I have nannied for a young boy with Autism for almost four years now and every time I explain what I do for a living I get very similar responses. A lot of people are not really aware of the situation of SEN children and so they either move on from the conversation or ask very personal unnecessary questions. So today I would like let you know 5 things you probably don’t know about working with children with autism. Before I start I would like to give a small disclaimer, I do not know everything about autism and all the information I provide is from personal experience from my job. There are many many more things I need to learn in my lifetime in this sector but I do have a decent amount of knowledge to write this post.
- My job is more rewarding than you think, even the smallest of milestones will make you weep. My little man (yes I will refer to him as my little man because we are a family, an unconventional one at that still family) is considered as delayed for his age and therefore his achievements are even more incredible. For example, when he shares with another child or learnt about how to comfort someone when they’re sad it made us so proud of him because these are personal, social and emotional skills which he majorly struggles with. One thing which made my job feel so unbelievably rewarding was when he learnt and first said my name. For a year and a half he knew who I was but never really acknowledged me, but when he first actually said my name I genuinely cried. It felt like such a big moment where he finally accepted me into his world instead of existing to him.
- Just because he is autistic doesn’t mean he doesn’t care and has no empathy. There are many different feelings which contribute to causing someone to feel empathetic, and therefore there are multiple forms of empathy. He cannot feel cognitive empathy because his brain wouldn’t be able to place him into someone else’s position and think about how he would feel about it, however he can recognise the feeling of sadness and pain and will offer comfort to you. For example if you are fake crying in front of you he will say “crying” and then give you a hug or get you a tissue. He always want you to be happy and not angry.
- Just because you have met and worked with one autistic child doesn’t mean you know them all. Despite the fact I have worked with one autistic individual does not mean I am in any way prepared to work with another, each child has their own set of needs which may differ 100% from another. Having the same additional need does not mean their needs are the same.
- The amount of research you should do is insane but it makes it worth it. Reach all platforms and research until you feel like there can’t be anymore. To give myself the best tools to help care for this child, I have to keep myself full of information and viewpoints, that is why I search all formats of media for all forms of information. For example I listen to Stories About Autism podcast, James is a Dad if two boys with autism and he really highlights how different autism is between two boys and how parents care for their child and so it provides valuable information for childcare practitioners like me. I am currently saving up to attend a training course with the national Autistic society over the summer so I can deepen my knowledge and training to become the best version of myself who has a deeper understanding of autism. Continual Professional Development is so important especially when you’re working with additional needs because there is always new information and discoveries to be learnt.
- Be prepared for your heart to be captured by this child because you won’t expect it. This one is the one thing I never realised before I started my job, and yet it is so prevelant three years in. My job requires me to learn every detail about the child I am caring for especially since communication is a key struggle for them, this then leads you to create such a strong bond with that child. I never expected to feel so loved by a child I look after, but since we spend a lot of time together and I have spent so much time trying to work him out we have both become closer. We know each others needs and we both know the routines which we have for any situation. That boy has stolen my heart and can cheer me up in one word or action, I adore him and his strength, and his ability to overcome is astonishing regardless whether he is aware of it or not.
That is a list of 5 things people generally don’t know about working with children with autism, there are obviously so many more things, positive and negative, about working with children with additional needs but these are the points I felt were most important to highlight. If you are associated with autism or children with any additional needs please share with me anything you are comfortable with sharing because I always want to learn more.
Thank you so much for reading my post and I hope to see you around these parts again soon!