The Finalists

Our 11 judges, leading experts in the field of autism have chosen the finalists for the 2016 Autism Professionals Awards. Congratulations to the finalists.


Axcis Education Recruitment is the foremost specialist supplier of quality special educational needs (SEN) staffing solutions in the UK. Our commitment to working with government and professional partners plus our duty of care, ensures that, despite wide-ranging changes in education, we can have a positive effect on the lives of the young people with SEND we ultimately support. We appreciate these young people are some of the most vulnerable in our education system and require inclusive nurture to allow them to achieve to the very best of their ability.














Network Autism is a place where professionals can come together, open up new channels of information and share good practice.








































































































































































































































































































Established by The National Autistic Society (NAS) and its affiliated local societies, with support from the Department of Health, Autism Accreditation has been the foundation upon which much of the successful expansion of quality services for people with autism has been built.






Awards for an Individual

Axcis Award for Achievement by an Individual Education Professional

Adele Devine, Portesbery School

Adele describes her job teaching children with severe learning difficulties and autism as ‘the best job in the world’. She co-founded SEN Assist in 2010, creating multi award winning educational software and resources. She has also written two books, ‘Colour Coding for Learners with Autism’ and ‘Literacy for Visual Learners’, which include a host of innovative resources. She is a positive force and a champion for children with autism and those who support them.

Chloe Philips, The National Autistic Society

Chloe Phillips is a pioneer in autism education, “like a master chess player, always thinking five moves ahead” in the words of Deputy Principal, Paul Kavanagh. She has worked at Sybil Elgar School for close to 27 years and been its Principal for over 20. Not only is she immensely caring, innovative and hard-working, she has dedicated her life to carrying the school, now in its 50th year as the first autism residential school in the world, to the forefront of teaching children and young people on the autism spectrum.

Luke Beardon, Sheffield Hallam University

Dr Luke Beardon is a lecturer, supervisor, consultant, advisor and expert witness who through publication, presentation, teaching and one-to-one support to countless individuals has changed the public’s understanding of autism. The impact of his enthusiasm, energy and profound sensitivity to the nuances of autism has been witnessed by the very many people with autism he has helped, the professionals he has advised, the parents he has supported and the wider public he has influenced.



Special mention posthumous nomination: Jane Burnett

Lifetime Achievement Award

To be announced at the ceremony

Outstanding Achievement by an Individual on the Autism Spectrum

Alan Gardner

Alan Gardner designs gardens. He is a gardener. He also has Asperger’s Syndrome. He is the creator of 40 RHS show gardens, winning numerous awards at Chelsea, Hampton Court and two gold medals at Tatton Park. His unique designs embody inspiration from his other passions- architecture, conceptual art and the wider landscape around him. Alan feels for those of us unlucky enough to reside on the ‘’neurotypical’’ end of the spectrum, but is confident that if we work hard and put our minds to it, there is hope for us too.




Jonathan Andrews

At just 22 years old, Jonathan has already done great work for autism awareness and acceptance. In 2015 Jonathan secured a training contract with leading law firm Reed Smith. He was disappointed that no openly autistic people seemed to be in the legal sector or attended talks on disability when other conditions were represented, so he resolved to do this himself.

He’s appeared on TV and radio for the BBC and London Live, and was published in the Financial Times, discussing this issue. He also works with several employment organisations, including as a Professional Ambassador for Aspiring Solicitors.


Robert Harris  

Robert works at Fir Vale School Academy Trust providing support for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities.

He also runs a literacy and numeracy programme in his local community for young adults with SEND, to help improve their chances of education and employment, as well as teaching fitness at weekends for children with SEND from vulnerable backgrounds.

Robert is currently writing a book about living with ASD, ‘Me, Myself and Autism’ a book of poetry looking at autism from an insider’s point of view.

Most Inspirational Volunteer

Debbie Marshall

Debbie is the founder and chair of CANadda, a group which provides support to autistic people and their families, carers and professionals. Having been diagnosed with Asperger’s in 2010, Debbie has been able to draw upon her own experience within the group. Support from CANadda is accessed through social media and social clubs. Debbie also hands out personal alarms to help autistic adults feel safe when they are in their communities. Debbie has given a lot of time in the last 6 years to the Lincolnshire County Council and the Lincolnshire NHS, working on the ‘Lincolnshire All Age Autism Strategy.’



Fay Hough

Fay is the founder of the page ‘Awareness For Autism.’ Through her page she has worked closely with the NAS and has been part of their most recent campaigns. Through the ‘I’m One’ campaign she formed strong links with the Labour Party and managed to get ‘more autism training for teachers’ on the 2015 Labour Manifesto. She spoke at the 2015 Labour conference in Brighton where she and MP Neil Coyle interviewed each other. Fay aims to be the first working class mum to take autism to parliament and has a 4 year old son called Bowie who is severely autistic.



