Sharing the sofa with grandma for the first time – Karina’s story

Karina is 21 and she graduated from Henshaws College in July 2015. During her time at College, staff supported Karina to learn to stand and walk. This has made a huge difference to the whole family as for the first time Karina has been able to access her grandma’s house and everyone can enjoy spending time together. Karina's mum Amanda shares her story.

Karina student story 7

“Karina has Rett syndrome, a rare neurological condition which affects the development of her brain. She is unable to talk and she has used a wheelchair for all her life.

After two years at Henshaws College, the transformation we have seen in Karina has been fantastic. When I first met with Lee, the physiotherapist at Henshaws, he asked if there were any targets we’d like to focus on for Karina. I wanted Karina to develop her walking, and within a couple of months of intensive physiotherapy, she was able to walk first with two people supporting her, and then just with one person.

She needed a new challenge, and I mentioned to Lee how brilliant it would be if Karina could learn to walk up the step at her grandma’s house so we could go and visit.

I was completely shocked when we came in to College to see how Karina was getting on and she could walk up steps. I couldn’t believe it! At 21 years old it’s fantastic for her to be able to do something she’s never been able to do before. We’ve noticed the change in Karina because she is happier in herself, she can see the achievement in what she is doing and she knows that it’s something positive to be proud of.

Karina student story 6Karina student story 5Karina student story 3

I’ve worked really hard with Karina to help her transfer the skills she’s learnt in her physiotherapy sessions into her home life. When we started this process I was trying to support her from the back, but Lee explained that this caused Karina to naturally lean backwards on to me. Instead he has taught me to support from the front, allowing Karina to balance herself and take her own weight. Some days I need to give a bit more support but we are gradually improving and Karina knows and trusts that we can do it together.

It’s made such a difference to our family. We used to really struggle with accessing grandma’s house as we either had to try and lift Karina into the house over a couple of steps in her wheelchair or three of us would carry her through. I have had problems with my back so this wasn’t always possible. Sometimes we would have to push Karina’s chair into the back garden and sit with her there.

Now Karina can walk into the house. She can sit on the sofa with us rather than having to sit in her wheelchair. We feel like she is part of everything now in a way she never could be before.

Service user Karina with Mum and carer

At Henshaws Karina just seems to have improved all of her skills. She understands better what you are saying and she’s trying in her own way to communicate with you. Now that she can walk out of her wheelchair to step into the house and join in with everything we’re doing, it’s just brilliant.”

Margaret Dawson, Karina's grandma

Karina sitting on the sofa at her grandma's house

It’s also made a difference to her everyday life. She has reached another level in terms of what she can achieve with her movement. Before, we used to rely on hoists to help with her daily activities. Now that she can stand, she can do a standing transfer from one chair to another, or from her chair to get into bed. She has improved her balance and can now hold her own weight so much better than before.

During her time at College she followed a multisensory programme. Staff worked hard with her to improve her concentration. She also enjoyed learning to use the iPad which is something she’s continued with since leaving College.

For Karina’s future, we want her to keep active and continue building on all the skills she’s learnt. Henshaws was fantastic for Karina. Every time I came to pick her up I could hear her laughing down the corridor. I knew how much she enjoyed it because she was full of smiles and so happy. In the last two years I’ve seen a huge change in her. It just goes to show how much you can achieve if you provide the right support for someone who is willing to learn.”

Log in or register to download

We can't do it without you

Henshaws rely on voluntary donations; our work just wouldn’t be possible without people like you. Your support empowers local people living with sight loss and a range of other disabilities to increase their independence, achieve their dreams, and go beyond expectations.

Donate now