At HSSCU, we are passionate about helping our members and our community. While we provide the best service to members, we’re aware that there is a lot more happening in our community. With that in mind, HSSCU is proud to support our members by sponsoring our community. We sponsor charities requested by members, charities who contact us directly and charities we identify that are doing great work. This year, some of our key sponsorship partners have written testimonials on their experience with HSSCU’s sponsorships. Here, they tell us about the amazing work they do and how HSSCU has helped along the way. This week, we are delighted to talk to Ray from ChildVision, Ireland’s only institution dedicated to the education and therapy needs of blind children.
ChildVision – Just because our children can’t see the stars doesn’t mean they can’t reach for them.
ChildVision is Ireland’s only dedicated centre for children and young people with sight loss, many of whom have profound sensory impairments and additional disabilities. We are located on a site in Drumcondra and are dedicated to the care of the blind since the 1850’s. ChildVision provides a national resource for families and professionals who need expert help and training in the area of sight loss or sight loss and multiple disabilities. We also operate a satellite service from our Cork centre. We look after children and young people from birth to 23 years of age.
How Was ChildVision Established?
Naming it after St. Joseph, the Carmelite Brothers opened what is now ChildVision as a centre for blind men in 1870. These Brothers were not the usual gathering of pious religious that then could be found all over Dublin, at the time the second city of the British Empire. Rather, they were famous, above all, for the grinding, slum bound poverty in which so many citizens lived.
The Brothers identified the plight of the blind as being especially pitiful, with so many blind men, in particular, reduced to public begging just to stay alive. Practical people, the Brothers believed that rather than just providing a home to these men their human dignity demanded much more. So, in defiance of a public wisdom that said blind men could never work for themselves, the Brothers set up workshops where the men learned to be basket weavers and mat makers. This focus on practical service – of helping people take charge of their own lives – continued into the 1950s when responsibility for St. Joseph’s passed to another religious order, the Institute of Charity, better known as the Rosminians. By now, St. Joseph’s was also a school, offering primary and secondary education to blind and visually impaired boys from all over Ireland. But the total focus on being there to meet the practical, if ever-changing needs of Ireland’s young visually impaired population remained dynamic. The workshops had long since had their day but other opportunities to enrich the lives of St. Joseph’s young people were always being created. The concern, then as now, became about ensuring young people experienced happy, fulfilled lives and there began a huge and enduring emphasis being placed on training and preparing people to live as independently as possible.
Orientation and mobility training, independent living courses and practical opportunities to practice and enlarge these vital skills took on a central place in the young people’s daily schedules as did classes in music, arts, crafts and pottery. Sports moved into the mainstream, with games as diverse as soccer, table tennis and hockey adapted to enable the participation of people with sight loss.
The next great change came in the 1980s. St. Joseph’s/ChildVision became among the first centres working with disabled people to close its campus based, behind-the-walls, residential facilities in favour of an innovative to move into the local community. So, young people who had previously lived in anonymous dormitories now moved into small houses, with all the opportunities this presented for living richer, more self-reliant and more visible lives. At the same time, courses in vocational education were added so that young people for whom traditional models of education were insufficient had meaningful access to lifelong learning opportunities.
By the early 1990s, ChildVision (following a name change in 2012) was now a fully integrated residential service open to young people from all over Ireland (and, occasionally, abroad), male and female, including young people with multiple and complex disabilities.
In 2020, we have grown beyond all recognition, still operating out of our main campus in Dublin we also have a satellite service in the southern half of the country in Co. Cork The children are, in the main, both multi-disabled and visually impaired (MDVI) and the services they receive include
- early years services
- family services
- primary and secondary schooling supports
- lifelong learning
- term-time living
- therapy (including equine)
- nursing interventions
- eye and low vision clinics
- children’s library
- national assessment service for all children and young people in Ireland diagnosed with a visual impairment
Throughout this rich, multi-layered history the guiding principle has been this constant and constantly renewed ethic of service. ChildVision is here for our young people. However and whatever their individual needs, our responsibility remains about putting those needs first. Re-inventing, re-invigorating and innovating to ensure that what we do today remains as vital to our young people and their families as it has at any time in our distinguished history of service.
ChildVision is here for our young people and their families. In 2020, we touched the lives of 2,400 young people with sight loss. Your support will help us do so much more.
How Did You Get Involved With ChildVision?
Working in the field of Visual Impairment for more than three decades I have continued to upskill in Social Care, Orientation and Mobility and Braille to degree and post graduate level. The visually impaired child/young person and their voyage towards independence remains always at the heart of my work.
Who Does ChildVision Help?
ChildVision is the only service in Ireland providing specialist education, term-time living and therapeutic intervention programmes for children and young people from all over Ireland with sight loss, many of whom have complex needs arising from multiple disabilities (Multi-Disabled Visually Impaired, MDVI). Each year we help over 2,400 young people reach for their own special and unique possibilities in life.
The majority of young people who attend our service have at least two other disabilities which significantly impact their cognitive, social and functional development. These may include:
- Autistic Spectrum Disorder
Our services, based out of our central resource campus in Dublin, are divided into four separate categories:
1) Clinical Services
Therapies – speech and language, occupational, physiotherapy
Clinics – low vision, ophthalmology
Equine assisted therapy
2) Reading Services
Braille – Large print and DAISY (digital) education transcription of all mainstream textbooks for students in primary and secondary in Ireland
National Children’s Library
Professional Resource Library
3) Education Services
Education supports for primary and secondary
Residential Term-time Living
4) National Network Services
Assessment – Early Years Arena, Multi-disciplinary, ADOS2 (Autism)
Our specialist staff are trained to work with whatever vision the young people have and ensure their potential is met across a wide range of education programmes and therapeutic interventions from birth to 23, with an option for young people to live in community settings close to campus from secondary school age on. We also provide professional training events for people working or living with young people experiencing sight loss. Our staff are highly engaged in a continual learning and research programme with colleagues across Europe. Our family outreach service supports and engages in fun learning and leisure events throughout the year.
Is there anything you would like people to know about your charity or any examples/stories you would like to share?
The day after Ellie was born, an army of medical staff descended. Ellie’s eyes were translucent and her hair was ‘honey’. By six months the diagnoses were made, Ellie was born with Albinism, nystagmus, causing her eyes to rapidly dart, and optic nerve hypoplasia, which means Ellie’s optic nerve can’t transmit visual signals to her brain.
However, like so many things in life, the devastating diagnosis marked a turning point in this family’s journey when a specialist referred Ellie, and her parents, Hollie and Ronan to ChildVision. Instantly Hollie felt cocooned, ‘I knew its where we were meant to be, I knew with Childvision Ellie would have everything she needed to have every chance…”
At ChildVision, Hollie and Ronan learn about Ellie’s light sensitivity and how it is okay to use simple games to encourage her learning. Most Importantly, they learned at last what their daughter sees. The vision assessments revealed the extent of the sight loss, the special simulating glasses helped replicate the conditions so Hollie and Ronan could finally glimpse into Ellie’s world. While they were shocked and sad for their beautiful little girl, they also had hope.
Since March ChildVision has had 33 new referrals for the Early Years service, three of them with the same eye conditions as Ellie. You can learn more about Ellie and, “Ellie’s Corporate Army,” at www.childvision.ie.
Would You Like to Apply?
To apply for a HSSCU sponsorship, simply visit our sponsorship webpage and download our application form. We are very excited to continue our commitment of supporting our community.