Working at Smarter... I could still remember my first day at SMARTER where I didn't have any slightest idea what's going on inside the centre. I was completely clueless as to how to take care and manage the kids with Autism and the word Autism itself. I'm a Registered Nurse and its far different from being a Teacher of a kid with Autism. I have been working in Smarter for around 3 years now and my journey so far has been wonderful as it gets exciting everyday. All children -- especially those with autism -- come with an enormous set of needs and I strongly agree every child is different, and the best that a teacher can do is to be very attentive to their student's needs and learn from each child what they need and respond to it. I believe that learning is a life-long venture and is forever evolving due to personal experiences and new knowledge and understanding gained. I started reflecting on how much I adore my job and what makes life worthwhile. Watching them succeed in the little things in life makes your heart full. I am learning to be open to different expectations and continue to learn what is important. They are precious! I love kids with special needs immediately, and I know a kind of love I never would've known otherwise! These kids make me laugh and provide experiences that I would never get in any other workplace. Perhaps part of the reason autism exists is to make the rest of us – "typical people" – become better people. Understanding the definition of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and exploring the many characteristics of Autism, listening to other people’s experiences with children and adults with ASD has been one of the best days of my life and helps me grow as a person. It gives life a meaning and its indeed a fulfilling job with such rewarding experiences of a lifetime.
Coming over from Australia, I didn’t know what to expect but immediately learnt that SMARTER is more than just an organisation, it’s a family. A family full of fun, love and guidance. It was evident from when we arrived that the SMARTER family was filled with love as they all welcomed us with open arms and happy smiles. We were already a part of the family from that first day and the love and passion became stronger and more evident as the days went on. The Teachers truly understand their students and strive to help them all achieve their goals in every aspect of life. For 3 weeks I was lucky enough to be part of such an amazing team of teachers that taught me so much about working with individuals with Autism (IWA), they gave their knowledge and time to allow my fellow colleagues and I to learn from them. Working in the centre taught me that all students learn differently and therefore need to be taught differently, while working I gained many techniques in how to achieve the best learning outcome for each individual. SMARTER allow their students to lead their learning while being there to guide them through it, I believe this to be one of SMARTER'S greatest strengths. We don’t only teach the students, they teach us and in ways they teach us more than we are able to teach them. The students within the centre have taught me to be kind, to love unconditionally, to smile, laugh and just have fun and i believe that that they gave me the greatest gift in allowing me to be part of their world even though it was for a short time. I enjoyed being surrounded in the atmosphere in which SMARTER gives and being able to be hands on with all students, I felt that I could connect more closely with each one of them that i got the privilege to work with. I loved every minute I was able to spend in the centre and seeing all the happy smiles on the students faces filled my heart with love and joy. The time I had in Brunei and SMARTER has built up my passion for wanting to work with individuals with autism. This trip was an amazing experience where I have grown as a person, learnt so much and have made lifelong friends and it is all credit to the wonderful and amazing staff and students of SMARTER.
I started in SMARTER as an intern on 9th January 2012, for a duration of 12 weeks. My first week in SMARTER was a bit hectic; it was a whole new world I experienced once I stepped into the center. Since my knowledge of autism was very shallow back then, I was utterly shocked. I wasn't prepared; my mind and heart was not ready and I don't know how am I going to handle my 12 weeks here. But slowly, all of it didn't matter to me anymore. I've learned to coped with everything and I gave my best in everything.
As an intern, my perspective about autism had changed. I learned more by observing the children and spending time with them. I had the opportunities to work as an assistant therapist; teaching and taking care of the children at the same time, It was easier said than done, but the experience I gained were so valuable to me.
The children in SMARTER have touched my heart deeply; just to see them makes me happy. At first, it was hard to gain their attention and trust. Some, surprisingly, immediately clings to me; while others were difficult to interact with. It was hard as some were not verbal, thus difficult to make any communication. My patience and my mind was tested to the limit but with the best support from my colleagues of SMARTER, I grew stronger each day, and I began to understand the children even more, I opened my heart and in return, they opened their hearts for me. I felt so grateful. I have been involved with most of SMARTER events since the day I started my internship; from Oddy's Quest II to World Autism Awareness Day; from one community adaptation to another and several gathering that SMARTER was invited too. I wish that in the near future, I would be involved more with SMARTER; so that I could contribute more than what I had contributed back then.
Now, after my internship, I was given another chance to still be with SMARTER. I am currently and officially working as an assistant therapist. Because of this opportunity, I will continue to give my best support to SMARTER in any way i can, for the future of the children and for the future of SMARTER.