When Katie was born in the summer of 2006 we had a diagnosis regarding her visual impairment within 2 weeks. She had a diagnosis of micropthalmia (small eyes), retinal coloboma (a wedge of retina is missing from both eyes) and rotational nystagmus.

Over the next year it was obvious that Katie did in fact have more far significant problems than at first thought. We entered into an unknown world of hospital tests and investigations to try and determine what was wrong and whether there was a diagnosis. Eventually, after a lot of time and effort, Katie was diagnosed with CHARGE syndrome. This means that Katie has both physical and cognitive difficulties making everyday life a real challenge for her and the rest of the family.

However, since visiting Swings & Smiles we have seen Katie explore and develop more and more independence. Apart from at home and school, this is the only place that she can do this. Katie started off coming in her walker and needing a lot of assistance to move around the building. Now she free walks and is so speedy she disappears down the corridors and knows how to use the lift! She climbs into the ball pit on her own and takes herself off to the slide.

What is just as important for us is that her older brother William, aged 9, has also got to know people and make friends at Swings & Smiles. He and Katie both get equal attention and he knows that everyone wants to be his friend too which is really important to him. As a family of six, Katie and William have an older brother and sister too, we all enjoy coming to Swings & Smiles for family play but also special events such as Katie’s birthday, Halloween and regular music therapy sessions.

Meeting other parents is great fun as well as getting to know the lovely, fun Swings & Smiles team – being here is like a breath of fresh air and I don’t know what we would do without it.