I’ve just completed my Psychology degree at Strathclyde and the work placement class was a brilliant opportunity in my final year. After receiving guidance and support about where to complete my placement and how to contact the organisation, I spent 60 hours at an after-school club for young people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This involved direct interaction with and responsibility for service users aged 5-25 in a group setting and sometimes one-to-one, with the aim of enriching their peer relationships and offering respite to families.
I went into my placement with some limited but relevant experience working with children with additional support needs, so mostly hoped to gain confidence in this type of work and improve my skills. My current goal is to train as an Educational Psychologist and so this type of experience is essential both to future practice and in order to obtain a place on the course.
One of the more unexpected but valuable aspects of placement was the opportunity to utilise academic knowledge in a way I hadn’t previously had a chance to. Although my role within the placement organisation was one with limited responsibility and on the surface involved straightforward interaction with the service users, there were several opportunities to improve the experience of the young people by applying general psychological principles and specific ASD knowledge. This could be done in both an informal way through my own conduct and more formally through discussions with team leaders. The positive response to this approach was great for my confidence and reinforced my belief that I was working in the right area.
The placement class offered a unique way to gain experience real work experience by encouraging reflection and critical thinking about the roles we had, in addition to building time into a busy semester and offering a different challenge. It’s helped me to identify and improve on my general and career-specific skills whilst providing insight into potential future challenges in this area of work. It’s also given essential direct experience that will aid future postgraduate study and job applications and was hugely emotionally rewarding in itself.