About The Guest
Joel graduated with a Bachelor of Law at the University of Hull through BAC’s UK Law Degree Transfer Program. At 23 years old, Joel founded “J8 Autism Athletics” – a company that focuses on providing physical therapy services to children with special needs, primarily those on the autism spectrum.
Disclaimer: All opinions and views expressed in the video do not reflect the views of Excel Education. Any content provided is solely a personal opinion and is not meant to discredit any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, business, individual, or any other party.
Transcription of The Video
Raveena (Host): Welcome to the second episode of Excel Education Talks, we aspire to inspire you through a series of conversations we are going to have with people from different industries and all walks of life. My name is Raveena and I will be your host for this episode. I am a digital content creator and coordinator here at Excel Education. We are a university placement agency that has been providing personalized study solutions for students since 2017. For more information about our services and to get in touch with us, you can scan the QR code here.
Raveena (Host): We are happy and honored to have Joel Anthony here with us today. Joel is the founder of J8 Autism Athletics, launched in 2019, J8 Athletics was founded with the focus of providing physical therapy services for children with special needs, primarily those on the autism spectrum. Joel graduated with a bachelor of law from The University of Hull through their UK law degree transfer program, back in 2018. Joel has also earned multiple certifications such as Grassroot football coaching license, the autism fitness certificate, as well as NASM certified personal trainer certificate. Today Joel is going to share with us his journey on how as a law graduate, uses his passion for football and desire for change to start his business with special needs children. So Joel tell us a little bit about yourself.
Joel (Guest): Hello, My name is Joel. I am 25 years old. My background is law. I am currently doing a diploma in special education. My passions are football and I love business. When I am not working I am usually hanging out with my family, disturbing my friends, and just having fun.
Raveena (Host): That is cool. Could you tell us a little about your educational background?
Joel (Guest): I did my A-level in BAC. After my A-levels, I did the UK two plus one, the UK transfer degree program. I did two years in BAC and then I went to the University of Hull. After my degree I did an internship in CGS legal that’s in London. That is where I learned the practical side of things, so how the practical aspect of law works. After that, I came back, I am doing my advanced diploma in special education. Along the way I picked up like you said the FAM grassroots certification. I did my NASM earlier this year and in 2019 I did my autism fitness certification.
Raveena (Host): How was your experience studying in the UK?
Joel (Guest): It was good. I have been a distant admirer of the UK mainly because of my love of football. Football was an obsession since I was seven years. I’ve always wanted to know what it’s like living in the UK. Living close to football. That’s why when I was considering career options the UK had to be the destination. I wanted to know if I could embrace the football world while at the same time doing a different profession. When I was there it was amazing because I got to live close to football and I learned something I didn’t think I would learn. I learned to be very independent. I thought I was quite independent in Malaysia but when I was there, I learned how to be completely independent. My plans are usually predetermined. On Sundays, I go spend time with family, have other commitments like church. But when I was there you learn to spend time on yourself. I learned you can sleep whatever time you want, you learn to clean up after yourself, you learn the importance of the discipline of chores. You learn a lot about discipline and how important it is but also the standard of individuals there made me want to improve. We get used to the standard here, we get used to how we talk. Everybody knows more or less everybody’s wavelengths. Once you go there you see how deep their knowledge is for so many things, for a wide wide array of topics. Even an 18-year-old, you see how deep their knowledge is and how they think, that stunned me. I was like ‘oh my gosh, I don’t know anything about history, geography’. I went to this shop once, the owner of the shop he was African, he asked me “hey where are you from?” He asked me to guess where he’s from in Africa. Okay like Nigeria, Cameroon all these kinds of places and he’s like more east. I know these countries but I don’t know where these countries are. So anyway the answer was ‘Sudan’. I would have never guessed Sudan and the worst part was I am guessing while people are in line. People behind me are laughing at me and I look like an idiot. You get to see the level of the depth of knowledge in the UK compared to over here.
