Valerie knew she wanted to work with children from the age of sixteen after doing some work experience in a special school.
She befriended a young boy with Down Syndrome who showed her around the school. She says that he was the kindest child she had ever come across and can still see his smiley face now.
"Little did I know then, that he prompted me unknowingly towards my future career."
Going on to study Social Studies in Cork Institute of Technology, she did a work placement in Enable Ireland and spent 18 months working in a homeless shelter. After graduating, she spent three years travelling and living abroad.
Coming home, she worked as a Special Needs Assistant in Scoil Éanna, a special school, part of Cope Foundation. She has fond memories of the five "wonderful years" working there where she learned so much on how to get each child to reach his/her full potential. She also spent five years studying at night for a Montessori degree, focusing a lot on special education in her studies.
Obtaining that degree, she went out on her own as a home tutor for children with autism.
"It was daunting at first working for myself but after seven rewarding years, I can see it was the best decision I made. I have worked with over twenty children and each child has taught me something new."
Valerie started writing little social stories to help families after the child’s initial diagnosis, which the parents found were a great help.
"So that’s when I began to go into a little more detail, then I began to make them rhyme and they just began to snowball after that. I am very proud of these stories and I hope the children and families who read them will all learn something from them."