Update: In January 2017, RLSB merged with the Royal Society for Blind Children. Although we are now called RSBC, there may be some references to RLSB in the following blog.
Over the last year and a half RLSB has opened three Parent & Toddler Groups in Stratford, Peckham and Penge, offering vital support to vision impaired toddlers and their families. On Saturday 26 April RLSB took to the streets in an iconic red London bus, packed with sensory toys and Easter activities, to visit these three areas and meet the local residents.
Listen to interviews from the day or read on:
The day began at the Chandos East Community Centre in Stratford, where one of the groups is held every week.
Families, children, donors and supporters gathered at the centre where they were able to explore the bus and the sensory room used for the parent and toddler groups.
The sensory room was packed with a variety of sounds, sights and textures. Fluorescent strands of light shining on one wall, huge bean bags on the floor as well as a soft play area with toys including a toy car horn, wind chimes, textured paper and much more.
A sensory room is vital for blind young children to explore all these sounds and textures in a safe environment.
Children also enjoyed face painting and one tot Harvey – who attended the RLSB nursery – terrified everyone with a magnificent roar to go along with his painted lion’s face.
“RLSB is the base to my pizza”
Later on in the morning everyone gathered to hear enlightening and emotional speeches from a select few who have worked with or benefited from RLSB.
Dr Ashwin Reddy, an opthomologist recently appointed as an RLSB adviser, discussed some methods he uses when determining if children are vision impaired. He highlighted the importance of using objects with a high black and white contrast when determining how well a baby can see, as pink or blue toys are difficult for babies to distinguish whether they have a visual impairment or not.
Ashwin added: “Guiding a visually impaired baby’s hands or toes into the mouth will aid motor development, because we know that with visual impairment there can be a delay in walking as a result.”
Leigh, who’s son Archie attends the nursery, was next. She delivered an emotional speech starting by explaining that Archie has been benefitting from RLSB’s work since he was eight months old.
“My little boy Archie is in many ways like any other four-year-old boy. He loves cars and loves going very fast on his scooter, yet he’s very clingy with me as he feels safer when he’s with me and due to his visual impairment he struggles when navigating busy environments.
“When we first found out about his diagnosis it was very scary and it was a big emotional roller coaster. Coming to the RLSB Parent & Toddler Groups completely changed our outlook. We got help with all the problems we encountered and also got to meet other parents who are now good friends.”
Fifteen-year-old Jessie who attended the nursery and now attends our Social & Peer Groups spoke of RLSB “being the base to my pizza.” She explained how RLSB was a strong foundation in helping her gain in confidence and live her life without limits.
Thanks to supporters!
Following this The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community presented RLSB with a much appreciated gift of £2000. Ahmadiyya help a number of charities and have generously supported RLSB for the last three years; this latest donation brings the amazing total they have raised to over £10,000!
Individuals and community groups like Ahmadiyya play a vital role in ensuring RLSB continues to help blind children and their families.
The RLSB bus then travelled to Peckham, attracting great interest from members of the public. Many excited children got on board the bus and got busy crafting, colouring, having a go on a bubble machine and learning how to write their name in braille on a Perkins braille machine.
RLSB’s head of early years Maggie Bindon said: “We have been fortunate to come to areas where children have been able to enjoy the sensory activities. We have also met some families with vision impaired children who have never heard of RLSB before but that want to stay in touch.”
At the final stop, Penge High Street, the bus was greeted by deputy Mayor of Bromley Judi Ellis. She said she backed schemes that supported parents going through a tough time.
“I am in favour of schemes that support parents going through a shocking time when you find out your child has a disability. Parents should try the new Parent & Toddler Groups because the biggest support you have as a parent is other parents.”
To find out more about our drop-ins and how RLSB can help, please visit the early year’s section of our website.