continue with her as normal as possible – with some extra sensory toys and a lot more music!”

Then Lauren saw a Guide Dogs advert about a young girl called Nell, learning to navigate her way around school

and a family member suggested they should contact the Guide Dogs charity.

Lauren said: “Guide Dogs put us in contact with their family support team, referred us to the community team and the education team helped us to make sure we got a nursery place which Eliza would benefit from the most’.

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Eliza has started learning how to use a white cane and has since gained new skills to navigate her world, thanks to Guide Dogs’ special services for young people which are in the spotlight this week as part of a national publicity campaign.

Eliza gets regular visits from Lindsey Tibot, a habilitation specialist.

Lauren said: “We have focused on fine motor skills, walking, moving around and a little bit of self-care. Eliza loves singing and nursery

rhymes, so [Guide Dogs] always comes with new songs to match the activity they want to do that week.”

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She continued: “I’ve seen a huge difference in Eliza’s confidence and skills. She’s so determined and is becoming so independent. We are

starting to explore more of the outside world now. Eliza has a real sense of humour and says oh goodness if something is tricky or she drops something. She’s flying with her progress. She’s a real superstar.”

The service has also given the family much needed support and reassurance. Lauren said: ‘They have cleared up a lot of my worries. They also introduced us to local visual impairment groups and that’s helped to see how older children have managed.”

Eliza has now been getting support from Guide Dogs for nine months and Lauren said: ‘Nothing will stop Eliza; she is going to find her own way through life! This has made it easier to accept her diagnosis; we’re giving her as much independence as we can. I don’t know where we would be without Guide Dogs’ help.”

What help can the Guide Dogs’ Children and Young People (CYP) service provide?

Guide Dogs provides a range of services to support not only a child with a vision impairment, but the whole family. This includes equipping a child with the skills they need to live an independent and active life, to family events to connect with other families living with sight loss.

Guide Dogs children and young people’s services are available from birth.

Services include My Time to Play (for ages 0-4), habilitation, CustomEyes books, Tech for All, education services, family events, and buddy dogs.

A spokesperson for the charity said: “ Guide Dogs is the number one provider of services for children and young people with sight loss. Our services are life-changing...Although the Guide Dogs’ Children and Young People (CYP) services are not new to Guide Dogs, they are not as well known as the furry, four-legged kind that the public know and love.”

The CYP services helps children to develop a wide range of skills, with the focus on crucial key early years’ development areas such as early movement, self-help practical skills (including feeding and dressing) and social and communication skills. Next week the charity will be promoting its CYP service to make more people aware of the help it can offer.

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