Name: Sophie Jones
Studied: The University of Sussex BSc Psychology
Current job: Trainee Applied Behavioural Analysis Tutor
Did you know what you wanted to do as a career at university? When did you realise that you wanted to work with young people with autism?
When I was at university I was pretty sure I wanted to work with kids, but I didn't know in exactly what capacity. I thought about mainstream primary school teaching, therapy and social work before I came across the idea of special needs teaching. I was planning on getting my PGCE and slowly moving into special needs teaching, but when I came across this job it seemed perfect - I got to work with autistic young people straight away and didn't have to do the teacher training, which was good for me because I wanted to get stuck right in! I didn't know I wanted to work in autism specifically until I saw the job posted, but I had some experience with young people with autism and so it appealed to me straight away.
What was it like working in primary schools for work experience? Would you recommend it to other students?
It was quite hard to fit my voluntary work in with my studies and my part time job, so I didn't get to do as much as I would have liked, but I would still definitely recommend it. It's a great way to get a feel of how confident you are working with children and to develop that confidence. It is also really good for seeing how schools run on a day to day basis and gives you a chance to talk to teachers and other members of staff about their jobs.
What do you do as an Applied Behavioural Analysis tutor? What are your main responsibilities?
An 'Applied Behavioural Analysis tutor' is basically just a fancy way of saying we use the principles of positive and negative reinforcement to teach the children to increase behaviours that we want to see, such as appropriate communication and learning new skills, and to decrease behaviours that aren't so great, such as aggressive behaviour or lack of focus. We work one to one with them and teach them functional skills such as loading the dishwasher, doing laundry, making the bed, and basic literacy and mathematics skills. Our aim is to help them live as independent lives as possible when they graduate from the school!
What do you love most about your job? What do you not like so much?
The thing I love most about my job is the fact that I laugh almost all day, every day. The young people I work with are so bright and hilarious and just full of joy, I just love working with them all day! The only downside would be the paperwork, we have to take a lot of data throughout the day and it all has to be written up at the end of the day, which can be tedious. It's also about an hours drive away from where I live in Brighton, most people travel quite far because it's such a specialist school.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
In ten years, I still want to be working as a special educational needs teacher. I would like to branch out and work with children with other special needs, and I would like to have done some further study in my field. I also want to be a bit higher up in the ranks, maybe running my own department or class - I'm quite ambitious.
I can imagine working with teenagers and young children can sometimes be a bit stressful - what do you do to unwind?
To be honest I'm normally so tired all I want to do when I get home is chill out with my fiance, netflix and food! That's got to be my favourite way to relax after a long day.