AUTISM charity Autism Unlimited is launching a new assessment and diagnosis centre in Christchurch in Dorset.
Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how people perceive the world and interact with others.
The Chris Page Centre (CPC), has been made possible by benefactor and former trustee Chris Page and is open for referrals from adults across the country, providing pre-assessment and diagnosis of autism.
The centre can also provide adults, children and families with assistance through its Community Connect team, offering expertise, knowledge and practical information, as well as signposting to a host of other support services and organisations.
Maureen Harrington, Chris Page Centre manager, said:
“Clinical research shows that early diagnosis, intervention, education, and support can have a hugely positive impact on autistic people. “However, with NHS diagnosis waiting times at around three years, many people currently face prolonged periods of uncertainty and confusion without help and support.
“The Chris Page Centre can provide clear routes to enable people to start to really live their lives.
“Once diagnosed, people can understand themselves better and realise they are not alone in the way they feel.
“They can finally set their own goals and be confident in knowing that they have the coping techniques and systems to achieve them. Their loved ones can also learn how best to benefit them.
“We are now looking for more specialists to join us and also for fundraising support to grow the centre as a source of diagnosis and support for the whole autism community, including children.”
Autism Unlimited employs nearly 500 people across the South of England and provides support to autistic people through education, residential care and supported living.
The charity also owns and operates Portfield School in Parley, near Christchurch, which provides specialist teaching and cares for students aged 4 to 19, who hold an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis (ASD).
Internationally acclaimed soprano Sophia Grech was diagnosed with autism at the age of 45.
Now a Patron of Autism Unlimited she explained how diagnosis transformed her life.
“Being diagnosed with Asperger’s at the age of 45 was a complete revelation to me – my ‘eureka’ moment.
“It was a lot to digest. But it provided so many missing pieces of my jigsaw, helping me to understand who I am and giving me the clarity I always sought.
“It also gave me a sense of new-found peace as to why I had struggled on a personal level and my behaviour was ‘different’ to others.
“Since my diagnosis so much has changed, both in my daily life and career. Positive changes have greatly enhanced my life and the way I feel.
“I now have a far greater understanding of myself and who I am – why I behave like I do and the way I think about things.
“I am also less conscious of what others think about me. I don’t worry about certain things which I consider insignificant and I generally feel more relaxed and able to enjoy things more, as I understand that there is a reason for my reactions and behaviours.”
Maureen Harrington added: “At Autism Unlimited, we exist to open minds to the fact that every autistic person has unique skills and abilities, can achieve great things and lead a purposeful life. “Expert assessment, diagnosis and support can be the first step in that process.”
More information on referrals to the Chris Page Centre is available at www.autism-unlimited.org.
Autism Unlimited would like to hear from autism professionals interested in working with the CPC and also potential fundraisers/supporters. Please contact: 01202 483660.