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Excellence Scholarship winner Emily-Jayne Unsworth in the Catalyst building.The benefits of volunteering and helping young people has been a key part of Excellence Scholarship winner Emily-Jayne Unsworth’s progress into higher education.

The 19-year-old studied a BTEC in Children’s Play, Learning and Development at Bolton Sixth Form college, where she undertook placements to help learn and understand the needs of children and what was needed to support them in their education, particularly those with special needs.

“I was motivated by the understanding I gained to find out more and develop greater awareness of children – and that’s when I came across my course at Edge Hill,” said Emily.

Emily-Jayne is in the first year of a BA (Hons) in Children and Young People’s Learning and Development (Primary) and believes she has made the right choice in pursuing her studies at Edge Hill.

“I was amazed by how scenic the campus was, and this made me feel settled. I met with one of the course leaders and I was surprised to find it was similar to what I was doing at college. This made my decision and I was excited to apply and get started.

“The course was supportive of my career aspirations, but it also doesn’t limit me to primary teaching as the course has a range of opportunities, which I am excited to delve into.”

Before starting at Edge Hill, Emily-Jayne began volunteering with Autism Support UK (ASUK).

“I fell in love with the energy and excitement that came from supporting the children and being in an environment with others that also had the same passion,” she said “I am extremely grateful to ASUK for taking me in and giving me advice and opportunities. ASUK provided me with friends, skills and even personal qualities that have boosted me as a person and I would not change my time with them for the world.”

According to the National Autistic Society there are an estimated 700,000 people on the autism spectrum in the UK.

Part of her voluntary work has involved undertaking Lego-based therapy training, which is used to encourage those on the autistic spectrum to become more socially interactive, and help form relationships in undertaking building projects to improve problem solving, turn taking and social communication skills.

“The environment is made fun and exciting to keep children involved and interactive with what is happening and is a great way to encourage new friendships.

“It was challenging but massively rewarding when seeing children who, at the beginning, would not sit at a table to being able to form attachments and making friends well enough to be cooperative and make exceptions for those around them.”

Emily-Jayne would recommend undertaking voluntary work to other students, with the long-term benefits able to provide many rewards.

“The people that you can meet is so varied, from those within the profession that can open up new opportunities to parents who are looking for that person to smile and tell them what their child can do. People massively appreciate what you do and it is often recognised and can make you feel connected to those in your local community.

Emily-Jayne feels autism acceptance is becoming more common in society thanks mainly to the efforts of charities and organisations although believes more can be done, with social media awareness a potential way forward.

“People’s opinions are often formed from misconceptions. As a society, it is important that we recognise that everyone is equal, and everyone has their own strengths to bring; these should always be appreciated.

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