Raveena (Host): So you had a really good time, what about your experience with studying at the University of Hull in comparison to how you were studying in Malaysia?
Joel (Guest): In BAC you have a lot of resources. There are people you can lean on, things you can tap into like online resources. They give you a lot of material to study. When I went to the UK it was completely independent so you do things all by yourself and you realize, this is university. That transition for me took me aback. I didn’t expect it. People say the third year is easier than the second when it came to law. I thought if I managed to get through second-year, the third year shouldn’t be a problem but the difference in what you’re provided and the resources you have, that transition was tough.
Raveena (Host): What made you decide to study law out of all the other courses?
Joel (Guest): Good question. I loved business my whole life. I knew at some point I would get into business but my parents did not want me to go for business because business you can learn practically. You can just start a business and learn, so they suggested law and engineering because I was good at math’s. I didn’t want to sit behind a desk and just key numbers and work out things on paper for my life, that’s not what I wanted. I wanted something that would put me on the field and have some sort of excitement, projects sort of thing. The next best thing was law. I get to go to the UK which is my dream. Law is an aspect of business so I get some sort of expertise that I can apply to business. I am good at speaking. I can talk till the cows come home because of that people also said you should do law. It ticked a few boxes that’s why I chose law.
Raveena (Host): Could you tell us a little about your brand J8 Autism Athletics and what it’s about?
Joel (Guest): After I came back from the UK I started J8. I felt growing up here there wasn’t much opportunity. If you had money you can do things. There wasn’t in the world of sports for those who don’t have money. With J8 I am trying to make it a brand of opportunities. J8 Autism Athletics is an opportunity for neurodiverse individuals. People with neurodevelopmental disabilities. We provide them an opportunity to have a better life. We use sports to reinforce whatever therapies they are currently a part of. Behavior therapies and sensory integration, all these things we reinforce through sports or we present it through sports.
Raveena (Host): You studied law and now you’re into the special needs industry so how much of what you studied in law do you apply to what you do now?
Joel (Guest): Bits and pieces. Especially when it comes to contracts. The manufacturers of my company shirt were taking me for a ride. I read the reviews, they were all really good and reasonable. I had a deal for the shirts to be done in two weeks but they wanted me to pay extra for their AI services which I did not want. I paid a deposit and after two weeks I didn’t get the shirts so I asked for the deposit back. They said they won’t give it to me. I said I can take them to a tribunal, I knew I could win because, in contract, consideration is a big part of it. There was no consideration on their part in that sense it helps. I haven’t practiced law so I can’t apply all that I know but based on case studies I know the principles. If I reference my friends and ask I will know more or less how to practice it. It does come in handy.
Raveena (Host): There are a lot of students that are struggling to choose which degree or which industry to go into. Based on your journey and experience do you have any tips or advice you would like to give to students picking a degree course?
Joel (Guest): Surprisingly this is something that I’ve thought a lot about. Mainly because when I was doing my degree I wasn’t enjoying it. I was trying to figure out what did I do wrong. I just felt that there was a gap. What Excel is doing is necessary because kids need these kinds of resources. Coming out of school they used to have seminars and quizzes you take, that the way they streamline you. I got law after doing all these things. Law and engineering. That’s where it went wrong. I think there needs to be more. In the UK when I was doing my internship at CGS there was a group of kids doing work experience. My cousins live in London. By 17 years old they would have done at least five work experiences in different industries. They would do work experience for free. It’s completely up to them which industry they want to pick. They give you some basic admin tasks. You do the admin work and see whether it is for you or not. I think that’s something we should explore here. Work experience before you choose a degree or before you choose a tertiary education. Work experience is one but I also feel parents need to be involved. Some sort of a holistic approach. Parents and teachers need to understand what their kids are good at because these guys brought you up. They need to help identify what your strengths are. And help streamline you into the workforce.
Raveena (Host): So your main advice is for students to explore and experience before choosing a degree?
