Judith Furse gives a moving and occasionally funny account of what it was like to lose her sight as a small child.
I have already alluded to my schooldays and, from time to time, I will tell you more. In this blog post, though, I’m going to go right back to the beginning.
I started to lose my sight when I was six. I lost all the sight in my right eye without anyone noticing. My left eye simply took over. I was aware that I couldn’t always read what was on the blackboard but thought that in some way it was down to my own stupidity, so I didn’t mention it. When my sight loss was finally recognised, I was given glasses and was able to continue for a while at a mainstream school.
There was an amusing but worrying incident during this time.
In those days, (I don’t know if it happens now), Local Education Authorities (LEAs) arranged for eye tests to be carried out at schools in their catchment areas. This involved a healthcare professional of some variety holding a card over one of your eyes while you read a chart and then swapping over to test the other eye. The professional in question carried out this procedure on me and informed my mother that my sight was fine.
My mother said, “But she has no sight in her right eye!”
Much embarrassment ensued. The poor lady said I must have been peeping round the card or perhaps I had memorised the chart. I don’t recall how I did it but some might think it shows initiative, or perhaps sneakiness, to pass an eye test with such a serious sight problem!
I loved most lessons, but especially reading, painting and drawing, and I carried on managing quite well until I was seven.
Around that time, I remember having headaches during which I saw flashing lights. The print on the page would go very small and I would be unable to read. My mother told me the headaches were called migraines, but I don’t recall whether I was officially diagnosed as having these. I suspect that these effects were linked to deterioration in my eyesight and the gradually increasing stress that this caused me as I continued trying to read.
Eventually the time came when I couldn’t see to read. In those days there was no official policy of integrating pupils with visual impairments into mainstream education but my school, St John’s Church of England Primary School, were very accommodating and they did their best for me. They had no spare staff and no knowledge of teaching visually-impaired children so I just muddled along. I wasn’t allowed to go out in the playground in case I got knocked over but a few wonderful school-friends stayed in and read to me in playtime.
After I was registered blind, though, the fight to get me into a special school started and I spent seven long months at home unable to read and getting my education through listening to schools programmes on the radio. I will talk about my first experiences at a special school another time.