Education, support and research for early years autism

Our Team

Puzzle Centre adopts a team approach to working with the children who attend the sessions in the nursery – the expertise of the Teacher and Therapists is used to ensure that each child receives an appropriate input of language and a tailor made programme of teaching and therapy during the entire session. All staff work with children on a one to one basis as well as within group sessions led by the Teacher or Therapists. Learning Assistants receive regular training and guidance on teaching methods and approaches.

Current Vacancies

Maternity Cover – Specialist Teacher – 2.5 days a week

Specialist Teacher Maternity Cover JOB ADVERT

Job Description part time specialist teacher (Maternity Cover)

PERSON-SPECIFICATION -Specialist Teacher (Mat cover)


Closing date for application: Thursday 8th February 2018

Interviews expect to be held week commencing 26th February 2018


  1. Complete and return the Puzzle Application Form.
  2. Write a letter of application to Alexandra Stanyer, CEO, stating why you want the position and how you meet each of the person specifications.
  3. Send us a copy of your up to date CV
  4. Make sure you give us the name, address and telephone number for two referees.

Our Team

Founder and CEO

WebAlexAlex Stanyer 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. After completing an initial degree specialising in teaching children with learning difficulties, including autism, she went on to take a Master’s degree, at George Washington University, Washington DC, in the education and early intervention of very young children (birth – 3 years) with a range of developmental 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. She set up Puzzle Preschool (now the Puzzle Centre) in September 2001. She co-wrote an article on small group intervention for young children with autism spectrum disorders which was published in the journal ‘Good Autism Practice’ in a special supplement on early intervention in 2002. She presented a paper on the later stages of the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) at their international congress in 2005. Since 2010 she has attended extensive training and coaching in the SCERTS educational model and has been instrumental in facilitating the Puzzle Centre team adopting and using this evidenced based educational model for working with children with autism and related difficulties with communication and interaction.

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.

Head of Centre

Kathryn 1Kathryn Bowers B.Sc (Hons)

Kathryn joined Puzzle in January 2012 after working with children on the Autism Spectrum for the previous eight years across different settings. Kathryn obtained a first class degree in Psychology at Bath University in 2004, during which time, and the following two years she worked as an ABA (Applied Behaviour Analyst) tutor working with a number of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders in their homes and schools/nurseries.

Kathryn qualified as a teacher from the University of Sussex in 2007 and taught in a mainstream primary school for two years. As her passion was for teaching children on the Autism Spectrum, she moved to Buckinghamshire in 2009 to set up and run a new provision for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders within a mainstream primary school, also working as the school’s SENCo.

Kathryn has attended a wide range of workshops, courses and conferences related to special needs and autism, including extensive training in the SCERTS model, TEACCH, Picture Exchange Communication system and Makaton training course. She is committed to developing her knowledge and expertise of working with children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders and wishes to undertake a Masters degree in autism in the future.

Specialist Speech and Language Therapist

BeckyBecky Ralphs, BSc (Hons), RCSLT, PGCert. Autism (children)

Becky qualified from Leeds Metropolitan University in 1992. Since then, she has worked with children in a variety of settings including community clinics, mainstream schools and a special school with a unit for children on the autistic spectrum.
Becky is a member of the National Autistic Society and the Clinical Excellence Network (CEN) for Autism, London.
Becky has completed the Hanen course (More Than Words) and is trained in the use of the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS). In 2010, Becky completed a postgraduate certificate in Autism (children) at the University of Birmingham. She attended a 3 day course on implementing the SCERTS programme at the Autism Centre for Education and Research at Birmingham University in September 2010 and has received ongoing training in-house and with co-author of SCERTS, Emily Rubin.
More recently, Becky has attended a Train the trainer course and Attention Autism.

Becky started working at the Puzzle Centre in 2004 and is part of the Puzzle Assessment and Support Service (PASS) team.

Specialist Speech and Language Therapist

DianaDiana Hilton-Jones, LCST Dip. Speech and Language Pathology

Diana qualified in 1979 at Birmingham Polytechnic (now University of Central England). She specialised in working with children with specific speech and language disorders two years post-qualification.
She 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 completed courses on the following approaches: Hanen, the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS); Talk Tools, Intensive Interaction and Attention Autism. She is a member of the Clinical Excellence Network (CEN), London .She attended a 3 day course on implementing the SCERTS programme at the Autism Centre for Education and Research at Birmingham University in September 2010 and has received on-going training in-house and with co-author of SCERTS, Emily Rubin . She started working at Puzzle in September 2005 as part of the Puzzle team, working in the Nursery with individual children and the whole group. Since January 2015 Diana has worked as part of the Puzzle Assessment and Support Service (PASS) Team.

Specialist Speech and Language Therapist

urszula photoUrszula Coghlan, 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 dysphagias, and providing training to carers. She has completed the 2 day Picture Exchange Communication course, and the 2 day SCERTS training workshop. She has also been trained in Intensive Interaction, Hanen, and Signalong. 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.