Joel (Guest): My advice is to get a degree. You need the education especially nowadays because everything is so competitive. There’s so much research done on a wide array of topics. You need the information to make better, more calculated decisions. But before you make those decisions, before you can get an education you need to find out what hustle you’re committed to. And to commit to a hustle you need passion you need some sort of drive if not you’re just going to burn out. If it’s just pure will alone or the idea of getting the money it’s not going to work. Something you’re passionate about something you’re willing to commit to and then supplement that with education to make better decisions.
Raveena (Host): What about students who have just graduated and are entering the workforce what is your advice for them?
Joel (Guest): This is something I cannot advise them about because there are so many ways it can work. My approach was Robert Kawasaki’s approach. In ‘Rich dad Poor dad’ he said, his rich dad taught him to work not for the money but for the education. I’ve always been scared to work for the money. So throughout my life, why I never actually got a job back when I was younger was because I was worried to work for the money. I didn’t want to get into the habit of working for money. So I always picked internships I knew I could learn from. When I came back from the UK is the first time I got a job. I worked as a coach because I felt I could make a difference there was a passion. Before I got into law I felt that I could make a difference in footballing in Malaysia. So I decided to try it. See what I can do, how the industry is like, see if I can make difference so that is part of the reason I did CGS legal. I wanted an education not so much money. That’s my advice. If you work for education you’re going to get much further. If you’re going to work for money you’re going to be caught in a trap, what Robert Kawasaki calls ‘the rat race law’. It’s just a never-ending cycle. Get the money to pay debts, get the money to pay debts. Never breaking out because that is all you’re living for. If you work for education, you can make better decisions. You of course get promoted, you play the game at a higher level instead of just like a rat race. You get a helicopter view of things and then make better decisions.
Raveena (Host): That’s some good advice. Going back to your business of J8 Autism Athletics when did you realize you had an interest in this industry? Specifically dealing with children with special needs?
Joel (Guest): I generally love children, mainly because I’m a child at heart and when I was growing up, I never wanted to grow up. I love Disney. Even today I love Disney. When I was coaching after coming back from the UK I was working at a special needs education school. Over there I realized because these kids used to come in like X5s, Cayenne’s. So they’ve got money and you see how at 30 years old some of them are still in school. You get to see how despite having money the therapy is not enough for special needs. I thought this is such a small percentage of people, what about those who don’t have the opportunity to afford therapy. I started digging, asking the teachers, other people in the industry. There was a study done, on average from year 0, the year kid is born an autistic kid until 18 years old a parent spends I million Ringgit. How many people have 1 million to spend? So that was when I realized that something can be done and needs to be done. Using sports I wanted to try bridging the gap. That’s why I started.
Raveena (Host): Knowing and learning all this about the industry, what gave you the push to finally start your business to bridge this gap? Because I must imagine it must be pretty scary.
Joel (Guest): Mainly because I wanted to present an opportunity to the kids who don’t have the opportunity to learn sports. In that sense, we are one of a kind. The only evidence-backed research for a form therapy is ABA and probably RDA. Can you imagine in the world for the past 70 years for autism there are only two forms of therapy and only recently its been based on evidence? There are so many coming but all of them lack research. There are a lot of factors when it comes to Autism and we need to do more, more people need to get on the scene. There is an opportunity to do something but there’s nobody in the world doing sports. In Malaysia nobody is doing sports, there was an opportunity for this so I went for it. So far we’ve had quite a bit of success. We’re hoping to just leverage on this see where we can go.
Raveena (Host): That’s good, what does a typical working day look like to you, being your own boss?
Joel (Guest): A typical workday is, usually I start around 9-10 am. I’ll start depending on my mood. A lot of calls, messages, emails in the morning. Four to seven is when the sessions start. Right now it’s one-on-one. Weekends are different, weekdays are usually like that. The weekend is the whole day just sessions. I know when work starts, work never stops. Previously I found myself working 7 days a week. It’s always a case of putting out fires. A client wants cheaper rates. One session did not get enough time, the coach wants more pay. Let’s say we don’t have business, we have to create business. So there’s always something.
