Day in the life - Gundi Shaw

9th January 2009 at 00:00
Gundi Shaw is special needs teacher at the centre for autism, Woodford Valley C of E Primary in Salisbury

The first thing I do each day is go to the staffroom and check the notices. Autistic children struggle with anything unexpected, so if there are changes to routine, I need to know. Then I head over to the centre to set up for the morning lessons.

Today I'm working with a boy who is struggling with his 4x table. He likes playing with Lego, and notices that some blocks have four bumps on them, some have eight, while the biggest ones have 16. After a while, he works out that we are missing blocks with 12 dots on, and suddenly he's cracked his 4x table. This kind of "got it" moment is so special. When you work with autistic children the tiniest step forward seems like a giant leap.

After break we have a whole-school assembly in the church next door and children from the centre all have a Year 6 buddy who takes them along. Interestingly, they respond better to being told what to do by another child than by an adult. Today I'm walking near Ashleigh, who is blind as well as autistic. I'm always careful what I say around her, and tread on eggshells a bit, but her buddy is asking her outright about her blindness, and she responds very openly.

In the afternoon, I borrow the local Scout minibus and take the children horse-riding. I'm originally from Austria, but I met my husband over here 30 years ago, at an international Scout event, and we've been involved in Scouting ever since. Having use of the minibus means we can arrange plenty of outings, and the riding centre is especially kind to us, and always finds volunteers to walk alongside the horses.

When I get home, I'm shattered and go straight to sleep. My husband cooks dinner, and wakes me when it's ready. After that I settle down to the paperwork. In the classroom I can think on my feet, but I'm very slow with the paperwork, and it's likely to be 2 or 3am before I get to bed. My life is exhausting but wonderful

Gundi Shaw was talking to Steven Hastings.

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