Members Login

Autism Early Support

Education, support and research for early years autism

Support for families
Support for nurseries, schools and practitioners
Upcoming courses and latest news

Who we are

We are specialists in early intervention for children with autism or communication difficulties, working with families and practitioners across the UK to offer structured assessments, practical support and advice, training and consultancy in response to your and your child’s needs.

We are a charity formerly known as the well-established Puzzle Centre.  We believe that every child with autism or other communication difficulties should have access to prompt, appropriate and high quality education, therapy and support.

Our mission is to provide high quality education and therapy for young children with autism or other communication difficulties; to ensure that families receive expert advice and support; and to lead the development of best practice early intervention.

We do this through our bespoke assessment and support services, tailored to your particular needs and delivered by our team of Specialist Teachers, Speech and Language Therapists, Occupational Therapists and Learning Support Assistants. We can provide support for children aged 2 – 11 years.

Our expertise is founded on our specialist nursery, which has pioneered early intervention with pre-school children since 2001 and is recognised as an exemplar of good practice, receiving successive “Outstanding” ratings from Ofsted as well as commendations from people using our services. Our Autism Early Support services provide this same expertise in your own setting for children aged 2 – 11 years, offering personalised support, consultancy and training for families, teachers and other practitioners in education and health.

Find out about the support we can provide to families

Find out about the support we can provide to nurseries, schools and practitioners

Autism early support

What we do

We deliver and promote early intervention for young children with autism or communication difficulties (aged 2-11 years). We do this through tailored programmes of assessment, support and advice, consultancy and training.

We have well-established expertise in Speech and Language Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Specialist Teaching and Learning Support. Our multidisciplinary team can provide an integrated programme of support around your child, your professional or organisational needs, as well as offering discrete assessments, therapies and training. (Please note, we do not provide a diagnostic service.)

We work with families, nurseries, schools, educational and health practitioners. By working in partnership with you to understand your needs and objectives, each programme can be tailored to your specific child and context.

  • Our Speech and Language Therapists provide help with the development of communication and interaction.

  • Our Occupational Therapists help to address physical and sensory differences that impact on daily life.

  • Our Specialist Teachers help you to understand your child’s development and early educational approaches.

  • Our Learning Support Assistants can work directly with your child, as part of a programme supervised by a lead Teacher or Therapist.

Early intervention encompasses a range of specific, structured and targeted approaches to support and enhance development in young children. The types of intervention and tools that we use are founded on established research- and evidence-based practice, as well as our own extensive experience.

Educational model

We have adopted the SCERTS® framework for working with children with autism and related difficulties, and their families. This is a multidisciplinary framework that offers an integrated approach to the child and his/her development. It provides specific guidelines for helping a child become a competent and confident social communicator, while preventing problem behaviours that interfere with learning and the development of relationships. It is also designed to help families, educators and therapists work cooperatively as a team, in a coordinated manner, to maximize progress in supporting a child.


When supporting a specific child, we deploy a range of interventions and therapies within the framework of the SCERTS model, according to our joint assessment of your needs. These will be led by one or more members of our specialist team of Teachers and Therapists.


Professional support

We are a national demonstration site for the SCERTS model, and are able to provide training and consultancy in the effective deployment of SCERTS within your setting to help you to implement the model effectively.

We also provide training to nurseries, schools and practitioners on early intervention techniques, and as an accredited provider of the national Autism Education Trust early years training programme for which we have an exclusive licence for Milton Keynes.

In addition, we provide consultancy on a range of interventions through bespoke agreement.

Please contact us us to discuss how we can help you.

Meet the team

Alex Stanyer MBE

Alex Stanyer MBE

Founder - B.Ed, MA (Infant Spec.Ed), Dip. Speech and Language Difficulties

Alex has over 30 years’ experience of working with children with a range of developmental and learning difficulties.  She has taught children with autistic spectrum disorders, learning and language difficulties of all ages – in mainstream and special schools and nurseries as well as their own homes. Her main focus of work has been with pre-school children and she has developed a particular interest and expertise in teaching young children with autism. Alex set up Puzzle Centre in 2001 and worked directly with children in the nursery as a specialist teacher for many years.

Alex was one of the original group of volunteers who trained as an Advisor for the National Autistic Society’s Education Advice Line and continues to present a range of training courses and at conferences for parents and practitioners about Early Years education and autism. She is a member of the International Society for Early Intervention and was on the Expert Reference Group for the Autism Education Trust (AET) for seven years. She is one of several consultants who developed a national set of standards, competencies and training materials for Early Years autism on behalf of the AET. Alex was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list, in June 2019,  for services to young people with autism.

Ella Millerchip

Specialist Teacher - B.Ed (Hons) PGCE N.N.E.B.

