Ajay’s life improving one play at a time

Before Ajay Bird’s parents sought help for their son the three-year-old was withdrawn, wouldn’t talk to other people, and suffered greatly from anxiety.

Visiting family was becoming increasingly difficult and going to shops or medical appointments was almost impossible.

Reuben Vail with Darren Bird, Kellie Walton and Ajay Bird during a counselling session at Carinity Illoura.

“He wouldn’t get in the shower because he was scared and we were losing our patience and getting frustrated because you can’t not shower,” Ajay’s mother Kellie Walton recalls.

“We wouldn’t be able to go anywhere that has enclosed doors because Ajay would freak out.

“He wouldn’t even walk into our family’s house; he would have a meltdown. We would have to sit out front on the grass with him for about half an hour before he would walk into the house, and that was to see people he knows.

“It was really hard to take him out. We were stuck at home a lot of the time because he didn’t like to socialise and see other people.”

After being referred to counsellor Reuben Vail by a doctor, Ajay and his parents Kellie Walton and Darren Bird began receiving support at the Carinity Illoura counselling centre in Beaudesert last year.

“Some of the problem was that we didn’t understand what Ajay was going through until we came and met Reuben and he explained to us how Ajay’s feeling,” Darren says.

“Reuben gave us ideas and tips on what to do. It has made things a lot easier.”

A qualified counsellor for more than 20 years, Reuben uses play-based therapy during fortnightly therapy sessions with Ajay as part of a “holistic approach to care”.

Primarily geared towards children, play therapy allows patients to play out and express their feelings and experiences.

“For example, we ask the client to pick a toy bear that looks like him, mum, dad, brother, sister or friend,” Reuben explains.

“We point to the bear and ask what the is bear thinking, feeling, doing and saying. We then see a pattern occurring. This tells me what is happening for the client in their environment.”

Play-based therapy has helped Carinity Illoura counsellor Reuben Vail recognise behaviour to help three-year-old Ajay deal with his anxiety.

Reuben says his sessions for treating Ajay’s anxiety are “about making him feel comfortable in his environment”.

“Anxiety is the fear of the unknown. Ajay knows that something is going to happen, but he doesn’t know what so he either stands and fights it or he takes off,” Reuben says.

“The hardest part is getting other people to understand that some kids have anxiety.”

One year on from his first session with Reuben, Ajay is a much happier and outgoing child whose demeanour has changed. He is now trying things outside of his comfort zone.

“Now I don’t get nervous about taking him out. He gets so excited knowing we’re going to our family’s house,” Kellie says.

“We’ve learnt through Reuben to keep calm and realise that as frustrating it can be for us imagine what it’s like for a three-year-old to go through that.

“Ajay has still got progress to make but he’s come so far it’s unbelievable.”

Now in its 30th year, Carinity Illoura provides counselling for parents and children up to 18 years of age as well as parenting education for people from the Scenic Rim and surrounding areas.

“I came to Carinity Illoura 17 years ago with a vision of creating community. This I have achieved. I love working with people and seeing them reach their full potential in life,” Reuben says.

Kellie Walton says her son has come a long way since he started receiving support at Carinity Illoura in Beaudesert.

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