Sutton Coldfield boy and his dog, Chance, appear in Beano special edition

A young boy from Sutton Coldfield and his buddy dog have appeared in a special edition of a much-loved children’s comic. Alex McQueen and his Golden Retriever, Chance, star in a special edition of Beano featuring children with visual impairments.

The famous comic’s edition is a collaboration with charity, Guide Dogs, and is called Beano Presents - A Buddy for Life. It sees Erbert, one of the Beano's Bash Street Kids, discuss his recent sight loss diagnosis with friends, and make a visit to the Guide Dogs National Centre.

Seven-year-old Alex contracted meningitis at three weeks old, which led to him being diagnosed with bilateral optic atrophy at the age of four, which means his optic nerve has been damaged. This has led to both vision problems and a developmental delay with his speech. But his brother, Ross, 9, has helped out with his voice appearing in the audio version of the comic.

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Alex’s mum, Lindsey McQueen, who lives with her family in the Streetly area of the town said: "For him, he feels like it is all really good fun and 'there's me and Chance and we're in this cartoon and it's great'.”

The 46-year-old solicitor explained the vision issues her son has and said: “He has a reduced sharpness in vision, especially central vision and he struggles to see certain colours, so red and green for example are quite greyed out for him.

"He also has no peripheral vision in his right eye, he doesn't have very good distance vision and his close vision is quite intermittent and as he also has speech challenges, we don't always know how well he can see.

"Alex is also full of energy and can run around at literally 100 miles an hour but because he cannot process his surroundings quickly, he will crash into stuff."

But he has been helped enormously by Chance with mum Alex saying the Guide Dogs have been ‘wonderful’ not only pairing him with the clever retriever, who he enjoys ‘cuddles’ with, but also setting up on an iPad to help with his schoolwork. She hopes the special edition comic raises awareness of the charity’s work.

Lindsey said: “Chance has got the most beautiful temperament in the world, he is just so lovely. Alex pulls him and cuddles him and just wants to treat him like a toy and he just rolls with it.

"To see your child go from this traumatic child who was hysterical at seeing dogs to how he is now with Chance and other animals is just lovely."

Buddy dogs are pooches that have been given a ‘career change’ because they did not suit being a guide dog, and are typically partnered with a child with sight loss. Chance has helped Alex for two years.

His mum praised The Beano for producing the special visual impairment edition saying it was ‘hugely important’ for children to see characters from different walks of life portrayed in popular culture. Lindsey said: “When you see somebody in the media or who appears on your phone or iPad or TV that is like you and they've achieved or they're out there, it's inspiring and it shows you can get on in life and have opportunities - it's brilliant.

"I think it's not just important for Alex, but for other children to understand. He goes to a mainstream primary school at the moment and is in a lovely class, but it raises awareness for the other children as well to learn about the difficulties that other children could have and how they can help.”

Craig Graham, editorial director at Beano Studios, said: "At Beano, it's important to us to reflect kids' experiences and help them navigate life with the fun and mischief that all kids should get to enjoy. Beano Presents - A Buddy for Life has given us the opportunity to talk at length about sight loss, which has been a particularly special project for me as someone who has a visual impairment."

The comic is available digitally and in print from today (Wednesday, May 1). Anyone wanting to listen to the special Guide Dogs x Beano comic strip and find out more about those featured in it, can visit: https://www.guidedogs.org.uk/beano/

Alex Pepper, head of accessibility at Guide Dogs, added: "Our partnership with Beano will help children learn more about visual impairments and the various services Guide Dogs offers in a fun yet educational way. With Erbert opening up about his visual impairment to the Bash Street Kids for the very first time, we hope to encourage people to feel more comfortable sharing their sight loss experience.”