Cranleigh autism support charity marks 20th anniversary

A pupil at Jigsaw Trust. Photo by Andy Newbold Photography
A pupil at Jigsaw Trust. Photo by Andy Newbold Photography

A Cranleigh charity which supports people with autism is celebrating its 20th birthday.

Jigsaw Trust was first set up as a school to support six young children but has grown over the years to meet the needs of children, adults and families living with autism.

Today it supports more than 110 adults and children through its services on Dunsfold Park.

Jigsaw School has almost 70 pupils and boasts four consecutive outstanding verdicts from Ofsted in the last ten years.

JigsawPlus, launched in 2012, now supports over 40 adults at its Centre for Lifelong Learning, which was formally opened by actress Dame Penelope Keith in April this year.

Kate Grant, one of the founding parents and now chief executive, said: “I am so proud of everything we have achieved since the charity was established.

“We were fortunate that a wonderful group of parents, who were inspired to do whatever they could to ensure that their children had access to the best learning opportunities possible, came together at the right time.”

“Financial pressures on local authorities mean that a huge range of needs are not being met locally and nationally. It’s up to charities such as Jigsaw Trust to make the difference.”

The difference that Jigsaw has made is highlighted by Sally, a Jigsaw parent for seven years.

She said: “When my daughter started at Jigsaw School in 2012 she would only try to speak to me, her grandmother and her home respite worker.

“She was permanently anxious, volatile and extremely difficult to manage.

“I struggled to see how Jigsaw would cope with all that, when other schools had not been able to.

“But my daughter has simply blossomed at Jigsaw. She is now 17 and loves going to school.

“She now talks more openly with other people. Her comprehension means I can negotiate with her and help her to understand what’s happening in our world.”

“Most importantly, she looks me in the eye and she tells me she loves me.

“I nearly died the first time she said that. Jigsaw pulled my child out of her silent, lonely and closed off world into my world.”

Kate Grant added: “There are still many misconceptions around autism and it can be really difficult for families caring for individuals living with autism to go out and access public spaces. The more we can do to engage with local people and organisations, the more we can help build a stronger, more inclusive society.”