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Psychologist and Manager (Transcript)

Could you describe the role of the Children and Youth Services team?

Seb: At VisAbility, we see children from birth to 18 years old in the Children Youth Services team. [Voice-over, Laura Psychologist and Seb, Manager] so the team is really comprehensive in terms of a range of professionals from, you know –  OTs Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists, Speech Pathologists. We also have

Psychologists like Laura is a Psychologist in the team, Social Work as well as Orientation and Mobility and Orthoptist as well. Yeah! The way we work is I’m, you know seeing children with a range of vision impairments from fairly mild to low vision to totally blind as well. So one thing that I think really is what our service is about with families is that it’s family-centered. So where possible we try and take into account the families goals and what they’re after for their child and in that it’s looking at how well what’s the future hold and aiming higher and we really want to see the potential in each child, so you know close enough isn’t good enough if a child’s determined or if the parent wants to reach this goal in many of the children work with there’s really no reason why they wouldn’t be able to achieve with the right supports and actually just having that dream or vision for their child as well.

What is the psychologists role?

Laura: I suppose the psychologists role is to look at overall development of the child, support the family to reach those goals, linking in with other professionals within our team, so providing the support and some guidance around the child reaching certain milestones and additional to that, we provide parenting support, emotional support and counseling, developmental assessments where needed, toileting, play, I guess we go into the realms of sort of language and communication a little bit, behavior management many challenges that come up along the way and just, I suppose being sort of the first person that families often come to initially to determine what services within VisAbility that child can access and I guess we liaise with other professionals as well outside of VisAbility – educators or childcare and (LAC) Local Area Coordinators, Paediatricians, Ophthalmologists, GPs whoever the family are linked with.

What is important when working with a child with vision impairment?

I suppose one of the things that parents often wonder about are those future sort of skills later in life whether it be, will my child ever drive or will my child go to the typical school, will my child how will they make friends, those sorts of things. So I guess it’s about reframing how the child will do these things, I mean they might not drive but we had a wonderful speaker one time saying that it’s great if that child still had their own car because someone else might drive them, which will be transport for them all we upskilling with other mobility ways to get around. So it’s about sort of just considering what the child is like and what level of development they’re at and then just working from there to reach the goals of the family.

What does inclusion mean and what does it look like when it’s working well?

I think inclusion is – it’s probably about more than just saying that a child is included in mainstream it’s about that child being able to access the curriculum, make friends, fit in and just for that child and the family as a unit to feel like they’re being supported and that they belong in that community of the school. So I think you know it’s really important that teachers sort of step up to the plate or assistance help with enlarging things or ensuring the child has their devices and you know technology is there with them throughout the day to day. But I think for children really they want to have friends and they want to belong within that community.

I think in kindergarten – pre-primary the assistants are brilliant because they can facilitate certainly with children who have, maybe limited communication or delayed communication and maybe some of the kids are a little bit more sophisticated in their language and their social skills that assistant can help out immensely in facilitating those peer relations. But then when they get to 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 – it starts become a real barrier because no one wants to hang out with the kid who has adult hovering about them all day long.

Seb: I think like what you’re saying Laura is well often with Educational Assistance it’s, you can have an amount of time or a person that’s involved but it’s not so much what the support is. But it’s also then what it’s how supports provided. So you could have a fantastic Educational Assistant who’s really great at utilising their time to encourage that independent socialisation all that and it’s just how it’s used as opposed to maybe always the duration and that type of thing and it is one support that’s available isn’t it, for inclusion. It’s just sticking a child in a regular classroom is an inclusion. I think we’re coming a long way in terms of people looking at inclusion in terms of being, well it’s a child attending a regular classroom in a regular school where it’s – you can have inclusion looking different in different settings.

So it’s how inclusive is the environment and the people around them, so inclusion can look different but we need to look more closely about, well what exactly is happening for the child/student and how included are they how involved are they. It’s the quality of what they’re doing isn’t it? Laura: Yes the relationships, you know and ensuring that they do access the curriculum in an equitable way, but I think most of all people generally remember the friends that they have in school and it’s those skills that they translate later on in life as well.

Could you describe the range of services that VisAbility offers?

From the initial assessment, we determine what the family needs, what the child needs and what their goals are. When we have little ones come in from say zero, three months, six months – they’re invited to join our playgroup, so that’s staffed by our intervention therapy, intervention assistant as well as therapists such as

Occupational Therapist, Speech Pathologist, Physiotherapist, Psychologist or Social Worker will attend the playgroup as well and it’s about giving the child a lot of different sensory experiences and play experiences, we sing songs, have story time and it’s also a great opportunity for families, parents with service to connect with one another as well. We also run a second playgroup for children with CVI (Cortical Vision Impairment) so that’s both play groups that are free for children to attend as well and then from there, we get a better picture of where the child is at developmentally because we see them quite regularly and they come weekly there are play groups and then we can determine with the family, what their goals are, what the kind of services that they want to access – whether it be Speech Pathology or Occupational Therapy, Physiotherapy, Psychology services and we can have an individual family service plan meeting with the family to go through those goals and where to go with therapy from there.

Seb: So moving through to school age then as well in terms of like some of the programs we offer, so it’s school holiday program comes to mind is a really important aspect of our service. So particularly around vision impairment it’s a low incidence disabilities, so there’s – in the whole scheme of things that aren’t that many people with vision impairment compared to other disability types and often a child or a student at school is the only student with the vision impairment.

So it could be as they go through their school years and all the young guys or girls then talking about getting their drivers license and we’ve heard stories where a lot of teenagers will feel like they’re the only person in the world who can’t get their license. But as they linking with the school holiday program and that peer support aspect I think becomes increasingly important, not only for parents early on but also around connecting with the vision impairment is a part of them.

It doesn’t define the person but they know that – well hold on when I come to VisAbility’s holiday program, you know we’re talking about catching public transport and they just know that they’re not the only person out there that’s looking at other options of getting around and it’s becoming increasingly popular and you know it’s good for the environment. So there’s all those added benefits as well so it’s knowing that they’re not alone and that there’s other people there that act to support social media there another way involved so you know there’s parents are involved in a Facebook page and then there’s a lot of teenagers that are also involved as well. So being able to connect with each other is I think really critical for their emotional well-being and progress through their school years into adulthood.

VisAbility, Website: www.visability.com.au, Phone: 1800 VISION