Junior was born at 32 weeks weighing just two pounds nine ounces. Now four years old, he has just received his first martial arts belt. Junior's mum proudly shares his story.
Junior was born with Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP), a disease which occurs in premature babies. It causes abnormal blood vessels to grow in the retina, the layer of nerve tissue in the eye that enables us to see. He had laser surgery at just nine weeks old.
For Junior this has meant he has limited vision in his left eye, sight loss in both central and peripheral fields in his right eye, as well as astigmatism which is where the eyes struggle to focus.
Junior has worn glasses since four months old and he started wearing contact lenses and patching after 18 months in hopes of improving vision in his right eye. Unfortunately the contact lenses and patching were not successful, so Junior stopped using them in October 2016. He was then registered as sight impaired.
Five months ago, Junior started kickboxing. He attends Warrior Martial Arts in Congleton, where his coaches are outstanding and have worked out techniques that help Junior to thrive in the sport - especially kicking techniques as he struggles with balance and fine motor skills. Everyone there is one big family. He attended kickboxing first and not long ago had his grading. Upon receiving his first belt, his coaches suggested he try Judo as apparently this is mostly played with your eyes closed! In Judo you "sense" where your opponent is without having to see them.
Junior never lets his visual impairment stop him and due to being born with ROP he knows no difference. To him everyone has one good eye and one bad eye. He's the most happy and smiley boy you will meet, with a cheeky sense of humour. I'm not going to lie and say he doesn't have any difficulties, because he does. It's a long road but you soon work out what works and what doesn't. You can look at a disability two ways, either let it swallow you up or let it compliment your life.