01 December 2009

Mother hails Blind School's help as son wins design

A BLIND boy whose life has been transformed by an Edinburgh school will have a Christmas card he designed delivered to the world's most famous people.

Nine-year-old Ben Wilson lost his sight and was severely brain damaged after a 16-hour fit as a six-month-old baby.

Over the years his parents Jenny and Neil wondered what quality of life he would have, but said the past three months at the city's Royal Blind School had turned his fortunes around.

The pinnacle of this so far was when he won a Christmas card competition run by Edinburgh South MP Nigel Griffiths, who will send it to the likes of US president Barack Obama, former leader Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela.

Ben, who lives at the Newington school during the week and returns home to north Tyneside at weekends, may have the potential to gain some independence thanks to the work of the school.

Jenny, 39, said: "We tried for a good while to get him into the school, and I have to say the amazing reputation it has is dead right. Even though he has only been there for a few months, the difference is there to be seen."

Doctors said when Mrs Wilson awoke randomly eight years ago she might well have prevented the cot death of Ben.

She woke at 5am and carried him downstairs, and then the seizure happened.

"Call it mother's instinct if you will," she added. "I knew something was wrong.

"In hospital we were basically told his brain was like a scrambled egg, and anything he was able to do was a bonus. But since he's been in Edinburgh he has learned so much. He can help me with washing dishes. He is in a wheelchair but one day we hope he can get a powered one which would give him some more independence."

Although the benefits for his wellbeing of being at the school are clear, Mrs Wilson added that it could at times be difficult for her and her accountant husband, 43.

"We knew he had to go there," she said. "He was getting very frustrated with life and this has helped. He is calmer and happier, every night there is something to do at the school which is something I couldn't do as a mother of two other children.

"But it can be hard, when we speak to him or the school and hear what he has been doing we sometimes think we would have liked to have done that with him, or seen him do it."

Mr Griffiths, who met and congratulated Ben on Saturday, said: "The school is among the best of its kind in the world, and that is said by people from around the world. Whenever I go there I am asked deeper, more challenging questions by the pupils than I get from those at George Watson's or Heriot's."

"The work they do is terrific, and the result of Ben's design going to 6,000 people around the world who are on my Christmas card list, including Gordon Brown and Barack Obama, is testament to what can be achieved."

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