Raveena (Host): What do you think is the most challenging part of being your own boss?
Joel (Guest): Keeping the engine going for me is not an issue because I am very motivated. Every night this is all I think about. The problem is whether there is a road ahead for the vehicle to keep moving. The road ahead is something I have to create. That comes from projects, making sure we have coaches, making sure that there is work be done is a challenge. Maneuvering in the unknown because MCO happened, we dint have business. Let’s say MCO were to hit again, how I am going to react. Things like these are a struggle mainly because right now I am the only person I can lean on for this sort of a thing. I have mentors but mentors don’t give 100% of their time. So I can only lean them for instructions, I still have to come up with solutions.
Raveena (Host): So how do you know you’re doing the right things, or are on the right track, for your business without having any formal education in business?
Joel (Guest): Online resources helped. There are a lot of courses that I did online. Udemy has a lot of business courses. I can learn and a lot of books. Whatever I absorb, I apply. That’s mainly how I maneuver.
Raveena (Host): What keeps you inspired and motivated on a day-to-day basis?
Joel (Guest): This is a grandfather story, my biggest fear in life is not to live up to my potential. To think all my previous years were a waste, when I was much younger all I ever wanted was to be a footballer. I idolized Steven Gerrard, I am a Liverpool fan. My whole life I wanted to be the next Steven Gerrard. Growing up, around 8-9 years old, when my other friends had PlayStation and were finding solace in TV and computer games. I found solace in three things. Football, a football pitch, and a dream which was to become like Steven Gerrard. During school holidays, and after school, I would be at the field training. I was good at a certain level but never got the opportunity to play further. Another thing I regret is, I gave in to the pressures around me. People always used to tell me you will not make it in Malaysia. It will never happen to you. Pick something else. At 9 years old all I had was this dream, you should be able to dream at 9 but everywhere I looked, I was just being crushed. Never going to happen, never going to happen. I never gave up until 14. A few crushed dreams later and two torn ligaments later I found myself here. Never actually achieving that dream. But within me, I feel that who had those dreams has never gone away. There’s still a lot of regret that I never achieved it. A footballer’s career is until 30-35 years old. I still got a few years left inside me so that kid is still in me. I am channeling that energy so that’s what keeps me motivated. I want to one day be able to tell that kid, “What you did is what shaped you into who you are today. Your dream lives on and is still very much alive, but it’s alive in different ways. It’s alive to inspire others who don’t have the opportunities to dream.” Let’s say a kid with autism has a dream of just living an independent life, because of the dream of the kid inside me it will motivate them to dream bigger. Whose hard work since then is still being practiced today but is being channeled through a different area. It is being used to create an opportunity for other individuals to realize those dreams. Those three aspects, the spirit the dream, and handwork lives on but just in a different form. And it’s all in the form of business.
Raveena (Host): I am sure the little kid in you is very proud of you are now.
Joel (Guest): Hopefully one day I can tell him, it wasn’t all in vain.
Raveena (Host): What do you think are the key skills needed for students to succeed in your industry, specifically working with children with special needs?
Joel (Guest): I would say patience. Working with neurotypical kids there is usually a timeline you’re used to that timeline. A lot of coaches they’ve grown up being part of the system so they’re used to the time. You know how you progressed and can replicate that. But doing it with someone whose neurodiverse, you need extra good coaching. Extra good coaching means we will be able to regress and rebuild previous foundations. Let’s say for sports, you’re teaching how to pass, how to move. To regress, you have to go much more basic and teach them how to stop the ball first. You need the patience to be able to start again and extend the timeline and you need an eye for detail. You need to know and pinpoint what a kid needs to improve first and then build on it. A lot of the time it’s the same as business, you are putting out fires. Behaviors will come up, a different problem will come up. I had a kid who would for no reason just puke himself. We never knew why, parents never knew why. It used to suddenly start, but then we traced it back. Usually, there are four things, sensory, overstimulation, escape, or attention. So we traced it back to attention, he wanted people to pay attention. He knew everybody was home doing MCO but felt nobody is paying attention to him, he is also non-verbal. He didn’t know how to get attention and cannot speak so he used to do that. Identifying it and then coming up with a better solution for him to be able to cope so next time he wants attention there is something else he can do. The final thing I would say is adaptability. This is an ever-changing industry, there’s new technology coming up, new research coming out. With sports therapy, you never know where it can go. You need to be able to adapt, it’s not a one-size-fits-all. Understanding the different therapies, why it exists, how it works is important. You need to constantly educate yourself, keep yourself up to date, and be able to adapt.
