An Autistic climbing coach from Slough who was told she “wouldn’t leave school with any GCSEs” hopes to inspire the next generation.

Sophie Richards, 23, works as a Fun Climb Instructor at the Everyone Active Slough Ice Arena.

After leaving school with very little confidence and self-esteem, Sophie began an apprenticeship at the arena at the age of 18, as a Front of House receptionist.

Sophie showed a key interest and skillset that led to Everyone Active putting her forward for a different role, which later saw her transferred to the 13-2all indoor climbing facility at the arena.

Sophie said: “I have faced a lot of doubt from others - even teachers told me that I wouldn’t leave school with any GCSEs.

"When I left school, I was also overweight and lacking a lot of self-confidence. Starting my job has been transformational.

“I got a bike so that I could cycle to my shifts which helped me get fitter and lose weight. My confidence has grown, and I am working in a rewarding role where every day I am helping others learn a new skill and conquer fears.

"I am working my way towards a Team Leader role which I didn’t think was possible a few years ago.

"My motto is to work hard to overcome obstacles and you can achieve your goals.”

In her role as a Fun Climb Instructor, Sophie conducts safety briefings for Clip ‘n’ Climb and ensures participants are suitably equipped in harnesses. Sophie also supervises climbing movements and demonstrates techniques.

In May, Sophie will celebrate her five-year work anniversary at the arena, which is managed by Everyone Active in partnership with Slough Borough Council.

Julie Miles, General Manager, said: “We know that those with autism and learning disabilities can face particular barriers to employment.

"Data from ONS suggests that less than 30 per cent of people with autism are in employment.

"However, we believe everyone deserves the same opportunities to start, stay and succeed.

"By working closely with Sophie, we have found the right role that reflects her talents and interests and she is going from strength to strength."