Overcoming challenges to become a teacher — Autism

Published 22 March 2021
By Felix

Felix offered to speak to Teacher Training Adviser, Jane Wilkinson, about the challenges faced by someone who lives with additional needs and their progress towards achieving the dream of becoming a teacher.

What inspired you to teach?

I wanted to be a teacher when I was in secondary school, but I was put off it as I didn’t fit in well with my peer group and felt that the behaviour issues would be too much for me to handle. But in every other aspect of my life, I always ended up teaching. I took up figure skating while at university, and though I set out to do it purely for myself, I spent so much time helping others that I ended up training as a coach just a couple of years after starting. Teaching is definitely my “calling” in that way. Everything in my life ends up leading back to it, so this year I decided I should stop fighting the obvious and actually become a teacher!

How did you find the application process?

I had the help of a teacher training adviser, which was extremely beneficial when editing my personal statement and preparing for interviews. She sent me a list of pretty much every question I could have been asked, so I was able to prepare a wide range of answers and content for my interview. My top tips for the application process would be to get an adviser, and to think about what transferrable skills you have when writing your personal statement and answering interview questions. You don’t need experience in a classroom; I had plenty to talk about without that. Think about the skills you have gained from any jobs you have already had, or anything else in your life, and how those skills could be applied to teaching.

What are your concerns prior to beginning your teacher training course?

I am a little concerned about disclosing the fact that I am autistic, as I didn’t declare it on my application. I know that providers are not allowed to discriminate, but I preferred to wait until I have a secured place before disclosing anyway. So I am a bit apprehensive about how that will go. I was not diagnosed until adulthood, so I am not accustomed to asking for accommodations, and sometimes I struggle to think of what could actually help me. I plan to discuss it with my provider once they begin the process of finding a school placement for me.

If someone asked, ‘Should I become a Teacher?’, what might you advise?

My answer would be: only if it’s right for you! It’s certainly not for everyone, but if you feel pulled towards it (or if you feel like something inside you is pushing you towards it despite your best efforts!) then go for it. Don’t worry about whether or not you will be able to gain a place on a course, as there is a lot of help out there. Your own ambition should be your only limit.

All our teacher training advisers are experienced teachers who can support you when preparing and applying for teacher training. Talk to an adviser by phone, text or email, as often or as little as you need. You can also find out about the support you can get while training to teach if you’re disabled.