MSc AutismJerusha Massey, India

Tell us a bit about your background...
I was born and brought up in Nasik, India and my family has settled there. I completed my Bachelors in Audiology and Speech Language Pathology in Pune, which is again in India. I have wanted to work with individuals with additional needs for as long as I can remember.

What inspired you to study autism?
I worked with children on the spectrum for 4 years as a part of my course. But due to the course being about all communication disorders in general, I did not get sufficient knowledge specifically on the subject of Autism which had intrigued me a lot right from the start. This is why I decided to take up MSc Autism, so that I would get a deeper insight on what Autism spectrum is all about and do justice to the individuals I work with. It is easy to believe that experience is all you need to work with individuals on the spectrum, but gaining theoretical knowledge and using that in your practice is fair both to you and the person you work with. There is so much that solely experience can never teach you, and taking up this course made me understand that.

Why did you choose to continue studying (for your MSc) at the University of Strathclyde? 
Strathclyde has the exact modules I was looking for. Some Universities that I looked into focused on ABA as an intervention for Autism, which I did not resonate with. Strathclyde has modules that help you understand an autistic individual as a whole, and focus on what they would be comfortable with. The best part is that we get to learn about the emotional wellbeing of the autistic individual and how we as a society can lessen the mental health challenges they face primarily by accepting them and making them feel belonged. This course at Strathclyde is not just to make you a better therapist/rehabilitationist but a more-so a better person.

What has been the highlight of your time at Strathclyde so far?
Honestly speaking, Covid, lockdown and costa coffee has been the highlight! But on the brighter side, comfort of online classes and quality time with flatmates has been the other highlight. Also, I get to experience the quieter side of Glasgow and enjoy the beautiful sceneries in silence, which is amazing.

How have you found studying online, in the current situation?
I have to give credit to Strathclyde for changing my views on online classes. I never imagined I would find online classes so useful. Despite everyone being on screen, all of my classes are so interactive and intellectually challenging which is great. There has been no compromise in the teaching at all. It is also the best thing to attend a class in the comfort of your room while sipping a hot cup of tea or coffee.

What specialist knowledge/professional skills have you developed whilst studying the course?
The most important skill among the others that I have developed is critical thinking. I have started looking at research articles and papers in a very different way than I used to, I learnt to force my mind to look at all the sides of a story than simply skim through it.

What would be your advice for people considering taking this course? 
The course is majorly a theoretical course, so if someone is looking for more of practical experiences alongside theory then this might probably not be enough. But I would still advice to go for it one hundred percent, because the quality of studies is such that you can only gain and grow more and not lose at all. I can say this confidently because what I have learnt here is far more than what 4 years of practice taught me.

What have been the main challenges studying at postgraduate level?
For me, the assessment style was challenging when I first started. I come from a place where we were graded based off what we write in exams. Because I have only had exams in the past, writing an assignment felt really challenging but that was just the initial phase. Right now, I am very happy and comfortable with this style of grading because writing an assignment lets you understand so much more about a subject than what rote learning for an exam does.

How has your scholarship supported your studies?
This scholarship has been the deciding factor for me to get into this University and hence has been extremely helpful. It took down quite a lot of financial burden and I could use the rest of the finances for other important steps like travel and accommodation.

What do you think of the support available (supervisors, professional services etc)?
Everyone is very kind and quick to help. Even with the pandemic and the staff being busy with a lot of emails, I have had all my queries resolved in minimal time. The professors and supervisors have also been so considerate with every single thing; they understand your struggles and try to help you as much as is possible. It has been relatively easy to blend in because of all the support.

What are your ambitions for the future?
I want to establish an autism centre in India that focuses on play based intervention. I really wish to nullify all the stigmas associated with autism especially in India and try and make all the autistic individuals living there feel that they are an equal part of the society.