Malcolm is currently the Chair of Trustees at Autism Unlimited, bringing a diversity of experience, passion and commitment to help the charity grow and support more autistic children, adults and their families.
Prior to joining Autism Unlimited, about seven years ago, he worked as a counselor with the Borough of Poole, and during that time he came across many families who were having a lot of problems, particularly with getting an autism diagnosis.
This came about the same time his grandson was born, and when he was about three years old, he was sent to a Child Development Center for an assessment because they felt he was not progressing as a child should. After the assessment, they told the parents he may be autistic.
The young parents were devastated by this because they had no idea what autism was, so they decided to call Malcolm for advice and support, asking what it is and what they can do. Malcolm then began the research and found that the waiting time within Dorset at that time was about two years to receive a diagnosis. After a lot more research, he took his grandson to Portland Hospital in London to be privately assessed.
Meanwhile, he had been invited to join Autism Unlimited as a trustee, saying, ‘I was very fortunate to be elected onto the board and from that then on was my journey to make sure people were made aware of autism.’
When he was elected as Chair, they talked about many projects, but one of his key objectives was to open an assessment centre, and this was fully supported by the board. The biggest obstacle was financial, but the charity was then extremely fortunate to have a legacy left from ex trustee Chris Page who had passed away.
He says, ‘It was a unanimous that we put this money towards something that would be outstanding in the community, and we wanted this recognized so we called it the Chris Page Center and we've got this wonderful center now where we're starting on the journey of diagnosis and connecting with families, and hopefully this will be a journey that will help many, many families in Dorset, in surrounding areas.’
The Chris Page Centre successfully launched earlier this year in March, providing an alternative way for people to receive the support and help they need before and after diagnosis. Malcolm believes one of the biggest myths around autism is that autistic people have no empathy, which is completely wrong. While they may show it in a different way, their love and affection remains exceptional.
He cites his seven year old grandson as an example, saying, ‘He's nonverbal, but he's the most amazing child that you could ever wish to have. He will come up, he will hug me, he will kiss me…So that disproves any myth of no empathy. He's an amazing child.’
He feels having an understanding of autism is absolutely essential, which is why he is proud of the training team at Autism Unlimited who are now out training so many companies on autism awareness.
The sooner autism awareness is accepted, more funding will become available to support and empower autistic individuals.