Market Drayton mum backs charity’s new Autism Service
The mother of a 19-year-old young women from Market Drayton, who was diagnosed with autism when she was 10, is publicly backing a new autism service that has been launched by a Staffordshire based charity.
Caudwell Children, the national charity that provides practical and emotional support to disabled children and their families, recently opened the Caudwell International Children’s Centre within the grounds of Keele University.
The £18 million centre, on Innovation Way, Keele Science & Innovation Park, is the UK’s first purpose built facility dedicated to providing assessment, support and research into neurodevelopmental conditions, including autism.
Jill Broad’s daughter, Alice, was diagnosed with autism when the family lived in Gloucester, and it took two years to get her assessed through the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service.
“It was an extremely difficult time and it was a real struggle,” explained Jill. “Because of Alice’s behaviour she was labelled as a naughty child and school saw her as disruptive, it was a minefield!
“The two years it took to get Alice diagnosed was quick compared to other families I’ve known, who have had to wait up to four years for a diagnoses, but even so I nearly went under.”
Jill became aware of Caudwell Children a number of years ago after seeing a poster advertising the charity’s services in her local library.
When she discovered that the charity provided a range of activity days that were suitable for children and young people with autism, she quickly enrolled Alice on a number of them.
“Alice had been involved in a Saturday morning Drama Club for over two years and she’s taken part in a number of performances and gained an accredited qualification,” enthused Jill. “She’s been orienteering, attended an oatcake workshop and visited Standon Bowers outdoor education centre and Shugborough Hall.
“She’s done so much with the charity and they’ve helped to develop her teamwork and understanding of others and the workshops have also improved her confidence and self-esteem”.
When Jill was told about Caudwell Children’s plans to develop a new autism service, to be delivered in a new purpose built centre, she was intrigued to find out more.
She learnt that rather than children being seen by a number of specialists, at a variety of locations, on different dates, Caudwell Children’s Autism Service would allow children to access a multi-disciplinary team of clinicians, therapists and experts under one roof.
The new service also allows children, aged 4-11, to be diagnosed in as little as six weeks.
“If this service was available when Alice was young I would have gladly paid for it,” exclaimed Jill. “When she was initially diagnosed she was offered six weekly appointments and then we were left to fend for ourselves.
“But with Caudwell Children’s new service the families are given a one year programme of support which is wonderful.”
Jill and Alice were invited to the official opening of the centre recently and Alice was asked to appear on Sky News and ITV Central with Trudi Beswick, CEO of Caudwell Children, to explain how the charity’s Autism Service would have benefited her had it been available when she was a child.
“We have spent the last 19 years listening to families telling us they do not get the support that they need,” said Trudi. “It is their stories that are at the heart of this project and their needs have shaped the new service and centre.
“When all evidence points to the long-term benefits of early intervention, the delays families face are not acceptable and Caudwell Children aims to change the way families access support and prove there is a better way.”
Jill is urging parents who think that their child would benefit from an assessment to get in touch with the charity. As she explained: “When Alice was diagnosed I thought ‘Oh my God that’s why she is why she is’ but I continued to blame myself for her condition.
“I kept thinking that I should have noticed it sooner and that there were many signs that I didn’t see, but even the GP didn’t mention autism.
“Alice was a late developer with her speech and we’d even had her hearing checked but we were no clearer in understanding her behaviour.
“This is why it’s crucial to get an early diagnosis and why Caudwell Children’s Autism Service is so important.”
To find out if your child would qualify for funding for this service visit the web page here.