I want the final years of my working life to count for something Antony, tell us more about yourself? Well, I’m 57-years-old, born in Solihull and raised in Worcester. I was working for an electrical company many years ago that brought with it an opportunity to take a team to Sunderland. I came up, fell in love with the place and haven’t left since. That was 17 years ago! I now work as a teaching assistant for the North East Autism Society. That seems like a bit of a change in career. How did that come about? I grew up with a mum who was passionate about helping elderly people and so there was always a bit of me that loved working in that field. Before my job in NEAS I made the change to the care sector supporting people in the community who were rehabilitating from operations or accidents. It was fantastic in terms of helping people but it was a job that started at 7.30am and finished after 10 at night. I knew I needed a change and wanted to make the last few years of my working life count for something. It was time to do a job that really meant something; I saw the job at NEAS, applied and the rest is history. Did you have a lot of knowledge about autism and neurodiversity? Yes and no. I have four nephews who have ADHD so the complexities of neurodiversity aren’t lost on me but I think it’s fair to say this has been a steep – but enjoyable – learning curve. If I was younger, and not looking forward to retiring at 65, I would absolutely be signing up right here and now to become a teacher. The in-house training and career progression here is second-to-none. Every day brings new challenges and new opportunities to learn, which means every day I go home feeling like it’s been a good day. Tell us about your highlights so far? I began working here as part of the off-site team, educating children and young people in a community setting, and now, as a teaching assistant my highlights are the same: when a child goes on to accomplish something they never imagined possible it’s the best thing in the world. One thing I’ve learned is never to underestimate our children and young people. And what about the challenges? There’s a lot to learn and working in this field you never get to the point where you think ‘that’s it – I know it all now’. Everyday is a learning process and everyday I’m tasked with supporting children and young people who don’t see or understand the world the way I do. It’s demanding, and can be physically tough at times, but it’s also incredibly rewarding. What have you learned about autism and autistic people since working for us at NEAS? I’ve learned that no two people are the same, whether they are autistic or not, and because of that you can’t follow hard and fast rules or be black and white. My job is to help which ever person I’m helping in that moment – and that means really getting to know that person, understanding them, having patience and believing they can achieve and accomplish when many other spheres of their lives haven’t believed that. What advice would you give to people considering applying for a job in Education at NEAS? I would say go for it! If you want a challenging but fulfilling job; a job where you can progress, but most importantly a job where you actually make a difference, then apply. Click here to see our latest vacancies.Or contact our recruitment team by calling 0191 410 9974 or emailing [email protected].