My name is Nicola Durrant. During my first year of teaching back in 1998, I very quickly realized that my passion was to work with those children who needed a ‘little extra something’, some additional support along the way. By my second year of teaching, I was fortunate enough to be promoted to the SENCO role and I have never looked back.
Children with special needs have a beauty within them that has never ceased to amaze me, the small steps they take and the sense of satisfaction of working with these children is incredible.
After 8 years working as a SENCO, I gained a job within the Local Authority Specialist Teaching Team where I remained for 13 years. I trained initially as a teacher of dyslexia, then a dyslexia assessor and went on to complete my Masters degree in Autism.
I finally reached a point in my career where I no longer wanted to be told what to do or how to do it. I needed to be free of a system which didn’t allow me to do things ‘my way’! This has led me to setting up my own independent consultancy ‘ACE-SEN’. The reason I chose ACE was simple. After many failed attempts at designing my own logo, a dear friend suggested I really dig deep and think about what my passion truly was in terms of special children. I brainstormed ‘words’ connected to my beliefs and picked the 3 most significant – hence the concept of ‘ACE’ was born.
Acceptance (accept everyone)
Celebrate (celebrate difference)
Embrace (Embrace difference – we can’t fix it, why would we want to?)
My logo is a representation of one of my favorite sayings ‘square peg in a round hole’. An expression which neatly describes the individuals who do not fit into our ‘neuro-typical’ ways of doing things. So many children I work with are not suited to our education system. Our curriculum is so restrictive, narrowly focused, and does not meet the needs of so many. It can be heart breaking when these individuals are so massively talented but yet fail to thrive and flourish. A major part of my working life has been training and advising settings on how to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate individual differences. I also love more than anything to work with parents so that they can truly understand their children and gain a greater insight into special needs.
As a Mum…………………..
I am proud to be the Mum to two beautiful children. My eldest, a 16 year old young lady, red headed, feisty personality and is the main driving force for me wanting to work independently. Throughout her childhood, she had always been hard work. I put it down to ‘her just being her’. She sailed through primary without a care in the world. Secondary school was a different matter. Within the first year, her mental health deteriorated. Secondary school was a miserable period for our family and the impact has been significant. It is only luck that my marriage has survived. After much soul searching and questioning, my beautiful young lady received a diagnosis of autism with a PDA (Pathological Demand Avoidant) profile. We finally had our answers. A mainstream setting wasn’t for her and she now flourishes in an alternative provision.
As a professional and a Mum, I know how immensely challenging life can be for any child with special needs. I have never stopped fighting for my child, and I understand the pressures and sacrifices this can bring to any parent. I totally ‘get it’!
My mission is to ensure that these children get the right support for their needs. Behind the right support comes knowledge and understanding. The more we understand a person’s individual profile, the more we can move towards giving them the support they need to flourish and reach their potential. This is the same for any individual whether they are autistic, ADHD, dyslexia and so on.
I am Tina Clarke. I am someone who is passionate about helping autistic children and families. I thrive on being able to step inside their little world to understand how I can help children overcome challenges they face and prepare them to be able to become part of this big wide world!
Over the past 11 years, I have worked as an Autism Support Worker for a Local Authority. I have a vast array of experience at working intensively with those children who have more complex autistic needs who require support to talk, communicate and engage with the outside world. I have been so fortunate and feel very grateful to have had so many opportunities to work closely with parents, schools and children and see first hand that I have positively impacted on many lives which makes me feel really proud.
I have always felt it such a privilege with every family that have opened their doors to let me in and help their child, to work together with them and and put in place practical steps that will give their child the confidence to be in a world that they otherwise feel is unpredictable and chaotic.
At this time in my life a new door has opened and given me the opportunity to take my career and what I have to offer in a different direction. I feel it’s time to throw off some of the constraints that I have had to work within and have the freedom now to really provide the help and support needed for our autistic children.
This is what makes everything I do so worthwhile, when a parent tells you: “It’s so good to find someone who gets my child, someone for the first time in three years I feel understands and knows what to do to help him and us as a family.”