Guernsey Press

'Life-changing' charity Autism Guernsey celebrates 10th anniversary

A Guernsey charity is celebrating a decade of helping islanders on the autism spectrum.

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Autism Guernsey celebrates its 10 Year anniversary at Government House. Left to right, Andy Graham, Baroness Jill Pitkeathley OBE, Louise Cripwell, Andrew Warren, Julia Watts and Jerry Girard. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 32017465)

Autism Guernsey was set up by Andy Graham, who at 17 started working with the Board of Health on its special needs scheme, before working with the National Autistic Society.

He said speaking to so many people with autism, their families and friends, made him realise there was a need for additional support.

‘I knew there was a need for it because people had told me about the gaps in the provision, and I was confident we could fill them,’ said Mr Graham.

The gaps were mainly around the lack of help from the States for autistic islanders who did not have learning difficulties.

The initial spark to set up a charity came after he attended an autism conference in Harrogate in March 2011. He met Autism Jersey and spent two days talking with them about how the charity worked.

‘I came away from that conference with a clear idea of what to do,’ said Mr Graham.

‘I then began researching the idea, speaking to people in health and social care, and I also spoke to Rotary in 2011, quitting my job the following year to pursue the charity.’

It was set up by Jason Green and Jerry Girard as chairman and vice-chairman, with Mr Graham as CEO, and was formally launched in 2013 by Baroness Jill Pitkeathley OBE.

Baroness Pitkeathley returned to lead a celebration evening at Government House earlier this week, which was attended by those who have supported the charity through its journey.

Mr Green said over the decade, Autism Guernsey had been life-changing for the thousands of islanders it has helped.

‘Over the years I have seen so many testimonials from young adults, their parents and adults all setting out how Autism Guernsey has changed their lives and how the charity has impacted them for the better.’

Services provided by the charity include one-to-one support, group social sessions and sensory assessments.

Current chairman Andrew Warren said the social sessions are some of the most important services.

‘Difficulties caused by developmental differences can cause a lot of difficulty in social situations.’

The charity relies solely on donations and grants to fund its costs which are around £350,000 a year.