From a young age, Bradi has always been passionate about children and child development. “My mom’s brother has autism, so I’ve always been exposed to the struggles and challenges that a family goes through when you’re living with, and helping someone, who is on the spectrum.” She continues, “I studied foundation phase and obtained my degree after four years. After this, I was trained by an educational psychiatrist who helped me become an educational therapist. I’ve always had patience for children with learning difficulties. When I started understanding the demand and need for teachers to work with special needs children, I knew there was a part of me that wanted to help these children.”
What are some of the challenges you face being a special needs teacher?
“Being a teacher in today’s world is stressful.” Bradi believes that there is a huge misconception around teaching and how being a teacher is “easy”. While it might seem so, there is a different level of stress when dealing with children – especially when they have special needs. “At times it can be extremely emotionally and physically draining. There are days where you see progress and the very next day it’s gone completely. I often doubt myself and consider whether I am good enough to help these children.”
“Parents’ expectations are high. They don’t realise that it’s a lifelong journey. I’ve always explained the work I do as something that is not an overnight fix. It didn’t take a couple of days for the learning difficulty to manifest, so they cannot expect it to get better after a couple of days. A lot of parents don’t consider their child’s emotional wellbeing, and they continue to pile their frustrations onto their child without considering their emotional wellbeing. There has been a session where I push all work and therapy aside to deal with a child who is so incredibly overwhelmed. All they needed at that moment in time was someone to listen to them, someone to tell them it’s going to be okay and that they are going to get through this, and someone to just hold them.” She continues, “children can have bad days too. We expect so much from them, and children are not children anymore. Children no longer have the time to climb trees, ride bicycles, play with their toys and friends or build pillow forts in the lounge.”
“Another challenge is that there is a lack of support from the department of education. Children with learning difficulties haven’t got much of a place in the schooling environment. There are some schools with facilities for these children but hardly enough. Other challenges include lack of appreciation and respect from both parents and children, limited budgets and low salaries for the therapists.”
How are teachers like you the way forward for educational environments?
Bradi says, “educational therapists and teachers are inspiring and motivating towards children. We take the time to encourage children even in their weakest of times, and we allow children to reach their full potential with or without learning disabilities. Teachers are role models to children, as we guide our children and teach them morals and respect. Although this should start at home, we try our best to provide our children with emotional support and a safe place to learn and excel in.”
Any words of encouragement for families who need hope?
“There’s always room for growth, no matter how hard and impossible it may seem.” Bradi believes parents and teachers should carry on doing what you are doing. Always remember that you are doing a great job, even if it doesn’t feel like it. “Don’t give up on tomorrow if nothing worked today. And just remember that you are not alone. Don’t be afraid to reach out to others. It’s okay not to be okay.”