Life has been anything but easy for Isabella Stanfield, but the courageous Margate youngster is proving she ‘cane do anything’ she puts her mind to.
Isabella, in Year 7 at North Lakes State College, lives with cerebral palsy and vision loss caused by bleeding on the brain in utero.
“I not only have my vision to deal with, but also cerebral palsy, so most of the time I use a walking frame to get around,” Isabella explains.
“I feel good using the cane and not needing the walker, I feel like I belong.”
Isabella started using a cane when she was three when her dad, Mal, found a wooden cane in a local op shop.
“I thought it could help her identify things around her and make her a bit more confident and comfortable when walking around,” Mal says.
Then came her first cane – a rainbow one – from Guide Dogs Queensland.
Isabella quickly outgrew the first cane and is now starting to use her cane more to get between classes at school.
“To me, having the cane is a very big thing. I don’t ever notice that I’m different, but I do know that I can’t do certain things with the walking frame,” she says.
“The cane takes up less space and helps me to do more of the things that other kids can do.
“I know my mobility is limited, but my cane gives me the security to try anything and be more comfortable in my surroundings. I just say to myself ‘I’ve got this, I can do it’.”
Isabella’s “cane do” attitude has been with her from a young age.
Mal recalls her crawling backwards to familiarise herself with new environments.
“She just taught herself to crawl backwards until she was comfortable in a space and then she would start moving forward.”
Isabella says her vision loss was “normal” to her because she did not know anything different.
“The cane helps me to identify any obstacles in the way – things as small as a bump or a gap in the concrete.
“I know that my vision isn’t perfect, and I’m not perfect, but no one is.
“I am just so grateful for the support and resources that I have been given that help me live my life to the fullest. I just love living life.”
Guide Dogs Queensland Chief Executive Officer Michael Kightley says it is inspiring how life-changing a white cane can be for children such as Isabella.
“Through safe play, travelling around and being active, we all learn how to connect with our community and be part of it,” Michael says.
“With a white cane, a child with low vision or blindness can find this freedom too.”
The white cane is the mobility tool of choice for most Guide Dogs clients because it gives sensory feedback about the surrounding environment, and is a visual signal to others of low vision and blindness.
Michael says using a white cane is often one of the first skills people with low vision and blindness learn as part of orientation and mobility training, and for children, a white cane is the key to their first experiences of independence.
“This White Cane Day we are celebrating the fun, fearless and adventurous spirit of our young clients and cane users who live life to the fullest, with many engaging in everything from skateboarding to gymnastics,” Michael says.
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