HAVING an autistic grandson, Gill Low brought a wealth of personal experience with her when she joined the North East Autism Society in April 2021.

The 50-year-old, from Chester-le-Street, County Durham, is employed as a residential child carer in ones of our homes in Sunderland and says she’s never looked back since joining Team NEAS.

Having spent most of her career working for a high street bank, Gill says she’d always wanted to work with children – and she began looking for roles within the care sector after a chance encounter with a former care worker whilst out shopping.

I’ve always wanted to work with children. And once Max came along, it made me more determined to go for what I wanted to do.

“One day I was shopping, I had Max with me, he was pre-verbal and the lady at the counter was talking to him. She explained that she used to be a support worker, so I was asking her loads of questions. That’s what made me decide to look for a support worker role.”

When Max was born, Gill helped her daughter with childcare and worked part-time as a cleaner, as well as in the kitchen of a primary school. However, once Max, now seven, was settled with his school routine, Gill decided to take the leap and applied for a role with NEAS.

Not only has the job been rewarding professionally, but Gill says it has helped her to better understand her grandson: “I’ve done Makaton training and I do that with him. Food as well, because he likes everything beige and I didn’t really understand why – now I have a better understanding.”

Despite her personal experiences, Gill had no professional experience of working with autistic and/or neurodivergent individuals when she applied for the role. However, she says she has received all of the support and training she needs since joining the team at Braemar Gardens, as all new starters undergo an intensive induction programme.

“At the start, I learned through observations and 10,000 questions a day,” she says. “The training courses that you go on, I learned a lot through those because autism is such a massive spectrum. We also do a lot of online training and keep up to date with those.”

Gill says that every day on the job is different – one day you could be decorating the home with the children for Valentine’s Day, taking the children trampolining or even spending time with the children’s families.

I just love the job. I love the children. I’ve never had any regrets about joining.

And while the job can have its difficult days, Gill says the team work closely to support one another, adding: “You get a lot of support from the management if you need it, and from colleagues. We’re one big team – it’s not a case of ‘I’m not doing this or that’, we all just do everything that needs to be done. It can be a little bit challenging at times but we all stick together and that gets us through it.”

As well as in-house training, Gill is also currently studying for her Diploma in Childcare, which is being funded by NEAS. 

Asked if she’d recommend a career in residential care to others, Gill says “give it a go”.

 “I’d recommend it to everyone,” she adds. “There’s no harm in trying - you have to find out for yourself. If you’re worried about lack of experience, a big thing I’ve found with NEAS is that you get a lot of training.”

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