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Deirdre Lavelle, Care Assistant
Psychology & Social Care

Deirdre Lavelle, Care Assistant

Deirdre Lavelle works as a Care Assistant in St Michael's House. Having worked for a number of years as a Special Needs Assistant she applied for a job in St Michael's House. She has completed a foundation course on Skills in Counselling from NUI Maynooth. She is currently studying for a B.A. in Social Studies (Disability) with the Open Training College.

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What were the main 'career decision' milestones in your life so far?

Being a stay at home Mum for a few years changed my career path. When my youngest child started school I decided to return to work. I didn't want to return to office work, also I wanted a job that would allow me more time with my family.

My ideal job came along in the form of a Special Needs Assistant in a local National School. This job really suited me and I enjoyed supporting the children in their learning and seeing them grow in confidence. When my three year contract in the school finished I applied to St. Micheal's House and got a job in their Social and Leisure Department, working both with groups and individual service users.

Here I gained a lot of experience as I was working with service users from all areas of the organisation. I now work as a Care Assistant in a centre for young adults with learning disabilities.

When I completed my leaving certificate, the subjects that interested me most were English and History. In the late 90's I completed a foundation skills in counselling course. As I work with young people who face challenges with communication this has been very useful as I learned a lot about active listening. I am currently studying for a B.A. in Social Studies (Disability)

Who are the people who most influenced your career direction?

Family members and collegues have been very supportive in my career choices.

How did you go about getting your current job?

I got my first job with St Michael's House through answering an advert in a local newspaper. I attended an interview with a panel of three people and was informed by letter that I had been successful. I was then covering a maternity leave vacancy, when a full time post became available in the unit.  I applies for the position, attended an interview and was successful.

Describe a typical day?

As I am the Fire Safety Marshall in my unit my first task is to do fire safety checks, check fire alarm, make sure all exits are clear etc.

Our service users start arriving a about 9am and we greet them and read communication books from home. Some of our service users prefer to have a drink on arrival and we get this for them while others like to wait till break time. Our service users need assistance with personal care and this is usually done after break and after lunch.

The most important part of our work is supporting our service users to access the community, so most days we go out between 11am and 1pm. We visit a variety of places such as local shops, park, coffee shops, trips on the DART, swimming pool, shopping centres etc. Twice a week they go out for lunch and the other days we have lunch in the unit, We also carry out physiotherapy programmes, do cookery, art, relaxation and sensory work.

Part of the afternoon is devoted to writing communication books, daily reports and any paper work that needs to be done. Another aspect of my job is administering medication to the service users, to do this I received training in the safe administeration of medication from my organisation. The most rewarding part of my day is to see the service users happy and enyoying themselves

What are the main tasks and responsibilities?

My main responsibility is to provide the service users with the support they need. This involves supporting them to go out in the community, with personal care, making sure they get their medication.

As our service users communicate mostly by non verbal means, it is very important to pay close attention to how each person communicates in order to meet their needs. I also have a responsibility to ensure people are safe while also having freedom to make choices.

Every year our service users in partnership with their families and staff draw up an Individual Programme Plan. This plan sets out goals the service user wishes to work on in the coming year, the major part of my work is supporting service users in achieving these goals.

What are the main challenges?

As the people I work with face challenges with communication, learning what their needs are can be a challenge, this encourages you to think creatively and develop problem solving skills. It also develops good communication among the staff team.

What's cool?

Seeing the service users happy and growing in confidence. Enjoying new experiences. Working with the service users and getting to know them. Working with nice people

What's not so cool?

Seeing people upset and not knowing how to help them.

What particular skills do you bring to your workplace?

Patience is very important, a good sense of humour, being a good team worker, good communication skills.

What subjects did you take in school and how have these influenced your career path?

In school I studied English, Irish, Maths, History, and French. As I came to this line of work late in life experience and courses I have done since leaving school have been helpful to me.

I did the foundation in counseling skills course in Maynooth College, I feel this has helped me in my work as it developed my listening skills.

Also here I had my first introduction to non verbal communication and reading body language etc., which is very useful in my current job as I work with people who communicate largely by non verbal means.

If I could go back in time I would have worked harder in school and achieved a better leaving certificate, as I spent many years doing a job I was not suited to.

What is your education to date?

  • Leaving Cert.
  • Foundation skills in counselling
  • Training through work in manual handling, challenging behaviour, safe administration of medication, fire safety and  food safety.
  • I am currently studying for a B.A. in Social Studies (Disability) with the Open Training College which is run by my organisation.

What aspects of your education have proven most important for your job?

I have found all of my studies so far useful and the work I have done for my BA in Social Studies.  The training I have received through work has also been very useful.

What have been the most rewarding events in your career so far?

The work I do is overall very rewarding. While working as a special needs assistant it has been wonderful being involved with children as they make breakthroughs in their learning. In my current job being in a position to support people in becoming more outgoing, enjoying new social settings and leading happier lives. It has also been very rewarding undertaking studies with the Open Training College and passing my first year.

What personal qualities do you have that helps you in your career?

The qualities I feel I bring to my job are, patience, I am a good listener and I work well as part of a team. When working with people with disabilities it is very important to focus on what a person can do not what they can't do.

What is your dream job?

I love my job, but if I were to do something just because I would love to it would be to breed King Charles Spaniels - particularly the first King Charles to win Best in Show at Crufts dog show.

Does your job allow you to have a lifestyle you are happy with?

My job allows me a good lifestyle with regard to owing our own home, providing for my children's education and leisure activities. It also allows me to indulge in my hobby of showing dogs.

What advice would you give to someone considering this job?

It can take time to get to know people with learning disabilities, patience and good listen skills are very important.

What are the three most important personal characteristics required for the job?

It is essential to be a good team player.

Good communication skills are also important to be able to think creatively inorder to problem solve

What is your favourite music?

Anything by Sting. Devil's Archade by Bruce Springsteen. Puccini's Arias and Tanhauser by Wagner.

What is your favourite film?

The Day the Earth Stood Still (Original Version)

What is your pet hate at work?

People who don't listen

What is your star sign?


Have you undertaken, or do you plan to undertake any further training as part of your job?

I am currently studying for a BA in Social Studies (Disability). My organisation offers on the job training to the staff on an ongoing basis. This enables staff to update and expand their skills.

What kinds of work experience would provide a good background for this position?

Work experience in a Special National School or some voluntary work with an Arch club or special Olympics club

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