Ella Millerchip

Ella has over 20 years’ experience working in Early Years settings, including as a teacher in mainstream settings.

Ella joined Puzzle Centre in 2009 and has extensive experience of implementing the SCERTS framework alongside the Early Years Foundation Stage Curriculum.

She has recently completed her Post Graduate Certificate in Education for Special Education Needs and has also undertaken Sleep Practitioner Training with The Children’s Sleep Charity.  Ella works both in the Puzzle Centre nursery and as part of the Autism Early Support team.

Laura Gomersall

Laura Gomersall

Specialist Speech and Language Therapist - BSc (Hons) Speech Pathology and Language Therapy

Laura joined Puzzle Centre in 2019, as a Speech and Language Therapist focusing on Autism Early Support services.  She qualified in 2005 from Queen Margaret University College and has since worked in a variety of health and education settings with children up to the age of 18 years, both overseas and in the UK.  Laura has had experience working with children with a range of speech, language and communication needs.

Michelle Harford

Specialist Speech and Language Therapist Msc (Hons).

Michelle Harford

Michelle joined the Puzzle Centre team in September 2019.  She has worked with children and adults in a range of settings since completing her Psychology degree in 2003. Michelle qualified as a Speech and Language Therapist from the University of Reading in 2010, and has since worked in an educational setting with school aged children. Michelle works in the Autism Early Support team.

Caroline Bulmer

Caroline Bulmer

Paediatric Occupational Therapist BSc (Hons) Psychology; MSc Occupational Therapy -

Caroline has over 15 years of experience working with children and young people on the autism spectrum and their families across a range of settings including independent and local authority education and respite services. Prior to joining Puzzle Centre, Caroline worked for 8 years as an Occupational Therapist and Manager at Queensmill , an autism specific special school and outreach service in West London. She has completed postgraduate training in Sensory Integration and is a qualified Sleep Practitioner.

Julie Smith

Paediatric Occupational Therapist - BSc(Hons) OT, SROT

Julie Smith

Julie joined Puzzle Centre in 2014, bringing 13 years of experience of working with children. Prior to joining Puzzle Centre, Julie worked at the PACE Centre with children with sensory motor disorders.  Julie assists families and practitioners to meet the sensory and motor needs of the children who are supported by Puzzle Centre, both in the nursery and as part of the Autism Early Support team.

Urszula Coghlan

Urszula Coghlan

Specialist Speech and Language Therapist M.A. (Hons), PGDip RCSLT

Urszula qualified in Speech & Language Therapy from City University in 1998, and has worked in a variety of settings, including community clinics, special schools and a rehabilitation unit for children with acquired brain injury. She has previously worked as a specialist Speech and Language Therapist for adults with learning disabilities, assessing and supporting clients with communication and dysphagia, and providing training to carers. She has completed the 2 day Picture Exchange Communication course, and the 2 day SCERTS training workshop. She is currently working towards accreditation as a PACT practitioner. She has also been trained in Intensive Interaction, and has undergone training in the principles of the Hanen programme. Urszula originally trained as a Montessori Nursery teacher, and, prior to changing career to Speech & Language Therapy, worked for several years in a Montessori nursery and at a specialist Conductive Education Centre for children with cerebral palsy. She has been a member of the Puzzle Team since the Spring Term of 2014.

Diana Hilton-Jones

Specialist Speech and Language Therapist - LCST Dip. Speech and Language Pathology

Diana Hilton-Jones

After qualifying in 1979, Diana initially specialised in working with children with specific speech and language disorders and has worked in a variety of settings – clinics, special schools, mainstream schools and language units – with a range of paediatric client groups, many of whom have had social communication difficulties.

Diana has worked at Puzzle Centre from 2005, in both the nursery and as part of the Autism Early Support team.

Contact us

Please contact us using the enquiry form on this page. Alternatively, you can get in touch with us using the details below.

Your details
Valid first name is required.
Valid last name is required.
Please enter a valid email address.
Please enter a valid phone number.
Type of enquiry
Please select an option.
Your enquiry

Autism Early Support

01296 711547


Market House
Office 3, 14 Market Square
MK18 3AF

Support us

Autism Early Support is a charity which can only exist through the generosity of our supporters and volunteers.

As an individual, a company, a community group, a charitable trust, or as another funding or fundraising body – you can make a real difference to the development and life chances of children with autism or communication difficulties, to their families, and to the professionals that work with them. To find out more about our fundraising needs visit our charity website at Autism Early Support

If you would like to find out more about how you can help, please contact us.

If you would like to make a donation, you can donate online by clicking the button below.

Thank you for your support and for the wonderful difference you can make.