Glyn Morris

Glyn is the owner of Moray Firth Pianos, a father-of-two, an autism campaigner, and a National Autistic Society Scotland volunteer. His 16-year-old son, Gregor is autistic.

Glyn displays ingenuity in developing new ways to give autistic people an adventure and chance to try something new. He started a Saturday morning swimming club, organised a sponsored race of pianos to raise £10,000, and launched Scotland’s first surf school for autistic children. Glyn does all of this on a volunteer basis, juggling his dedication to the NAS Scotland with work and family life.



John and Sharon Stobbs

Sharon and John Stobbs from Ayr, have four children aged between 13 and 18 who are all autistic. John is also autistic himself. They have an incredibly demanding home life, but they always find time to help families in their community affected by autism. They volunteer to run the South Ayrshire Autistic Society, supporting around 150 families by hosting twice monthly support group meetings for parents and carers and planning fun trips and activities during the school holidays. Sharon is also part of the ADHD Alliance in Ayrshire.



Team Awards

Awards for Inspirational Education Provision – Primary School

Communication Disorder Unit, St Anthonys Primary School

The Unit for Children with Communication Disorders based in the school also has pupils with Special Educational Needs.  The pupils in the Unit have a low pupil-teacher ratio and benefit from the services of a Speech Therapist.  Saint Anthony’s currently has 35 pupils who have a stated Coordinated Support Plan. This includes the children with communication disorders based in the Unit. As each pupil is an individual, he or she may, at times, require individual attention to overcome a learning difficulty. Specialist approaches to learning and teaching ensure all children reach their maximum potential within the school and wider community.





Holly Grove School

Holly Grove School caters for children with learning disabilities and/ or autism. All of Holly Grove’s pupils are fully integrated in classes with their peers. This helps prepare children for challenges they may face in society.
The school provides a holiday club, an after school club and is currently introducing a Saturday club. The clubs provide safe, stimulating environments for pupils and respite for parents. Holly Grove was awarded Outstanding in OFSTED in all areas in their most recent inspection. In summer 2015 the school was awarded the Lancashire Gold Behaviour Quality Mark.



Rainbow Room, Woodhouse Primary Academy

Following a difficult Ofsted visit in 2012, Woodhouse Primary underwent some changes. The school became an academy, a new Head was appointed, and the Resource Base was renamed the Rainbow Room. The Rainbow Room continues to go from strength to strength, supporting children and parents through their time at Woodhouse. The ethos of inclusion is becoming more embedded within the culture of the school. When the school was revisited by Ofsted in July 2015, it achieved good with some outstanding areas. The final report commented ‘Disabled pupils and those who have special educational needs, including pupils supported for autism through dedicated provision, achieve well.’





Senior Sevens- AP Gang, Riverside Primary School

This group of pupils have volunteered to be in the Autism Provision Gang. Their objective is to take on leadership roles within the school to promote understanding and inclusion for autistic children. They support autistic children with their social skills at lunch, play, assemblies and by raising awareness of autism in the school and local area. By taking on these leadership roles, the school is developing a community of people who will be more understanding and knowledgeable about autism. It is hoped that these children will someday employ someone autistic or go into a career which supports autistic people.



Award for Inspirational Education Provision – Secondary and over 16

Interface, South Tyneside College

Interface is a post 16 autism provision that delivers a range of courses aimed at preparing autistic people for the challenges of adult life. Personalised Study Programmes enable learners to focus on their social or emotional skills, their independence of their employability. In addition they also build other essential life skills within an enriching and meaningful timetable. The college works hard to bridge the perceived gap between autism and mainstream education and life by helping mainstream staff make reasonable adjustments and teach students skills to access the wider college and community at their pace and level.




Learning Development Department, Sir Henry Floyd Grammar School

The centre at Sir Henry Floyd Grammar School is based in a house within the school. This gives it a relaxed atmosphere: break, before and after school can be social events for some, or quiet time for others. Autistic students are fully integrated into all aspects of school life but every child’s individuality is also celebrated. The aim is for every student to be inspired and challenged to achieve their full potential. The key to the school’s success is a balance between parental engagement, professionals’ wisdom and a school ethos that celebrates diversity.








Team Cherrywood, The Cherrywood Centre

Cherrywood opened in September 2013 so is fairly new, however the centre has come a long way in a short time. Cherrywood pupils access as much of the mainstream curriculum as appropriate, whilst acknowledging that this may take time for some individuals. Cherrywood pupils are all very different, there is not a standard pathway.  Young people follow a highly individualised curriculum with a holistic approach.  Ofsted endorsed the provision in May 2015 when the Lead Inspector gave highly complementary verbal feedback “Cherrywood provides young people with opportunities and enhances their life chances by a considerable measure”. 