Specialist Teacher

EllaElla Millerchip B.Ed (Hons) PGCE (National Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator) N.N.E.

Ella has over 20 years’ experience working in early years settings.  She worked in Mainstream settings as an Early Years teacher from 1995 until 2001 when leaving work to start as a family.

Ella joined Puzzle in 2009 and works 4 days a week, splitting her time between working in the nursery and also as part of the Puzzle outreach team.  She recently completed her Post Graduate Certificate of Education for Special Educational Needs.

Ella has taken part in the 3 day SCERTS training led by one of the creators of SCERTS, Emily Rubin. In conjunction with the Puzzle team Ella has also worked closely with Emily Rubin in implementing the SCERTS into the nursery environment.

Ella has completed the ‘Open University’ Course, attended the 2 day Picture Exchange Communication System training course and the NAS One day SPELL course.

Ella has a sound knowledge of the Early Years Foundation Stage Curriculum and how the curriculum can be used alongside the SCERTS framework.

Ella is currently is currently undertaking Sleep Practitioner Training with The Children’s Sleep Charity.

Paediatric Occupational Therapist

julieJulie Smith, BSc(Hons) OT, SROT

Julie joined Puzzle in 2014 and brings 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.  She works for Puzzle Centre 3 days a week to meet the sensory and motor needs of the children who attend the nursery.

Nursery Coordinator (Job-share)

The Nursery Coordinators work very closely with the Head of Centre, Specialist Teacher and the Speech and Language and Occupational Therapists to meet the needs of all the children who attend the nursery.

Nursery Coordinator (Job-share)

Stephanie (2)Stephanie Scrase

Stephanie joined Puzzle in September 2006 originally as a volunteer, then from January 2007 worked as a Learning Assistant. Prior to joining Puzzle, Stephanie had experience of teaching music in a variety of schools, as well as having studied Musicology at Lille University.

She has continued her professional development by completing the NVQ Level 3 in Childcare and Education. She has undergone a range of training courses during her time at Puzzle, including PECS, Autism and Play, Introduction to Social Stories, and SCERTS training.

Nursery Coordinator

SallySally Doyle Bsc. (Hons)

Sally began working at Puzzle in 2007. She has a degree in Agricultural and Food Marketing from Newcastle University and worked as an Agricultural Analyst in Milton Keynes for 10 years before starting her own family. She began working with children as volunteer at her local primary school. Sally became Nursery Co-coordinator at Puzzle, alongside Stephanie Scrase, in May 2011.

Sally is qualified with a Diploma in pre-school practice and has attended a variety of training courses, including the 2 day Picture Exchange Communication System course, Autism and Play, SCERTS training and characteristics of effective learning.

Special Learning Assistants

Annettemel johnstonSarah BoyceJennylouise OfannyAum 

Annette Hooper, Mel Johnston, Sarah Boyce, Jenny Hammond, Louise O’Connor-Boyd, Fanny Stanley, Ajjima Goss, Jo Mannall, Fiona Hebert and Sara Cooper. 

All Learning Assistants attend twice-termly training sessions and receive direct guidance and supervision from the Teacher and Therapists. They attend a range of external courses on childcare, early education and autism – specific educational approaches.

Each Special Learning Assistant holds specific responsibility for a small number of children who they keep a detailed photographic record about their experiences at Puzzle in a ‘Learning Journal’ which is shared with parents.

Administration Manager

MandyMandy Lawer BSc.

Mandy has been at Puzzle since 2008. She is specifically responsible for all the administrative activity for the Centre, including general office management, charity administration, fundraising administration and support for the Nursery. She works closely with the Principal, Head of Centre and others members of the management team. Mandy has a degree in Psychology and previously worked as a Human Resources Manager in the Financial Services Sector. She brings over 10 years experience of HR and Training to the organisation.


hayley-2 Hayley Sheppard

Hayley joined Puzzle in April 2016, she is a part time administrative assistant to Mandy in the office.  Hayley has previously worked in the finance industry as a Business Development Manager, she comes with a range of skills to compliment our team.  Hayley is also an ex Puzzle parent & fully understands the world of special needs with care and compassion.

Finance Manager

CoralCoral Tolley-Fletcher BA (Hons) FCCA

Coral works part-time and is responsible for the day to day financial management of the Charitable Trust. Coral qualified as an accountant in 2002 and subsequently specialised in charity audits. She has attended various courses with the Association of Charity Independent Examiners and now acts as an Independent Examiner for smaller charities.

Coral has two primary school aged children who keep her very busy when not at work and she is also a governor at their school.


Fundraising Manager

AnnaSaundersAnna Saunders BA (Hons) DipM

Anna joined Puzzle Centre in October 2015 and is responsible for increasing and diversifying the charity’s voluntary income. Anna has more than 15 years’ experience in fundraising; having previously worked for a range of charities in the health, disability and education sectors. She has also volunteered with many organisations in the UK, Africa and South America. At Puzzle Centre, Anna is looking forward to working with the many organisations and individuals who enable the charity to achieve so much. She is keen to hear all your fundraising ideas, so please do get in touch.