Swansea mum and son attend launch of centre
A Swansea woman and her autistic son were special guests at the official launch of an £18 million autism centre in Staffordshire, England, last week.
The Caudwell International Children’s Centre is the UK’s first purpose built facility dedicated to the assessment, support and research of neurodevelopmental conditions, including autism.
The centre, located in Keele, will support the beneficiaries of Caudwell Children, the national charity that provides practical and emotional support to disabled children and their families.
Karenza Cassidy, aged 49, and her 19-year-old son Eddie, were invited to the launch in recognition of 11 years of support for her son from the charity.
When Karenza initially contacted the charity to ask for help, in 2007, Eddie was non-verbal.
Since then Caudwell Children’s Family Services team has enabled Eddie to access the support that he’s needed to lead as happy, active and independent life as possible.
Over 150 guests, including families, donors, academics, celebrity ambassadors and associated stakeholders, were treated to a drinks and cape reception before they enjoyed a series of speeches and presentations in front of a ‘Thank You’ wall at the centre, designed to recognise those who have supported the charity.
This was followed by guided tours of the building where guests visited the state-of-the-art assessment suites, sensory garden, sensory play room, music room, recording studio and corporate facilities.
“It was incredibly exciting to see the new Caudwell Children’s International Centre with my son who is now a young adult with autism,” explained Karenza. “When my son was diagnosed 18 years ago nothing like this existed, it was a bleak, clinical environment that felt quite uninviting and not suitable for the harrowing assessment and diagnosis that we were about to experience.”
Having visited the Centre Karenza believes that it will have a huge impact on the lives of autistic children and their families. She said: “When we arrived at the centre last week, my son was a little overwhelmed by the amount of people who attended the launch, so we proceeded to the sensory garden where he quickly calmed down.
“He thoroughly enjoyed exploring this fabulous facility and after his time in the sensory garden, which he was reluctant to leave, we visited the music area and Occupational Therapist suites which were also impressive.
“Every detail is so well-thought out, so autism friendly and the beautiful green surroundings were a bonus. I’m sure if we’d had access to a centre like this for my son it would have started our journey with purpose and hope.”
Peter Andre, the singer and television presenter who is an ambassador for the charity, was pleased to attend the launch. As he explained: “I’m delighted to be supporting the charity today at the launch of this incredible centre.
“I first met the founder, John Caudwell, years ago and he spoke about the worthwhile work that Caudwell Children do.
“This centre will help so many children with autism and their families.”
Trudi Beswick, CEO of Caudwell Children, says that she’s delighted that the centre has finally opened. She said: “We have spent the last 19 years listening to families consistently telling us they do not get the support they need.
“It is their stories that are at the heart of this project and their needs have shaped the service in the centre.
“When all the evidence points to the long-term benefits of early intervention, the delays families face waiting for a diagnosis are not acceptable and Caudwell Children aims to change the way families, like Karensa’s, access support and prove there is a better way.
“By keeping the needs of autistic children and families at the forefront of our services and helping as many children as possible at the Centre, we will develop the necessary body of evidence to ultimately influence clinical guidelines and collaborate with partners to make lasting impact on society’s understanding and acceptance of autism, changing the futures of autistic people in the UK and internationally.”
You can find out more about the Caudwell International Children’s Centre and its new Autism Service here.