Nicola Durrant

During my first year of teaching back in 1998, I very quickly realised 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 have never looked back.

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.

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.

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 (of everyone)
Celebrate (celebration of difference)
Embrace (embracing difference – we can’t fix it, why would we want to?)

My logo is a representation of one of my favourite 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 in this country 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.

Alongside my work I am also proud to be a mum to two beautiful children. My eldest, a wonderful young lady; red headed and feisty in 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. After much soul searching and questioning, my beautiful daughter 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 went on to flourish 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, regardless of their needs (autistic, dyslexic and so on).