I know we’ve been quiet about Ben specific posts, but with his permission we’ve been asked to share a bit of an update for friends near & far.
Ben’s now 14 and this term has begun to attend some GCSE classes at a local college. (College in the UK starts at 16, but this program lets home educated kids start at 13 for some subjects – last year Ben attended their art & design class.) He’ll attend part time this year and next for his GCSEs (like a high school equivalent.) Once those are completed he’s applying to another college that offers a special program in game technology & art. We’ve toured that campus and learned a bit about the technology they have to work with students with visual impairments, which only increased Ben’s excitement. He’s working at home on coding more so he’ll be ready once he turns 16 and can attend full time at the two year game program.
We’re in a city so Ben is able to catch public transport down to both campuses in city center. He had a few sessions of cane training to help him practice in an urban area and find out some of the ways the city is set up for visual impairments, like special ridged pavements and crosswalk notifications. We also wanted to ensure he could handle the challenges that may pop up while riding the bus solo, like delays or missed stops. While we suspected for years, it was confirmed that Ben will not ever be able to legally drive so being in a country with wonderful public transportation is something we do not take for granted. Many adults here never drive, so it’s not unusual and there are a variety of alternatives for people to get around or handle things like deliveries. It gives Ben an independence comparable to his peers, vs. being stateside where he would have fewer resources to navigate life without the ability to drive.
At college Ben has learning assistants to help show him around the building until he’s comfortable, but also provide in classroom support or attend field trips. We’ve been very happy with the special support team for the college, and so grateful for the city-wide (country-wide!) awareness of special needs. Once he’s 16 he’ll count as an adult here in the UK and will begin to work with their special team for more occupational & mobility support as he preps for university & career and such.
Each growth spurt for Ben has meant possible vision changes & he’s grown several inches recently, so at his last exam we were THRILLED to hear that his eyesight has not significantly changed. That feels huge, as when he was younger there were times he needed new glasses after six months because the vision loss was so rapid. He’s now gone almost two years with relatively stable acuity! He’s still very, very light sensitive but copes well with dark lenses and hats. While he says his weaker eye isn’t working, his stronger eye can read print still and that’s an indescribable blessing. Every year he’ll continue to be seen at the ophthalmology clinic at our local university hospital, and they did register him officially here in the UK as being partially sighted.
So that’s Ben’s update in a nutshell- he’s growing, he’s exploring, he’s making friends & enjoying college classes and we’re so, so proud of him.