Joanne's story

My interest in working with children with special needs started when I was working as a nursery nurse at Haymerle School in Peckham. This school specialises in supporting children with a wide range of additional needs from autistic spectrum disorders to significant speech and language difficulties, developmental delay and complex learning needs.

I completed my early years level three training shortly before working at the school - I think starting my career with a focus on SEND really provided a fantastic foundation for my early years career. The school provided lots of training and support which I’ve found so helpful throughout my work.

Helping children thrive

Every child is unique and has their own needs dependent on their skills, attitudes and personality. I’ve always enjoyed getting to know each child I’ve worked with individually. It’s amazing to see the progress you can make with every child with a strong understanding of who they are – what makes them tick – and how you can help them thrive.

Working in partnership

Over the past several years I have built my career working as a nanny with a range of different specialisms, including working with children with additional needs. One family I worked for had three children who all needed support through a speech and language therapist. I would take them to their weekly sessions and would support them at home with the programme they had to follow. Working as a nanny, you often have the greatest level of interaction with therapists, so it is really important to have that wider awareness and to be open to working with the trained practitioner.

In the early days of working with one two-year-old boy, I realised that he was finding some encounters with other children challenging and he was not meeting his development milestones. I worked with his parents to help get him an early diagnosis – he was on the autistic spectrum and by flagging this early, we were able to secure the additional support he needed. It was really satisfying to see the rapid progress he made over the two years I worked for the family.

A rewarding career path

I find working with children with additional needs incredibly rewarding. It’s boosted my confidence as a nanny and I feel has made me a more empathetic practitioner. I naturally am very patient, and working with children with SEND means you become a great listener and can really understand what environments different children thrive in. I was talking to a mum the other day who was having challenges with her daughter getting her dressed in the morning. I enquired whether it was perhaps the feel of the tights that was troubling her as I have observed this in one of my children. It turned out it was exactly that and she was able to find a way through! Having an understanding of where that child is coming from can be helpful in so many situations.

I’ve always been keen to boost my training when I can – it’s not always easy when you have a busy schedule working as a nanny. My SEND training has brought unexpected benefits – for instance, I’ve found my Makaton training is helpful with all the young children I’ve worked with – it’s a great way of helping young children and babies communicate before they have the full range of vocabulary to access.

I’d like to ultimately specialise as a nanny caring for children with SEND, but in the meantime I’m always keen to refresh my training and look for opportunities to grow as a practitioner.