March 2018 Breakfast Briefing

Date: 15 Mar 2018

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Milton Keynes Business Leaders Partnership has welcomed a planned move to Milton Keynes by the Puzzle Centre charity which delivers early intervention for young children with autism.

Anna Saunders, Fundraising Manager of the Puzzle Centre Trust and Chair of Trustees Graham Wylie were guest speakers at the latest MK Business Leaders Breakfast Briefing to talk about ambitious plans for a purpose-built nursery in the west of the city.  It will also support parents and families of autistic children and be a centre of excellence for training autism professionals.

Anna and Graham were joined by Louise Gregory who gave a moving account of having a young son diagnosed with autism.  She said she knew nothing about autism until the toddler faced challenges with his development.  “He was not speaking, something wasn’t right, he wouldn’t look at me, wouldn’t dress himself and then nothing functioned properly - as if someone had taken our son away in the night,” Louise said.

She contacted Puzzle Centre. “I said ‘I think my son has autism, I don’t know where to turn’.  Someone said ‘don’t worry Louise, we will call you back’. They did ring back and I was told about courses on behaviour issues, sensory processing and light therapy, and how fabrics and touch can help your child - and I signed up for the lot. 

“Zachary is now four and waiting to go to nursery, is making friends and he can now say ‘my mum’.  Puzzle Centre has just opened up our world,” she said.

Anna said Puzzle Centre was founded in 2001 by Alex Stanyer, an internationally-known expert on autism.  Autism is a life-long neurological condition that affects 1 in 100 people in the UK who can struggle with communicating, interacting with others and have problems dealing with emotions and everyday activities, she said.  Autism costs the nation £32 billion a year.

Graham said there is a growing demand for Puzzle Centre’s services and expertise and it has outgrown its current home at Middle Claydon.  The charity has received a substantial donation towards building a new home and it is close to securing the land in MK with construction to due to start in around 18 months, he said. 

“Our aim is to expand and raise the money to do it, but the most difficult money to raise is that which keeps our doors open and allows us to carry on what we are doing and give us sustainability,” he said.  Graham said they want to work with the Milton Keynes business community to raise awareness of and get support for Puzzle Centre’s work.

Dr Philip Smith MBE, chair MK Business Leaders said he has visited Puzzle Centre.  “I was very impressed with their work with children with autism at an early stage when it can be of great benefit to them and their parents.  We are pleased to hear they are moving to Milton Keynes.”