MSc AutismJerusha Massey, India

Tell us a bit about your background...
I was born and brought up in Nasik, India, where my family had settled. I have wanted to work with individuals with additional needs for as long as I can remember. I was hence very glad to have completed my Bachelors in Audiology and Speech Language Pathology in India.

What inspired you to study autism?
I worked with autistic individuals for 4 years as 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. That is why I decided to take up MSc Autism, to get a deeper insight on the autism spectrum and to do justice to the individuals that I work with. I used to think that experience is all I would need to work with autistic persons, but gaining theoretical knowledge and using that in practice is fair both to me and the person I work with, and taking up this course has made me understand that.

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

What has been the highlight of your time at Strathclyde so far?
Honestly speaking, Covid-19, lockdown, and Costa coffee have been the highlights! On the other hand, the comfort of online classes and quality time with flatmates has been very refreshing. I also get to experience the quieter side of Glasgow and enjoy the beautiful sceneries in silence, which has been amazing.

How have you found studying online, in the current situation?
Although I was skeptical about learning on screen, all of my classes have been so interactive and intellectually challenging that I have to give credit to Strathclyde for changing my views on online studies. There has been no compromise in the teaching at all. It is also comforting to attend a class while sipping a hot cup of tea or coffee in your own room.

What specialist knowledge/professional skills have you developed whilst studying the course?
Among other skills, the most important one 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, and have learned to force my mind to look at all the sides of a story rather than simply skim through it. It has also allowed me to relate research to practice.

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 practical experiences alongside theory then this might probably not be enough. But I would still advise anyone interested to go for it eyes closed, because the quality of studies is such that one would definitely gain and grow more. I can say this confidently because what I have learnt here has provided far more in-depth knowledge than as compared to what 4 years of practice taught me.

What have been the main challenges studying at postgraduate level?
The assessment style was challenging when I first started. Where I come from, we were graded based on what we wrote in exams. That is why writing an assignment felt really nerve-wracking, but that was just the initial phase. Right now, I am very happy with this learning style because writing an assignment allows me to understand so much more about a subject than what rote learning for an exam did.

How has your scholarship supported your studies?
The scholarship was beneficial because it was the deciding factor for me to get into University. It took down quite a lot of financial burden and I could use the rest of the finances for other important needs like travel, accommodation, and living expenses.

What do you think of the support available (supervisors, professional services etc)?
Everyone is very kind and quick to help. Even with the staff being busy due to the pandemic, I have had all my queries resolved in minimal time. The professors have also been very considerate; they understand your struggles and try to help you as much as possible with the assignments. Apart from this, they are always approachable not just for academics, but also for friendly chats over coffee. It has been relatively easy to blend in because of all the support.

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