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New Christchurch autism site Chris Page Centre could mean faster diagnoses

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A NEW facility has been opened in Christchurch to help diagnose autism faster, potentially helping hundreds of people a year.

Autism Unlimited has unveiled the Chris Page Centre at the specialist Portfield School in Parley where a team of experts will give adults, children, and families support.

International opera singer and Autism Unlimited patron Sophia Grech, who herself was diagnosed with autism at the age of 45, performed at the centre’s official opening.

Sophia Grech cuts the ribbon at the Chris Page Centre
Sophia Grech cuts the ribbon at the Chris Page Centre

She said: “Diagnosis provided so many missing pieces of my jigsaw, helping me to understand who I am and giving me the clarity I always sought.”

Autism Unlimited, founded 50 years ago, hopes the new centre will enable people from all over the country to bypass NHS delays and gain help earlier.

Siún Cranny, chief executive, said: “We are immensely proud to open the Chris Page Centre and I am extremely grateful to the whole team which has worked so tirelessly to make this centre a reality.

“This will quite simply have a monumental impact on so many lives.”

The centre has been made possible by a legacy from the estate of the late Chris Page, a trustee of Portfield School whose son Nicholas was a student there.

The Chris Page Centre in Christchurch
The Chris Page Centre in Christchurch

Angela Westwell, an executor of Chris’s estate, said: “This is a very fitting legacy for him and his family and he would have been truly thrilled to see it open.”

Entertainment at the launch was provided by Autism Unlimited student and musician Leon Lunn (15) and singer Nevaeh Dunmore (12) from Horndean Technology College in Hampshire.

Students from Autism Unlimited sixth form’s mobile barista unit the Brew Crew provided refreshments.

Research has shown that early autism diagnosis, intervention, education, and support can transform lives.

But Autism Unlimited said that NHS diagnosis times of around three years mean many are forced to endure long periods of isolation while struggling to socialise because of their educational and behavioural difficulties.

Visit www.autism-unlimited.org/support/diagnosis

Any autism professionals interested in working at the centre should email Donna.wearn@autism-unlimited.org

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