Blind Liberton student triumphs in exams

Matthew Weston is celebrating getting 2 Bs in his exam results. Picture: Greg Macvean
Matthew Weston is celebrating getting 2 Bs in his exam results. Picture: Greg Macvean
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JUST a few years ago, Matthew Weston was an ordinary teenager preparing to sit his fourth-year exams.

The Holy Rood High School pupil, now 18, could hardly have known that within months his life would change completely.

Unbeknown to his family and friends, he had the genetic disorder Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy – causing him to go blind at just 16.

The youngster’s family admit it was tough news to comes to terms with.

But as Matthew’s exam results last week show, he hasn’t let it hold him back.

He achieved a B in Advanced Higher English and a B in Advanced Higher drama, having already scooped an A in Advanced Higher music the year before, as well as an A in Higher English, an A in Higher drama and a B in Higher maths.

His condition, which began in one eye and quickly showed up in the other, was only discovered after a trip to the opticians uncovered an abnormality.

The teenager, from Liberton, said: “It was weird because it started just before my fourth year exams.

“At the time I didn’t really know what was going on. I just thought, ‘Oh, my sight’s going – I think I need glasses’.”

Because of the disability, he had to sit this year’s exams in a different room from his friends, while a member of staff read out the exam paper and wrote down his answers for him.

Matthew admits this process was tricky when it came to structuring complicated English essays – but he doesn’t let his blindness get in the way.

The talented musician – he plays the violin, guitar and ukulele – can often be spotted busking on the streets with his dad, Terry, and was previously an active member of Lyceum Youth Theatre. Earlier this year, he played Duncan in the group’s production of Macbeth.

Meanwhile, the charity Blind Children UK – which Matthew helps to raise funds for – is now helping him with mobility training as he prepares to go to Stirling University to study English in September.

“I had bad days, but I’m apparently quite upbeat about the whole thing, according to other people,” he said.

“I was always better at learning by listening. I think it’s a musician thing. I always pick things up by ear really quickly.”

Terry, 55, said his son’s disorder was not “an easy thing” for the family to deal with – but insists they have become stronger because of it.

He said: “Over the first six months or so I think he went through the stages of grief, really. At first he was quite angry about it and then gradually he moved to acceptance.

“We’ve all kind of worked through it and reached acceptance, and basically got on with it. There’s been a lot of fantastic support from the school, and we’ve helped where we can.

“He’s retained a little peripheral vision. He can make out shapes, but he does not have enough vision to read any longer, and he can’t recognise an expression on a person’s face. He can’t recognise someone until they speak.”

Later this month, Matthew will take part in the Big Beach Busk at Portobello to raise money for Blind Children UK.