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Virtual lessons help Theo Oakley, who is blind, learn life skills during lockdown

An eight year old boy, who is completely blind, has learnt how to make a sandwich all by himself thanks to a virtual life skills lesson.

Theo Oakley, from Hawkinge near Folkestone, has been working on improving his independence with the help of Kent Association for the Blind’s (KAB) children’s worker Nicola Tallon.

Theo Oakley has been having virtual lessons during lockdown
Theo Oakley has been having virtual lessons during lockdown

Nicola and Theo would previously meet up for face to face lessons, but due to the lockdown rules imposed due to the coronavrirus outbreak, they have moved them online.

His new virtual sessions include mobility lessons, long cane training and making jam sandwiches.

Nicola said: "As Theo’s mobility instructor it was really interesting to see how the lesson would work using video chat, and I felt it went really well.

"I was able to watch Theo walk our planned route as his mum and I were using a video link.

"I was able to offer Theo verbal support on using his cane correctly whilst also making sure his mobility skills were correct.

Theo has learnt how to make a sandwich
Theo has learnt how to make a sandwich

"I also felt this was really good for mum as well, and she was fully engaged in our lesson and was able to understand the mobility language that Theo and I use and the mobility skills involved.

"Theo was able to follow the left inner shoreline from the end of his driveway, taking a line across a neighbour’s driveway and then turning around at the end of the road.

"Coming back, Theo was able to follow the inner shoreline on his right. We also covered upper body protection as Theo encountered an overhanging bush.

"Back home in their lounge we were able to go over the route, discuss and practice the upper body protection again and also discuss using sunglasses to protect Theo’s eyes from any overhanging branches."

Theo, a pupil at Morehall Primary, has been blind since birth as a result of Norrie Disease.

Theo receives a helpful hand from mum Jo
Theo receives a helpful hand from mum Jo

It is caused by a mutation of the NDP gene on the X-chromosome and as males only have one X chromosomes, it mainly affects boys.

Children affected by the disease are either born blind or go blind very early in infancy, whilst progressive hearing loss can start as early as five years old.

There are just 40 cases in the UK, and 500 globally.

Mum Jo Oakley said: "Mobility lessons are really important for Theo to build his independence skills and learn how to use his long cane to help guide him around.

"We have been trying to practice ourselves but having a session with Nicola gave Theo the encouragement and motivation he sometimes needs.

"Theo concentrated well, listening to the instructions whilst I walked backwards recording him so Nicola could observe.

"He did an amazing job walking to the corner of our road and back independently."

Of the different types of lessons - including making a jam and a cheese sandwich - Jo added: "I found the life skills session really useful as it showed me how best to help and support Theo for tasks that we all do without thinking.

"It’s really important for Theo to develop his life skills, but he’s reluctant to do these with me.

Theo has been blind since birth as a result of Norrie Disease
Theo has been blind since birth as a result of Norrie Disease

"Theo loved his sandwich and was so proud of himself."

Theo said: "If I carry on practising, I will get better so then I won’t need any help to make the sandwich.”

KAB, in partnership with the Kent County Council Specialist Teaching and Learning Service, provides support for children who are visually impaired in Kent.

In addition, the charity, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, supports around 12,500 adults with a sight impairment to live more independently, whether it’s to get to the shops safely or to provide advice on aids and adaptations for the home.

Read more: All the latest news from Folkestone

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