Why I became an autism support worker

If you’re looking for a varied and rewarding role and are keen to help others, then a role as an autism support worker could be for you.

Here, Service Manager Nicola Dowling explains her decision to move into a career within health and social care and how she came to join Autism East Midlands.

It was four years ago that Nicola decided she was ready for a change and wanted to find a career that was more fulfilling and meaningful.

“I have a son who is autistic and he was at a stage in his life where he was stable and I felt that this was the right time to make a move,” she explained.

“I had been working for a supermarket for a while and then worked for a short time in a care home. When someone mentioned to me that AEM was looking for people to join as support workers, I knew I had to apply.”

Nicola Dowling a

“To be honest, starting a new career as a support worker was daunting at first,” she admitted. I didn’t have any experience in working in the care of autistic adults and I thought it might be intimidating. I wasn’t sure what the job would involve but the AEM induction was very comprehensive and my manager was really supportive.”

Nicola first joined AEM’s day service in Retford before moving to a residential service in Whitwell. It gave her the opportunity to gain different skills and more experience, and she soon worked her way to become a Senior Autism Practitioner before later becoming an Assistant Manager. Last year she was promoted to Service Manager at a supported living service.

“I love my job. It’s challenging, varied, rewarding… It’s way more than a job! My team is full of caring and supportive people who want to make a difference to people’s lives and together we’re changing lives.”

New skills

The team supports autistic individuals living within the residential service to carry out the activities that they enjoy and enable them to develop independent living skills. It also involves positively supporting people by providing holistic support including personal care, medication administration, and to manage their anxieties.

“It’s a rewarding job and no two days are ever the same,” added Nicola. “The people who use our service have wide ranging interests.”

Some enjoy swimming, others love watching TV; one person is a huge fan of TV’s Tiswas and Grotbags, while another enjoys watching Police Interceptors and loves the car chases and blue lights. Others enjoy going for local walks, which invariably involves a coffee stop.

Holidays are an important to many of the people they support and so the team provide the help needed to plan in trips away. Being able to support people to do what they’d like to do as well as keep in touch with their families is vital to Nicola and the team. Supporting people to learn new skills including around home management and living skills is also a big part of daily activities at the service.

“We want to support people to broaden the experience they have and find new activities. Those we support love to learn new skills and every Sunday we are all given a job to do in preparing and cooking a Sunday dinner.”

At AEM it’s all about supporting people to ensure they get to experience all aspects of life, she says. Supporting people to look for new experiences and activities and achieve everything that is important to them is key to Nicola and if they’re happy, that makes her happy.

Inspired by Nicola's story?

If you've ever thought about changing career and switching to adult social care, then why not check out our careers page? We currently have roles at our Bolsover supported living service. Read on for >> latest job vacancies.

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