I'm surprised by what I've learned

8th April 2005 at 01:00
Jyoti Sharma trained as a nursery nurse, and began her career as one of the support staff in an autism unit at a special school. She is now a play interaction specialist employed by Leicester City Council.

"My interest in special needs came from my work as a volunteer in a play scheme where there were children with special needs. It's rewarding being able to help the children - especially when you reach a moment when they can be integrated into a mainstream setting.

Working at the special school was daunting at first, and children with autism are challenging. But I knew I had the patience and I enjoyed the challenge. The school sent me on a lot of training courses that developed my understanding. It always helps to have some theory behind what you're doing.

Later, I helped manage a classroom, and I enjoyed steering the children into shared activities.

After five years at the special school, I got a job with the special needs support service. The main focus is training assistants and nursery nurses in using interactive approaches for children with autism.

I model techniques like following the child's lead in play, mirroring what the child is doing - such as flapping or spinning - and then gradually shaping it into something more interactive.

I love my job. I feel surprised by myself, at the experience and knowledge I've gained. I'd like to do a further course and get teacher status: I'm not stopping here."

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