Tiba was born prematurely in August 2006 and was diagnosed with Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP). After all medical trials and surgeries failed, her vision remained very limited, which left us worried. We wondered if she’ll ever lead a normal life and be able to play, laugh, walk and run? Will she have the ability to learn and go to school or will her eyesight hinder her development? And most importantly, will she ever be happy?
We struggled to find a solution to our problem and lived in this dilemma for months and months, until the doctors made it very clear that there was nothing more to be done and that we will have to accept the situation and live with it. We felt nothing but hopelessness, helplessness and concern.
By the age of 8 months, we found out through some family friends about the Egyptian Parents Association for Visually Impaired (EPAVI) and this is when things started to clear up bit by bit and our questions began to have answers.
We were not alone anymore; we had professional help that slowly guided and assisted us all in Tiba’s development. We discovered that rehabilitation is key and that yes; Tiba will be like other kids. Se will be able to learn, go to normal schools and be happy; with help, effort and persistence, with emotional ups and downs, she will definitely get there. When applying to schools, we were fortunate enough to meet a great lady who had established a school and had the vision to include a special needs child in every class, which was a blessing of course.
Each year, we face the problem of teachers changing and hence some years pass with more difficulty than others, depending on the open-mindedness, acceptance and helpfulness of the teachers.
In the first years we struggled with Tiba’s learning because some teachers found the responsibility of a visually impaired child overwhelming and feared they did not have the skills to teach her. Thankfully, the issue was resolved when an eager head teacher refused to give up and finally solved the issue.
Tiba is a hardworking girl, she loves to study and work, she never misses a lesson or homework and she insists on doing every exercise she is asked to do. She is also sociable and has a lot of friends, which shows the great benefits of integration.
There was also the issue of Tiba understanding that she is different from the rest of the children that surround her, which was an emotionally stressful phase. It taught me that self-confidence is crucial to get her through this big obstacle and that it is very important for us to treat her exactly like her brother and all other children her age. In doing so, I decided to teach her something that will give her uniqueness so as to achieve a more positive “different” side to her that would hopefully boost her confidence. I chose to teach her music; she started with the xylophone as a warm up for her to later learn the piano.
Finding a teacher to accept handling a child with special needs was as hard as the struggle that followed; that is, to find a coach or academy willing to have a visually impaired child on their sports team. I was happy to come to terms with the idea that good people are everywhere, but it takes time and effort to find them.
Tiba is 7 years old now, she’s a very clever and hardworking student, one of the best in her class, she plays the piano and sings very well. She also plays gymnastics and swimming and loves books (mainly audio books). She is progressing everyday and is keen to learn like any other child.
As a mother of a visually impaired child, I believe that the greatest obstacle in paving the child’s road to success is losing hope. The child’s parents, teachers, friends and the overall surrounding environment must be filled with confidence and trust. And with effort, hard work and persistence, success is just around the corner.