How Joe faced the challenges of autism

Joe Garcia’s eyes light up when he talks about his football club Liverpool and the young children he is helping navigate often troubled waters.

This incredible young man is working as a teaching assistant, which once would have seemed an impossibility. But – on a daily basis – he is helping diagnose primary school children as having the same challenges he faced himself during his early school years.

Overcoming Hurdles

After starting school in mainstream education near to his Walton home, something wasn’t right for Joe.

Eventually he spent a number of weeks in an assessment centre where his autism was diagnosed.  He was then accepted as a pupil by Abbots Lea school in South Liverpool. They understood him better and had an appreciation of the daily hurdles he experienced – dealing with crowds and noise were among them.

When he first started at senior school, even taking the bus was a challenge.  But a few years on Joe has spread his wings way beyond his once compact comfort zone.  Not only does he make his own way to work on a daily basis, he even enjoys being part of the crowd supporting Liverpool at Anfield.

Getting It Right

Joe is a great example of how when schools, training providers and the family work together there can be a happy ending.  Key2Apprenticeships provider and GMLPF member, Riverside LEC were instrumental in getting Joe’s career off to a flying start – they encouraged some work based experience towards the end of his school years. This and the enrichment he gained through his Duke of Edinburgh awards helped Joe build the confidence to step onto a K2A course.

Through delivering the training Joe actually needed and the real-world work experience, his confidence grew. Now aged 18, he’s on a full time apprenticeship at a primary school that has made a significant contribution to developing his potential. Alongside his colleagues at Matthew Arnold, Joe staffs the unit that helps stream young kids into the right education for them.

Full Time Employment

Entirely unassuming, it’s easy to see why Joe’s demeanour is perfect for this job. He says:  ‘It can be challenging but the kids are fantastic.  When they are struggling, I can relate to it and help calm them down or give them encouragement where it’s needed’.  However, nobody is going to pull the wool over this savvy young man’s eyes. Joe adds: ‘We still have to keep an eye on them as they can be strong willed too!  That doesn’t stop it being a dream come true to be working as a teaching assistant’.

Paul Feaver who heads up Riverside LEC speaks highly of Joe: ‘We’d like to see more students like Joe who, despite adversity, have got on the career ladder.  The Key2Apprenticeships programme can be styled around the needs of the individual student, no matter what their experience of school.  Joe really is a shining light to any young person who thinks that their individuality is a barrier to having a career.’