This week is National Eye Health week, a time to raise awareness of the importance of good eye health.
Adults with learning disabilities are ten times more likely to suffer from serious eye conditions than the general population. This means it is even more important for anyone with a learning disability to have regular eye checks and to take preventative steps to keep eyes healthy.
For anyone with complex medical issues, eye health is often overlooked. Regardless of general health, everyone should and can have access to regular eye checks. Eye checks are used to look at eye sight, and can also be helpful in diagnosing other health issues.
Should I have an eye check?
Yes. Everyone should have an eye test every two years with an optician (eye doctor). Some people with learning disabilities might need eye checks more often.
When booking an appointment with your local optician, let them know of any adjustments needed to support you during your appointment.
If you don’t already have an optician, the helpful link below shows opticians close to where you live, and the support they can offer to someone with a learning disability.
If you support someone who has been prescribed glasses, this factsheet gives practical advice on how to give support and detect any potential issues.
Spotting sight issues in others
If you support someone with a learning disability, it might not always be obvious if they are having problems with their sight or eye health. Things to look out for that might signal poor eye sight:
Holding objects close to their face
Unusual head movements or shaking their head from side to side
Dislike of bright light, low light or both
Increase in falls, trips or knocks to the body
Requiring more support when in new environments
Searching for objects with their hands or knocking over items
Changes to the eye e.g. redness, swelling or discharge
If you spot any of these signs, it is important to book an appointment with an optician.
I’m an optician. What support can I give patients with learning disabilities?
The most important thing to remember when examining a patient with learning disabilities is to explain what you are going to do in a clear and calm manner, making sure that they are comfortable before going ahead. You may need to use hand gestures or images to support your patient’s understanding.
It has been a funny year, with so many months coming in and out of lockdown.
The Sunnybank Trust have been busy running several different zoom meetings. This has kept us busy and given us things to do to help us get through the lockdowns.
Lately we have been meeting up face to face again. We have cage cricket, run by Neil and Claire. This is sponsored by the Lords Taverners. In the coming months we are doing a first aid course, we’ll also be making T-shirts with our logo.Then we hope to play some cricket matches when it is safe to do so.
We have coffee and chat in Alexandra Park, weather permitting. We have started a wellbeing gardening course at the Sunnybank allotment, followed by an Arts and Crafts session.
The Futures group have meetings called ‘everyone’s talking about it’ and ’catch up’ both on zoom. We go to the virtual pub every Friday evening for a quiz.
On 24th August, members of The Sunnybank Trust met with the team from RHS Wisley for a workshop at Wisley’s fabulous new Hill Top Centre.
With the beautiful gardens in the background, the day provided a great learning opportunity for both Sunnybank members and the Wisley team.
Whilst the Sunnybank members enjoyed learning about a wide range of plants, the Wisley team had the opportunity to find out more from us about learning disabilities and how to provide a great experience for people with hidden disabilities such as learning disabilities.
Sunnybank member Emily shares her thoughts on the day:
“RHS Wisley asked if some Sunnybank members would like to try out their new Education Centre with activities specifically designed for people with a learning disability/autism.
We were also given free tickets for carers and parents who were bringing members to the activity. We all went into their new Education centre, to a room reserved just for us to use.
Firstly, we went outside to look at their vegetables. As anyone who has been out with Sunnybank, and the staff who come along, we like to join in!
As you can see in the pictures below, Faith and Dorothy picked up some great ideas for the Sunnybank allotment and we learnt a lot about gardening.
As we had our lunch, Sunnybank staff member Jon, kept working by interviewing Wisley staff. After lunch we had a look around the Gardens. Then we split into 2 groups and did feedback and visited the centre. This time it was Claire and I who came up with ideas for the allotment.”
Futures Manager, Claire Dawson, comments on the day, “What was so good about the day is that everyone involved got to learn something new from each other. I am looking forward to putting all the ideas everyone had into action and tasting some of the results.”
