Meet Vicky: a Vision Australia paediatric counsellor

18 September 2020

An interest in helping people has led Vicky to work as a paediatric counsellor with Vision Australia.

“I started my career working with teenagers and I haven’t stopped working with children and young people,” she said.

“I love working with them and their families.”

Vicky has been working with young people since 2000 and joined Vision Australia in 2019.

The work of a paediatric counsellor

Vicky works specifically with children and teenagers who are blind or have low vision.

“I provide specialised counselling which focuses on the way a child’s blindness or low vision affects their day to day life.

“They might be experiencing anxiety, depression or they might be being bullied at school.”

Vicky explained a lot of people have problems with self-confidence and self-esteem as a result of losing their vision.

“A lot of young people struggle to accept the fact that they have lost their sight, they experience feelings of loss, grief and uncertainty about the future and they worry about being accepted by their peers.”

Along with understanding the impacts blindness or low vision may be having on a child’s life, Vicky also works with them and their families to develop strategies to overcome them.

“A Coping Step plan helps identify a bigger goal and breaks it down into smaller, more achievable goals which will be accompanied by strategies to assist the client with achieving them,” she said.

“Coping Step plans are useful in the treatment of anxiety.”

Vicky also encourages her clients to make “I” statements.

“’I’ statements are a style of communication that focuses on the feelings and beliefs of a client rather than thoughts or characteristics that the client might have attributed to others.”

Vicky also said some clients and their families benefit from cognitive behavioural therapy, art therapy, mindful breathing and family therapy.

Blindness and low vision

Before Vicky began working for Vision Australia, she had worked with young people who lived with a range of disabilities, which she said is beneficial to her current role.

“A lot of the people I previously worked with had severe learning disabilities or they were in wheelchairs.

“Now I have come to Vision Australia I find it helpful to have the prior knowledge and experience I have acquired.”

Vicky has gained more knowledge and experience since joining Vision Australia and has enjoyed learning about the different technology used by people who are blind or have low vision.

“I remember when I had my induction day in Kooyong I was fascinated by all the assistive technology that is out there.

“I’m really happy there is so much equipment and support available to people who are blind or have low vision so they can live the life they choose.”

Telehealth

In response to COVID-19, Vision Australia has started providing services via telehealth, meaning Vicky can conduct counselling sessions  over the phone or via video conferencing.

“I don’t have to travel for appointments anymore which means I can see more clients in a day.”

“Some young people find talking harder than others so sometimes I use the Zoom whiteboard function to make the sessions more interactive.”

Vicky uses the whiteboard function to draw faces and asks the children to describe the emotion the face is showing.

“I also get them to draw faces and I ask them what clues that face might give to indicate the emotion being shown on it.”

Given the nature of her work, Vicky said telehealth wouldn’t completely replace face-to-face counselling sessions

“It can be really hard to see a person’s body language over the internet or the phone.

“So much communication is non-verbal and reading those non-verbal cues is a really important part of my job.”

For information about the supports Vision Australia can offer your child, follow this link.