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Molly’s Story

I was born on March 10th 2001. I'm currently living in Brighton, with my mum and our three legged cat, Maverick. I am 16 now and really enjoying life as a teenager. I didn't like being 13. Not because of my Cerebral Visual Impairment, but just because I had only just turned into a dreaded teenager. I am not a fussy eater, I eat anything, which is great for my parents because they can pretty much buy any type of food and I will happily scoff the lot. That being said, I'm not obese or overweight, actually when I went to St Thomas's hospital about three years ago, they said I was ' the perfect weight for my age group'. Anyway, I play a bit of sport and I am really into football. This might seem strange to people because for one reason, I am a girl, and two, because of my CVI. But why shouldn't you be allowed to play the sport you are passionate about just because of these things? Well, I'm going to tell you how I do this, what it's like for me with CVI and how I got to where I am today in this story.

It all started when my parents brought me home from the hospital about 2 days after I was born. Apparently, when I laid on the bed, I didn't move. When they fed me, I didn't eat which is ironic now because I love food! At this point, my parents were starting to get worried because they knew what I was SUPPOSED to be doing as a baby, but none of that was happening. A few hours later, my dad rang the midwife to tell her what was going on, he knew something was wrong. The midwife took us back to hospital where I stayed in an incubator for one week. I had a tube through my nose so that I could actually eat something. Not long after this awful experience, I was back home doing what babies do which must have been a relief for my parents.

When I was a toddler, I had a red and yellow mini bus which had a lift up seat that you could put things in. I recall clearly, lifting the seat up and piling little stones in it that were part of our garden. Later on, I taught myself how to walk using the handle on the back of the bus. I guess, this experience began to show that I could work things out for myself which is evident through school and everyday life.

I have never experienced what it's like to be able to see everything and I never will. I guess you could say, it feels like you are locked up in a bubble and will never be able to escape. I say this because I can only see what is in front of me when looking ahead; I can't see anything below or at the sides. This is because I also have 'tunnel vision'. Everyday life for me is like looking down a tunnel and I don't know any different. My mum said to me 'the best birthday present' she could give me would be to show me what she could see.

I play in a football club for partially sighted children every fortnight, at Brighton Uni. In between times I go to the park to keep practising. Ever since I started going to Brighton University, I have improved in every aspect of football. Whether that is ball control, skills that professionals can do, or just simply playing matches. I am one of only two girls because there aren't enough girls who like football with a sight problem. However, I have met one other who is blind. When I played with her in a match, I felt like I did not have a sight problem because I knew that I could see much more than she can, that's because my problem is different from hers and I have adapted differently. The other girl is deaf and all she has to do is put a hearing aid in and she is practically mainstream. How I play football is always impressive to others but not me. I guess it's because I have adapted to everything in my life so far without me even noticing.

If I'm playing in a match, I always look down at the ball so I never lose track of where it is. I look at other players' socks so I know who to pass the ball to. I only look up to take a free kick, penalty or try and score a goal. When I joined my school's girl's football team, I was able to put this into practice. Unfortunately, no one passed the ball to me in matches so I never got a good chance to score. When I did get the ball, I would try so hard to score or to just keep the ball for a long period of time, but no one would give me a chance apart from our PE teacher. I later left the school team because for some reason, a few girls always used to pick on me for no apparent reason. They were also gobby to pretty much anyone. I also left the school as I finished my GCSEs, in year 11. I only joined the team so I could play football a bit more and improve, so I wasn't at all sad when I left.

I have recently achieved The Duke of Edinburgh Bronze award! This experience was the hardest, most tiring and fantastic experience of my life so far. What I had to do in order to achieve this was to: learn a new skill, do a physical experience and do volunteering work. All
of these activities have a specific length of time that you have to actively do them for. For example, 'learning a new skill' took 12 weeks to complete and for this, I learnt how to bake. I had done this when I was younger but I baked new and more complex things this time around. For my physical activity, I decided to use the swimming lessons I went to every Friday after school. I went there for seven years and felt the same as the other kids in the water. Only judging the end of the pool is hard with CVI. For volunteering, I decided to walk the dogs at the RSPCA every Sunday. This was quite fun because each time you went, you would be given a new dog to walk. My personal favourites were the two staffie bull terriers named Robbie and Lacy. The most challenging part of Duke of Edinburgh was the expedition. This included walking in teams across the South Downs with no help from teachers and arriving at our campsite safely. This was very tiring as we all were carrying huge rucksacks that weighed a ton on our backs for about six to eight hours with short breaks in between. Our team made it to the campsite first on the practice expedition at Plumpton racecourse after six hours of walking. Then, on the assessed expedition, we made it to the campsite in about seven hours and we were one of the last teams to arrive. We were all exhausted and needed a good night's sleep. In the morning, my team and I left the campsite at 9 30am and arrived at Birling Gap, the finish, in really good time. I couldn't do any of the map reading or cooking on the gas stove, but I still achieved my goal of the Bronze Award.

I think Silver is a bit beyond my comfort zone, 3 days of walking & camping, so I'm content with the Bronze. A few of my friends have decided to go ahead with silver but I have chosen not to.

My team all received Bronze badges with certificates. By coincidence, the Award evening fell on my 15th birthday, which was a great birthday present. The awards were printed on March 4th 2016, so unfortunately, the award doesn't have 10th March 2016 on it. At first, I wasn't too keen on doing Duke of Edinburgh but I'm so glad that I have done at least one and I strongly recommend you to do it too, because it teaches you how to work in a team, boosts your confidence in everything and you can bond with your friends. I have chosen not to
go ahead with silver and gold because I think that if you have only done one, you will not regret it and also, it shows employers that you have tried something new. At the introduction evening of Duke of Edinburgh, we were given a booklet that had a quote from one of my role models; Karren Brady. This did deep down, make me want to do it. So I did it, and my parents, teachers and T.A's were very proud of what I could achieve, despite having CVI.

I cope with my CVI very well. As I've said before, I have adapted things in my life to make it easier for me to access. One of the ways I have been able to cope with it is that I had great teachers at my school. I started secondary school in 2012, when I was 11. My first day was not as bad as I thought even though there were few people I knew. However, I made friends with a few girls in my class along with a girl I already knew from Primary school. One of the girls bullied me for about a week so I had to report it to my school house. My school was separated into four houses. This is to make it easier to talk to staff about your worries and to keep track of how each student is performing.

I enjoyed school because when I was in year 10, I had more choices I could make about different things. My favourite subject was German, because I had a great teacher who would help me when I found things difficult and her lessons were quite fun too. My German teacher was the best, because I had modified work, she always sorted it out for me. Also there were very helpful teaching assistants who worked with students during class. I had one main T.A who was with me most of my lessons and three others who were with me for certain subjects. T.A's are so helpful for me because I can listen to teachers while they take notes for me.

To help the teachers and T.A.'s understand my needs fully, I created a video describing what I find difficult and how I like things to be modified for me. They attended a training session after school to experience what it's like for me to have CVI. They did activities to show them what's difficult for me and why, which included walking around the room with binoculars goggles on the wrong way around which showed them how hard it is for me to even walk around.

I have enjoyed my life so far and I am both excited and nervous to whatever I end up doing in the future. All I'm doing right now is taking each day slowly and really concentrating in sixth form College so I can achieve the grades I need in my future. I am also taking Karren Brady's advice which is; "there are three C's in life. Choice, Chance and Change. You make a choice, to take a chance, otherwise your life will never change for the better''.

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