Friend of Sunnybank, Matt, shared his accessibility story with us in a recent Sunny Sessions radio interview.
Born with Cerebral Palsy, Matt lives with vision impairment, dyslexia and a curvature of the spine.
Matt’s disabilities mean that he is unable to leave the house without the assistance of family, friends or his Personal Assistant.
DJ Jon recently recorded an interview with Matt whilst walking around his local area. Matt shared first hand the challenges he faces on a daily basis due to the inaccessibility of the public spaces where he lives.
Using his power chair, Matt faced his first challenge almost as soon as he left his house when he reached a grass verge near his local shop. Motorists regularly park on the verge while visiting the shop which has resulted in the verge sinking and developing a large hole beneath the grass. The hole can’t easily be seen, particularly for anyone with a visual impairment. This concealed and dangerous hole has resulted in Matt getting stuck and causing damage to his chair on many occasions.
Once he navigated the dangerous verge, Matt showed Jon how crossing the road to get to his local shop can also be difficult as the drop-down kerb that enables him to access the shop isn’t well signposted meaning motorists often park across it, leaving Matt stranded and unable to get into the shop.
While he has lived his whole life facing challenges with accessibility and has found some ways to get around the obstacles, there are still many places that he is unable to visit, such as his local post office and pub garden.
Every journey Matt makes takes a huge amount of planning, taking away any option of spontaneity that many of us might take for granted. Many Sunnybank members face similar challenges, unable to live their lives in the way they choose, limited to a small number of accessible places.
To hear Matt’s full Sunny Sessions interview with DJ Jon, catch up here.
If you come across an accessibility issue in a public area in Surrey, you can report it here.
Over the past two weeks, we have all been amazed by the achievements of our Paralympians in Tokyo. We have been watching in admiration as the athletes, who have undoubtedly faced barriers to sport in their lives, have triumphed and achieved such incredible things.
While we ourselves may not be Olympians, we are so inspired by what is possible when opportunities are available to people with disabilities.
At Sunnybank we really understand how sport, fitness and being active can benefit our mental health, our physical health and foster confidence and self-esteem.
Over the summer months we have been meeting members weekly, and with the support of Surrey Cricket Foundation, have had lots of fun playing cricket. Most recently we have had the opportunity to be taught to play Boccia. Coming together weekly and taking part sports has allowed our members to:
re-connect with friends
build new relationships
learn new skills
increase fitness levels
develop a routine
Here are some photos showing just how joyous being active can be.
Earlier this week, DJ Jon interviewed Abdul from Mencap for our Sunny Sessions radio show. Adbul has mild learning disabilities and works for Mencap as a Sports Trainer and Tutor. Abdul shared his story and his passion for sports, and getting people with learning disabilities involved.
“To forget how to dig the earth and tend the soil is to forget ourselves.”Mahatma Gandhi.
It all started a year ago when our Choices Manager, Lesley Scott, said the words “what we need is an allotment”. My reply was a short one, “great idea, perhaps in a year or two”. Little did I know that within the week, Lesley’s words would yield the wonderful offer of an allotment right on our doorstep.
A year later and we have planted tomatoes, runner beans, peas, herbs, some flowers and a blackberry bush. With the help of our wonderful allotment team, we have a plot of land that is growing young plants with two near-complete raised beds and a covered space to offer protection from the sun and rain and to chat with friends.
Our allotment is a wonderful place and is a place that is growing plants, friendships and confidence. It gives each of us a sense of space from the chaos known as our world. To get to this point, there has been much loss and grief along the way. The tragic death of Lara, the partner to our Sunny Sessions Coordinator, Jon, whose memorial fund made the allotment work possible and the many Sunnybank friends who left us far too soon in this pandemic.
We will keep them in our hearts as we dig the soil and plant. We will keep their laughter with us as we begin to pick the fruits and vegetables. We will cherish their memories as we share our stories as we sit back and enjoy our lovely plot.
