Salvesens give £5m to learning difficulties centre

Alastair Salvesen and his wife made the second biggest personal donation in Edinburgh University history. Picture: Julie Bull

Alastair Salvesen and his wife made the second biggest personal donation in Edinburgh University history. Picture: Julie Bull

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ONE of Scotland’s richest families has gifted millions of pounds to fund a new centre for children and young people with learning difficulties.

Alastair and Elizabeth Salvesen made the second biggest personal donation in Edinburgh University history to pay for the Salvesen Mindroom Centre.

Backed by the charity Mindroom, its aim will be to “understand and resolve learning difficulties” through research, diagnosis, assessment and treatment.

Staff at the “virtual” centre will work closely with NHS Lothian and the city council’s education, children and families department.

Mr Salvesen, chairman of Dawnfresh Seafoods, which was spun out from his great-grandfather’s Christian Salvesen shipping group, and his wife gave £5 million to the university – second only to JK Rowling’s £10m donation in 2010 for an MS clinic in her mother’s name.

He said: “Elizabeth and I are delighted to make this gift. We consider that the majority of children who have learning difficulties suffer from dyslexia, dyspraxia and ADHD.

“They can be reached and helped quickly through Mindroom, the NHS and education departments throughout Scotland.

“The University of Edinburgh will now coordinate this effort, which will involve its existing neuroscientific research centres. By gathering meaningful statistics and undertaking research, those with learning difficulties of all types should benefit greatly in the long term.”

At least five children in every school class in the UK have some form of learning difficulty, the university said.

A wide range of conditions can impact on learning for children and young people including dyslexia, dyspraxia, specific speech and language impairments, developmental coordination disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorder.

Researchers and clinicians at the centre will also work with and draw on expertise from existing university centres.

These include the Patrick Wild Centre for Research into Autism, Fragile X Syndrome and Intellectual Disabilities, the Anne Rowling Clinic and the Euan MacDonald Centre for Motor Neurone Disease Research.

Professor Anne O’Hare, director designate of the new centre and consultant paediatrician, said: “Through the Salvesens’ gift we will be able to deliver a better approach to supporting children with the wide range of conditions that impact on their learning.”

Mindroom was established in 2000 by Sophie Dow, whose daughter Annie, 24, has learning difficulties.

She said: “We are absolutely delighted to be part of this exciting and ground-breaking new centre.”

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