FOR mum-of-two Emma Box, the appeal of working at the North East Autism Society (NEAS) is the difference she gets to make in the lives of young autistic people.

Emma joined the Society as a level 2 teaching assistant in 2022, working at the Mackenzie Thorpe Centre in Middlesbrough, but will soon start training as a level 4 teaching assistant, with more responsibility for lesson plans and teaching.

The Middlesbrough local previously worked for Voyage Care and had 17 years of experience supporting adults with learning disabilities and mental health needs, but saw working with children as daunting at first.

“I didn’t think it was for me, but I’d gone on the website and read some of the stories from the parents and the carers,” Emma said.

“That’s what drew me to it, just wanting to help and support the children.”

Emma completed her NEAS induction and although she felt “petrified” in her first week, she soon turned things around.

 “I thought I’ll go back another week, and then the second week I just took to it.”

She added: “If I was giving anyone any advice it would be to be very patient, don’t expect to know everything straight away. It takes time.”

Day to day, Emma currently assists with the early years class, made up of a teacher and four teaching assistants, setting morning activities up and enabling the pupils to learn through play.

Emma said: “We do so much singing I’m surprised I actually have a voice. On an afternoon we change activities over, it’s constant – constant changing, we have soft play, a lot of sensory toys, and they’ve got their own outdoor area that they can go out in.”

“Every day is different. No two days are the same around here. It keeps it very interesting,” She added.

Emma says teaching assistants “have to be prepared for any situation. I think you have to be caring, very patient.

“Be prepared for some challenges, and really just take on board what experienced staff tell you, because you learn on the job in these sorts of roles.”

As well as becoming a level 4 teaching assistant, Emma is also achieving her level 3 counselling qualification, and hopes to complete teacher training in future so she can continue to support pupils at the Mackenzie Thorpe Centre.

 “The most rewarding thing in this job is seeing how far the children come and the opportunities they’ll get.”

Emma added: “For me every day in there is a high point.”

The Mackenzie Thorpe Centre is a specialist school based in South Bank, Middlesbrough, currently taking up to 30 pupils aged 5-19.

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