Raveena (Host): Patience, eye for detail, and adaptability are things for a student to keep in mind. What do you think is the most challenging part of your job?
Joel (Guest): Dealing with the kids.
Raveena (Host): In what aspect?
Joel (Guest): With autism, there is no authority that you can go to that says, if a kid is puking himself, this is why. There’s no authority to say it could be he wants more control, it could an attention thing. You need to try different things to get to the root of the problem. Address that problem first and then you can move on with your sessions. Every day is different, every challenge is different and you constantly approach it differently. Try different things. It constantly keeps you on your toes and then on top of that you have to manage parents’ expectations. We have to tell the parents why he’s acting like this because a lot of the time they’re looking to you for the answers. For myself, having only now begun my education, being in the industry for only three years. It’s a lot of pressure. I need to constantly learn and be able to improve the service. From an all-around point of view. From sports to advisory. Of course, if you don’t know, you have to say you don’t know. These are individuals’ lives in your hands.
Raveena (Host): Sounds challenging, so what do you think is the most rewarding part of your job.
Joel (Guest): Seeing improvement. Watching kids have fun. A kid with autism, when they start, they hate me. They think this guy is going to bring me pain. After a few sessions, once they understand it’s not so painful, we need to run a bit but at the end of the day, it is fun. To watch them have fun is the best. It’s complete ecstasy. Those moments just keep you going. Other moments are, for example, we have a kid when he started he wanted to play badminton, he loved badminton. He’s verbal so he’ll be like, “Coach Joel, Coach Joel, I want to play badminton.” But he doesn’t’t know how to play. He couldn’t hit the shuttle at all. After three months he managed to hit the shuttle, and now he’s playing with his father every weekend. Just to be able to give moments like that as a family is rewarding.
Raveena (Host): What are your future visions for yourself?
Joel (Guest): I want to continue my journey. Meeting different people just keeps fueling me. I met somebody recently who opened my eye to like how much there is to know when it comes to the industry. So after this diploma, I am going to explore other resources. Maybe I can do a degree or just do masters. My short-term goal is to continue my education. My long-term goal is, if continue on this path, is to do a doctorate in sports as a form of therapy.
Raveena (Host): That’s nice. What do you have envisioned for the future of your company J8, do you have any upcoming projects?
Joel (Guest): We’re going to continue doing these one-on-ones. My main aim is to improve our syllabus, get us into schools and have a syllabus we can apply to schools. Another one is to do group sessions, right now it’s all one-on-one. We want to have group sessions because football is not an isolated sport, you need teammates to be able to pass to. Teaching them how to work as a team is another one of our goals. Apart from that I also will be changing J8 as a brand. So instead of J8 Autism Athletics, I’ll be looking to form a sports academy and that will be in line with that inner child in me. He never made it as a footballer because he never found an opportunity to do so. Now he’s creating opportunities for individuals with autism. I also want kids who don’t have the means to pay for sports academies to be able to have the opportunity to play sports. Badminton, football whatever it is. Create that progression and create a future that is something that I am looking to start this year we’ve actually already started. It’s something we’re looking to build on. Hopefully something I can work towards.
Raveena (Host): That sounds interesting hopefully everything works out for you.
Joel (Guest): Thank you.
