I am proud of my qualifications in early years education. I achieved them with a real drive and passion for the subject many years ago at the tender age of 18. Ten years of practising I decided to undertake a higher qualification in education. It was incredibly easy the second time as I had so much knowledge, real hands on knowledge I had learnt from the children I had the privilege of caring for. I worked in professional settings in a variety of Boroughs and genres so learnt about services and resources as well as taking a huge variety of training courses along the way.
I wrote this in 2016, and that moment my son was 11, he is autistic. The studying I did as an early years student put me in good stead for basic child care and learning. The work settings I placed myself into also gave me great confidence especially in realising that a one size fits all strategy does not work. Working with children and families over the almost 20 years before having my own child gave me a knowledge so rich of what it is to be a human. What strengths you may need when faced with the trillion challenges that can crop up when having a family. It taught me to be flexible in my outlook to parenting. It taught me very clearly the vulnerability that can come with becoming a parent. I also learnt the joy having a child can bring, the life change it brings both personally and how you begin to look at the world once you have a child to raise. An amazing honour to be able to have experienced the richness of parenting in all its challenges and rejoices.
A potential client with whom I was to host an autism workshop asked me what my qualifications were in autism. I hesitated for a moment , feeling slightly stunted. Automatically I began doubting my own ability and right to be offering workshops on autism! I asked if it was important that I had qualifications, I was told that many places and services would not want me if I did not have a teachers certificate or a degree of some sort. I took a breath and thought about this.
I am qualified in the Early years care and education sector. I have been a lecturer at a college teaching early years students. I have been offering workshops on autism for the past 4 years and was never asked about a qualification. I worked under the hat of an unqualified lecturer. My manager at that time, who offered me the post said I had the passion and the knowledge to teach students and she felt that was far more important than a teachers certificate.
I am in no way dissing the degrees that have been gained by the masses, who have, through sweat and tears achieved them. I see a valid and commendable place for them. However I also see a valid and commendable place for those who do not have the degree in a certain field. (In fact there isn'tYet they have years of personal experience, living it in every moment of their lives intensely. Trust me when I say, no degree or qualification compares with that. I am not saying it to be cruel and undermine anyone, I am saying it because it is true.
As well as having a child of my own with autism who has been my hands on teacher for the past 11 years. I have made it my business to read every book about autism, aspergers, pdd, psd, ADHD the list goes on.....I have made it my business to join groups and forums of other parents, sharing their lives all engrossed in the autism world. I have travelled the country meeting autistic people from ages 2-70 years old. What a learning, what an insight into autism....a world I have rarely read in a book or on a course. Most of the books I read in the early days of diagnosis for us were written by doctors, scientists and non autistic people. Some were very informative and offered a general overview of autism and what we knew at that time. Some were very depressing and stereotyping, some were so scientific and confusing that my brain hurt. When that happened and I could no longer absorb any more of this information through despair of a lack of real understanding in autism. I began feeling like I was failing as a mother. The autism I read about in the books, predominately spoke of a very different experience to what we were having. It was then I took a break. I started to simply be, I became an observer of Jeorge our son..learning as we went along, plodding very slowly and sometimes painfully but still with a sense of intimacy of what autism for Jeorge really was. I continued to speak on forums with other parents and I joined autism groups for those with aspergers and autism. I read their conversations, their views on how they were feeling about certain things. How they were being treated and regarded by their carers and peers. How they viewed themselves. This was incredibly moving, heart wrenching sometimes. I was made of aware of all sorts of fears they had had, yet how intelligent and resilient and kindhearted they remained.
I then had my Epiphany moment, eureka! I can help, I will set up my own business offering workshops to support services and parents, sharing the knowledge I was learning from the mouths of people who are autistic. This is what we all need to know and understand surely? From there on I began finding books written by autistic people, it was like gold! I learnt so much more about autism than I could imagine. Mostly that ego is non existent within an autistic persons being. Deliberate hurts and behaviours do not exist. Attention seeking is the last thing they wish for in the behaviours they have. So much more I had to share it for the sake of all professional workers and for those with autism, parents and families.
So, yes I feel I am qualified in autism and have a master blooming doctorate in the subject. Who studies 11 years for any qualification? And I am still studying. I join online courses and workshops created by people with aspergers and autism, I watch videos of and read books of those who are autistic, plus I am a keen student of Jeorge. Learning this way I have been given knowledge that isnt yet covered in any courses or degree content I have researched. The courses out there on autism are very extensive yes. Full of facts and figures, problems and solutions. What they are yet to include is heart, truth of sensory processing. What each person with autism sees and feels when in a room or with a person. What does cause them to behave in such an erratic way. sensory processing is talked about in the courses and the possible reasons. It does not , however speak of seeing sound, hearing trees and the earth, feeling the energy off of someone else so intensely it is unbearable to be in the same room. Especially when they are not speaking a truth or being kind and loving. Therefore reasons why a person with autism sometimes behaves is mostly unseen by the carer or parent. It isnt our fault, no it is simply because our senses are not being utilised as much as those with autism are. They see far more, feel far more and hear far more than the average non autistic person can or allows themselves to. It also does not discuss or have any input from people who are autistic, I feel the most valuable course to attend would be one is created such a person. Within it we would learn about honouring and accepting autism fully without the need to change or 'cure' it.
So, that is my pitch! this is what in my unqualified way I bring to the table of autism training. I feel honoured to do so and will continue to do so and reach out to as many service providers as I can. You never know maybe one day I will create a degree in autism that includes all that I have spoken of. In the mean time, I will share what I have been told by the real experts of autism and happily share with you all.