YOUNG children in Bradford with a vision impairment will be able to learn important developmental skills with the launch of a free service run by a national charity.

Roughly 80 percent of learning is visual which means children with sight loss need to learn about and explore the world in a slightly different way. Launched by Guide Dogs, the ‘My Time to Play’ service is designed to help children do exactly this, while achieving key development goals in a fun, supportive group setting.

There are seven sessions being delivered in Bradford and Leeds, led by Guide Dogs habilitation specialists Amy Gordon and Jess Norman, who are experts on children with sight loss.

The service also benefits parents and carers, enabling them to meet other parents in a similar situation so experiences, skills and knowledge can be shared.

Amy, habilitation specialist for Leeds and Bradford, said: “Discovering a child has a vision impairment can be a worrying and confusing time for families. Every year Guide Dogs help hundreds of families build their skills, knowledge, and confidence, and provide tailored support that is right for each family’s specific needs. Small adaptations and innovations can really support families to help their children to live the life they choose.”

The programme focuses on five key areas of a child’s development:

*Concept development - concepts form many rules in routines, such as the concept of time - when we eat, sleep and play. It includes spatial awareness of something being in front or behind, and the use of concepts when describing things, for example a pillow being soft or a table hard.

*Sensory skills - children can learn so much about the world around them using their other senses. Touch and sound can be key to helping them move around and participate in activities, so it’s crucial that youngsters feel confident exploring different textures, sounds and smells. Senses also play a key part in understanding movement.

*Fine and gross motor skills - to become a confident mover and explorer, a child needs to develop a broad range of movements and skill from rolling, sitting and crawling, to walking or reaching out to grasp their favourite teddy, to using a spoon and taking a drink, or helping to put their own clothes on. Many of these early movement skills are visually motivated, so a child may need a little more help.

*Self-help for children - it doesn’t take long for a child to take their first steps towards independence, starting with holding their bottle. With a little help, this can soon develop to feeding themselves with their fingers, learning to brush their teeth and getting dressed

*Communication skills - communicating in a way that a child understands is vital, especially if they’re unable to see visual cues. More verbal information and description during play and other activities is key to developing early communication and language skills.

Mum Sarah Perkins, who took part in pilot sessions online with son Alfie, said: “We have loved every session so far. The first involved a bell and my son loved it so much so that he crawled for the first time ever to get the bell.

"We have fun every week and will be so sad when it ends. Alfie loves all the songs and we sing them throughout the week. Both Amy and Jess have been brilliant engaging with us and answering questions on how I can help Alfie with his sight. The sessions have benefited us greatly.”

Sessions will start running weekly in April, online over Zoom for an hour. Face to face sessions will run later in the year once restrictions allow.

To register to take part call 0800 781 1444 or visit the charity's website at