Raveena (Host): You started by studying law, drifted away from that, and entered the industry of special needs children. It’s been a long journey and if you’re allowed to start again from the beginning would you do anything differently?
Joel (Guest): I would not, because I believe that, had I not gone on that journey I wouldn’t be where I am today. When I say be where I am I am talking about putting my foot into the door. I wouldn’t’t have found this opportunity. When I was studying law, I knew people around me I could see how much better they were, how much more committed they were, how far ahead they were thinking. I was thinking about it on a day-to-day basis. Taking each day as it came. I feel like that is what BAC was excellent at. That’s why it was such a big learning curve for me in the UK. You get exposed to so many people and you learn so much and you just appreciate the time. One thing they know how to do is have fun if I hadn’t had gone through that, I wouldn’t’t have felt the intensity of emotions. I wouldn’t’t have known how lost I could feel. When I came back from the UK, I dint know what I was going to do. Had I had the opportunity I don’t think I would have done anything differently but I do regret not studying something that applies to what I am doing now. Maybe sports science, business, or maybe special needs education. Had I studied anyone those and been in the position I am now it would have been much more applicable. I would have a lot more guidance to be able to maneuver and not have made mistakes I made in the past. Education is necessary but I still tell myself, it’s never going to be like a non-bumpy ride. There are always going to be bumps so it’s just about doing the best you can. Continue to strive for education and then after that let’s see based on the information that I get what I can do with it.
Raveena (Host): Interesting. So you’ve been in the special needs industry for about 3 years what are your thoughts on the current resources available to special needs children?
Joel (Guest): Having the resources is one thing, being able to apply is a completely different thing. I can teach somebody about ABA, I can be taught ABA but how to apply it is a different thing. I would say there are not enough resources. Even in the UK, the US who are seen as the forefront of special needs technology, how lacking it is. Today parents cannot trust the resources enough to say that if I leave this life my child can still live independently. That’s such a huge worry of parents, which is partly the reason why I work. I want to be involved in this discussion to be able to contribute with ideas based on what’s happening. I empathize with parents. Can you imagine having a child and not knowing whether your child will be able to survive without you? We say special needs and the label implies they’re disabled but they’re not. They just think a bit differently, they see the world differently. They have emotions, they can fall in love, and they go through all that we go through. It’s just that they deal with it differently. It’s a discussion that needs to be had. We need a lot more resources and what we have is not enough.
Raveena (Host): Hopefully with you in the industry, you’ll be able to improve it further.
Joel (Guest): I improve it, or maybe inspire somebody else to improve it. But just to have the discussion is what we need.
Raveena (Host): What advice could you give to individuals that are watching that wish to step into the industry specifically work with children with autism?
Joel (Guest): If you’re thinking about it, go for it. You never know how you can make a difference and the industry needs new ideas it needs more people. If we talk about prices and price range point of view it’s very expensive. Therapy is very expensive. If you talk about areas, if you’re in Bangsar, Sri Hartamas and all these kinds of places you have a lot of therapy options. If you go somewhere like Pahang or whatever there is no therapy. Even though the population is the same, kids have autism there but there is no therapy. They have to come all the way here, or they have to go to specific locations for therapy, that is why we need more people in the industry.
Raveena (Host): That is all for our interview today. Thank you so much to Joel for taking his time to come for this interview. If you would like to know more about J8 Autism Athletics and services that are provided by Joel and his team you can visit the Facebook page and Instagram links that will be put in the description down below.
Raveena (Host): Excel Education has been assisting students to make their educational aspirations come true by guiding them towards the right course and placing them in their dream universities in Australia, Malaysia, the UK, and Canada. The best part is all of our services are free of charge. Again you can scan the QR code here to find out more about us or get in touch with us.
See you in the next episode of Excel Education Talks, bye!
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About The Author
A digital marketer with a flair for content writing. Manahil has a great passion for psychology, English literature and loves travelling. Check her blog out at www.egoistelife.com.