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A new lease of life for a boy who is losing his sight

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A nine-year-old Prospect Primary student who is legally blind and losing his remaining vision has been given a new lease on life thanks to a pilot scheme launched at his school.The Ministry of Education’s pilot scheme is supported by donations, and still urgently needs sponsorship. Braille computers cost thousands.

Brendon Fox, who started year P6 yesterday, suffers from cataracts and a detached retina caused by birth defects.

Brendon has “severe vision loss in one eye and very small field of vision in the other eye”, said vision specialist William Ridley, who leads the “revolutionary” new Braille Programme starting at Prospect Primary.

Brendon’s remaining eyesight has dwindled over the last year, Mr Ridley said. It is unknown how long his vision will last.

Later this month, visually impaired children from across the Island will join Brendon in Braille studies and an extended core curriculum based in the school.

“It’s really exciting for me,” Mr Ridley said. “I’ve never seen this done anywhere else in the world.”

Students with visual impairments are normally integrated with others, but Prospect has turned over part of its space to bring students together for specialised treatment.

The school chose to sponsor the programme, in part, to provide on-site education to Brendon.

“My whole class is very curious about it,” Brendon said. “They all want to learn Braille.”

Training with Mr Ridley on Braille machines over the past year has been “a great experience”, he added.

“I am getting better and better in my work. Before, life was pretty much a mess. I always had to be asking teachers for help with my reading.”

Brendon must use high-power magnifying lenses to read anything at all.

“One thing that’s really irritated me is when I had tests, they made the tests bigger for me, but I couldn’t read it,” he said.

Braille machines, conversely, “put dots on paper” that can be deciphered by touch.

“It’s easy to erase,” Brendon added. “I just push the dots back in. It will be really easy for me to do tests.”

“Brendon has had a really hard time,” his mother Sarah Fox said. “It took us four years just to get a paraeducator for him. It’s been a tough ride. But since Mr Ridley came to the Island, the difference is huge.”

Asked what he looked forward to most in the new classes, Brendon said: “We will study math and use screws and nails and wood, and make bluebird houses.”

Brendon divides his time between his Devonshire home and his father Kevin Fox’s Somerset residence, where he stays on weekends.

With his eyesight continuing to fade, Braille may soon become his only means of reading and writing.

Mrs Fox said the family prays for medical advances to one day restore her only son’s eyesight.

“We are hoping that by the time he goes 18, the technology will be advanced enough, and everything will be okay,” she said.

Leaglly blind Prospect Primary student Brendon Fox prepares to read a book in the Principal's Office with the help of a magnifying glass Wednesday afternoon. ( Photo by Glenn Tucker )
Vision specialist teacher William Ridley and Prospect Principal Dr Shangri-La Durham- Thompson assisit leaglly blind student Brendon Fox read a book in the Principal's office Wednesday afternoon. ( Photo by Glenn Tucker )

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Published September 08, 2011 at 9:52 am (Updated September 08, 2011 at 9:51 am)

A new lease of life for a boy who is losing his sight

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