If you would like to get involved, please do get in touch and come visit the plot….it certainly grows on you!
As many of our supporters will already know, we have been very fortunate to have been given an allotment space this year. Having access to an allotment will offer our members the opportunity to develop new skills and improve their wellbeing while growing their own fruit and vegetables.
With the help and advice of many kind gardeners, we have spent the last few months planning how best to organise and develop our accessible space.
This week is when hard physical work really began. We cleared all of the top weeds, built two raised beds and started work on our accessible path. Our special thanks to Roman and Faith for the back-breaking work on such a hot few days!
🍓The pre-existing strawberries have so far survived their temporary potted homes, with glimpses of the red ripening fruit beneath the leaves. Sadly some of our wildflowers have struggled but we hope to seed the new soil with some wild plants – we hope we haven’t seen the last of them. Thanks to Alison for watering the strawberries!
🌱We have an amazing list of donated young vegetables thanks to those who kindly donated to our Pledge-a-Veg campaign. We have lots of variety including Swiss chard, tomatoes, herbs, beetroot, runner beans as well as the newly sprouting pumpkins and cornflowers donated by Epsom in Bloom.
🌻We hope to begin to plant out towards the end of June.
A wonderful tribute written by Sunnybank Volunteer Audrey, after the sad passing of her friend, Dorothy.
“I was lucky enough to be Dorothy’s friend for about 14 years. When I first met her we used to meet at her home while we got to know each other. We used to look at magazines which I bought on the way. I quickly learned that she wasn’t interested in gardening or pictures of plants or scenery but loved looking at clothes and shoes, the more colourful the better. She loved cat pictures but didn’t like dogs and if we came across a picture of the queen she would salute. I would sometimes take some bottles of nail polish and Dorothy would choose her colour and I’d paint her nails. She always looked beautifully dressed and liked to wear her bracelets and necklaces and have her hair up.
After a while we started to go out, sometimes to garden centres for coffee. On our way in the car we sang songs of which Dorothy’s favourite was Daisy Daisy and she loved her birthday, looking forward to it for ages and practicing singing Happy Birthday with great gusto!
Once we were there we would have coffee and Dorothy would love to choose which cake she was going to have. She was always so happy to meet anyone we came across, holding out her hand to them and could light up a room with her lovely smile and cheeky laugh. She was such a friendly soul.
She loved the craft activities and music at Kites Club and would sometimes enjoy getting up for a dance, and also going to an easy access church service where she liked meeting the other people and having coffee and cake with them afterwards.
I will miss her terribly as I’m sure everybody who knew and loved her will.
The world will seem a sadder place without Dorothy.”
“A true hero isn’t measured by the size of his strength, but by the size of his heart.” – Zeus We are delighted to launch Sunnybank Superhero Week on 1st – 6th June.
Throughout the pandemic, we have been inspired by the bravery and stoicism of our Sunnybank members as well as the ongoing support and commitment of our volunteers and community friends.
We have come a long way since the beginning of the pandemic and none of this would have been possible without our very own superheroes.
We start our Sunnybank Superhero week with a sponsored 10k walk as part of the London Vitality Marathon. Sunnybank CEO, Dorothy and Choices Manager, Lesley, will begin their walk at the old site of St. Ebbas hospital in Epsom which is still home to some of our Sunnybank members. On their route, they will be passing some special places along the way that are important to our charity, including St. Barnabas Church, the Sunnybank office as well as some of our member’s homes. If you would like to support Dorothy and Lesley along the way, you can find their route here.
The next day, Futures Manager, Claire and the Futures group, will be running 10k as a team, celebrating the energy and aspiration of our young members.
During Superhero Week we have a lots of themed events planned for our members and will also be broadcasting a special Sunny Sessions radio show where our members and volunteers will share their superpowers with us all.
We are also delighted to be toasting some of our Superhero Volunteers and community friends in the Sunnybank Unsung Hero Awards across our social media channels throughout the bank holiday weekend.
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