New initiative to train school staff to better understand emotional impact of sight loss on young people
A NEW initiative to train staff working within schools in Northern Ireland to better understand the emotional impact of sight loss on young people has been launched.
Led by two sight loss charities, the Counselling Insight project will deliver accredited training to school counsellors and others on how to work effectively with visually impaired and blind children.
The two-year initiative from the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB NI), in partnership with Guide Dogs NI, received £80,207 funding from the Department of Health Mental Health Fund.
The charities hope the training will "enhance the emotional support provided to young people living with a visual impairment across Northern Ireland".
Leah Taylor (20) from Feeny in Co Derry has lived with sight loss all her life due to a number of eye conditions including aniridia and glaucoma. She said she wished she had been able to receive more support while at school.
"Looking back now, I believe that some sort of counselling or emotional support would have helped me, but that just wasn’t an option," she said.
"I felt isolated at school. It felt like everyone else was getting on with life and I was outside all that. I felt like no-one wanted to be my friend because I couldn’t do the things that the rest of my age group were doing.
"I know it was meant to help, but I found the fact that I always seemed to have a classroom assistant nearby, prevented me from mixing properly with the others in my class. I just wish that when I was at school, the teachers and other school staff simply had more awareness of disability and what that meant for those of us living with it."
Amanda Hawkins from RNIB said: "We know that losing sight is like losing anything else important as far as our feelings go. It can involve a lot of difficult emotions. It’s so important that children and young people experiencing sight loss or visual impairment, are connected with someone they can trust to talk to, so they can start to get past those difficult feelings and move on to thrive at school.
"My hope is that by providing this two-day specialist training course to qualified counselling practitioners, the emotional support that children and young people receive whilst in education, will go further to support them.
"I’m determined that we work to give children and young people with visual impairment confidence to grow up to be adults who feel able to make the most of the opportunities that inevitably lie before them and go on to live the lives they want to live."