Glinys Kitt works within the Network Support, Language and Communications Team in West Dunbartonshire. She was nominated as an Autism Champion by one of her colleagues. Glinys says she has to think of new and innovative ways of working when she is finding solutions to problems and she is glad that there is never a dull day!
I first got involved in ASD when I was asked to do work in a language unit. At first I was terrified –it wasn’t something that I had ever considered and didn’t really want to do it. I agreed to do it for a short term but that short term became longer and the more I learned the more fascinated I became. The fascination turned into a passion and that remains today. I now work with the Network Support Team in West Dunbartonshire and support pupils in mainstream schools.
I love having the opportunity to challenge people’s mind-sets and preconceptions which probably exist because they are based on a lack of information or misunderstanding. People with ASD are all individuals, even though they have characteristics that are similar, but no two people are the same. As a result the work I do is always interesting and sometimes unpredictable. I have become very inventive when it comes to support for particular problems and sometimes support strategies can be a bit wacky so you really do have to have an open mind and a degree of confidence to try new things! My days are never dull and I have the privilege of working with other agencies across all ages from nursery to secondary stages.
A lot of the work I do is with parents. Young people are obviously our priority but quite often how a pupil presents as school is totally different to what’s happening at home. It is vital to work closely with parents to maintain consistent support for them as well as their child. Sometimes parents feel that if they seek help it may call into question their parenting skills and they may need reassurance to talk through concerns. Sometimes they are upset or angry and just need someone to talk to. This may need to be out with school where they may feel more comfortable. An hours talk is time well spent if everyone feels better at the end of it. ASD does not only exist between the hours of 9 and 3 and we tackle all sorts of problems. We also aim to provide support before a crisis arises rather than become involved when there are problems.
This school session saw a new direction. A boys’ groups of P7 boys , all from different schools has been set up. They all have ASD, have an understanding of the condition and talk freely about it. Each school takes it in turn to host sessions. The group consists of all boys by default, we only have 1 girl and her needs are quite different so she does not go to the group. The group is called A’ ok (the boys chose this themselves) and they meet in the host school which provides juice, biscuits etc. They plan what they would like to talk about or which activities they would like to do and recently planned an outing to Exscape in Glasgow. They use such outings to practise the skills they have been learning in different locations. It’s not easy and takes a lot of planning. A great deal of credit goes to my learning assistant who has been very committed and goes on these trips with them.
I’ve been picking the boys up to visit their Secondary schools and it’s great because they have become friends and give each other high fives and big bear hugs, it’s lovely. They are also very supportive of each other and talk through problems when things haven’t been going so well. As an added bonus some of the parents have been contacting each other and have become very supportive, sharing information, getting together and forming friendships taking things in a very welcome and different direction. As I said at the beginning things are often unpredictable – but often very exciting!
Although these boys will not all be going to the same Secondary School they do attend some clubs together so there are opportunities for them and for their families to maintain contact.
Beyond that my role involves planning training sessions for Teachers, Learning Asssistants and parents and working on disclosure programmes with pupils and families. In consultation with identified pupils we discuss with the other children what it means that one of their peers/siblings has autism. The boy’s group is currently making a Power Point presentation about what autism actually is. It is work in progress so I am not sure when this will be finished.
Most of the other work that we do is the same as others but there is always something new and interesting which is fantastic. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?!