My daughter wasn’t just communicating, she was singing!

My husband and I decided not to buy any baby things for Bella.

A young girl is wearing a christmas outfit. Her arms are stretched out in front of her. She has a grin on her face.

At her 20-week pre-natal scan, the hospital found abnormalities. Some children with her condition only live for a few hours so we thought we might just hold her.

Bella was born with an encephalocele, a condition where her skull didn’t close at the back of her head and her brain formed abnormally. When we found out, it was a hugely traumatic moment. There was no genetic cause, and we had no idea what would happen next. All of the decisions we had to make were infinitely more difficult.

At just three days old, she went into surgery. Looking back on it now, it was a really exciting and joyous experience because she survived and within 14 days, we were on our way home. We couldn’t believe it. The joy of the moment made us totally forget that we didn’t actually own any baby things for her. Soon we were up to our eyeballs in deliveries to make sure we had everything we needed.

A lot to learn

When Bella was four months old, we noticed that her eyes weren’t following movement. Soon after, we found out that she had a visual impairment and developmental delay. I think that was probably the other low period. Neither of us had ever really spent any significant time with anybody with a visual impairment. So, it was really like, “Oh my goodness, this is all brand new, we’re going to have to learn so much”.

That’s where Sense has been amazing. We were almost immediately put in touch with them through one of Bella’s therapists. Natalie, from Sense, was incredible, she just has so much advice and so much knowledge but was also just so excited to have Bella there.

A man holds a small girl. The girl has her arms around the man's neck. Her mouth is open with delight and her eyes are closed.

Bella’s time to sparkle

We soon started going to Sparkles, a specialist play and communication group for pre-school children who have vision and/or hearing impairments, and other disabilities. For Bella, it was a safe space to interact with other people and toys. For us and my parents, we could come and ask any questions that we had in a relaxed space.

We knew Bella had good hearing so, one day, Natalie gave us a CD of songs that she would always play. We’d start every day by doing them and soon, we could see that she was starting to communicate back. There were songs about the body so from quite early on she could show you where her head was.

There was one Sense family day that was truly amazing. My husband and I were making a cup of tea while Bella was being entertained by a lady playing the violin and singing. It is always a nice time to catch up with other families as we know Bella is safe and happy. While we were chatting, we heard an ‘ooooooh’. Bella was singing! She was matching the pitch of the lady playing the violin. It was such an incredible moment.

Going to Sense has given us the space to ask questions and explore the different things that Bella likes. With Christmas right around the corner, we now know the perfect gifts to buy her. Our Bella is three now and is so happy and confident. We couldn’t have asked for a greater gift than her.

Help give children like Bella everything they need to enjoy a Christmas party

A gift from you could help fill a box of delights, for a child like Bella, with things to enjoy a Christmas party after a tough year.