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."