Award for Inspirational Education Provision – Other Education Provider

Autistic Spectrum Disorder team, Calderdale MBC

The ASD Team in Calderdale was established over 15 years ago at a time when there was little specialist support available for autistic children in the area. The team has expanded over the years along with the number of people it supports. The team is unique in that the Team Co-ordinator is a Speech and Language Therapist. The service was accredited by the NAS in April 2014. This recognised the valuable work carried out by the team to support autistic children and young people to work towards independence and achieve their potential.



Marketing team, The National Autistic Society

My World is a service developed by The National Autistic Society’s Marketing Team. It’s a simple, yet effective way to get autism information and best practice directly to teachers and staff in schools across the UK. Since launching in April 2015, over 11,500 teaching staff have signed up to receive fortnightly emails and a welcome pack and numbers are growing daily. MyWorld aims for every education professionals to have the tools to ensure every autistic child is give the best chance in their nursery and school life.



Special Needs College for Adults, Cantraybridge College

Cantraybridge were Scotland’s first specialist college, established in 1994 as a Rural Skills college to provide learning and training opportunities for young people with a learning and/or physical disability or autism spectrum condition. Cantraybridge offer a unique approach in providing services to young people and we aim to provide structured and practical learning, care and support services that cross traditional boundaries of what might be expected from a social care service.  We remain committed to looking at the needs of the whole person in the context of their wider life situation and opportunities.


Outstanding Adult Services

Autism Centre of Employment, University of Portsmouth

The Autism Centre for Employment (ACE) is a partnership between the University of Portsmouth, local authorities (Southampton, Hampshire, Portsmouth and Isle of Wight) and Autism Hampshire. It was set up with funding from the Department of Health: Autism Innovation fund. What makes ACD special is that it places special importance to the assessment of individual strengths, needs and career preferences. ACE has developed, and tested, an innovative and cost-effective set of employment-specific assessment tools. Our reports provide employers with extensive information about their individual employee, recommendations on individual adjustments, needs and on strategies to enhance the employment experience.


Highland One Stop Shop, Autism Initiatives

The Highland One Stop Shop (HOSS) is a service for autistic adults provided by Autism Initiatives. HOSS provides drop-ins, groups and 1-1 support in a safe friendly environment. It also has an NHS diagnostician based within the building to ensure a smoother pathway from pre through to post diagnostic support. HOSS provides monthly drop ins in four outlying areas in order to reach geographically isolated people and is piloting the technology as a means of delivering its Late Diagnosis Group to remote areas. HOSS is part of the wider Autism Initiatives’ network of One Stop Shops.




Prospects, The National Autistic Society Scotland

Prospects, delivered by the National Autistic Society Scotland, helps people on the autism spectrum prepare for mainstream employment, secure work, and succeed in post. It also provides advice to autistic people who are already in work, and their employers, to ensure that employment can be maintained. Prospects has supported more than 1,200 people since it launched in 1999. It supports people right across Scotland and is staffed by a team of five, with additional volunteers.




Outstanding Health Services

Adult Autism Psychological Therapies Service, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust

The service is an outpatient team based at the Maudsley Hospital and is part of the National Autism Unit and the Autism Assessment and Behavioural Genetics Clinic. The team developed from a need for outpatient services for autistic adults who did not require a hospital admission, or needed ongoing support after being discharged from hospital. The team has a focus on continued development and evaluation of effective and innovative interventions. This is balanced with a person centred approach involving individual development of understanding and a personalised approach to making changes and developing skills. The team is part of a wider service that has recently been graded as "outstanding" in a Quality Care Commission review.



Autism Diagnostic Research Centre

The Autism Diagnostic Research Centre (ADRC) was founded in 2007 and is an independent registered charity. The team has a wealth of experience in providing a high quality assessment and diagnostic service to people in the South of England. ADRC’s unique approach and resulting individualised reports transform the diagnosis from being a label to bring a process that informs the child, young person or adult and those around him or her and enables all services, including schools, colleges, employers and social care, to provide properly targeted and consistent support.



Open 2 Autism Team East Cheshire NHS Trust

Macclesfield Hospital, part of East Cheshire NHS Trust, was the first UK hospital to achieve the National Autistic Society’s Autism Access Award. 
Open2Autism involves comprehensive cultural change to make acute hospital services more accessible for autistic people, a challenge as health services are often very structured. This requires flexibility across services and to help staff do this, the service introduced training for clinical staff and workshops developing key staff into autism link practitioners. 
The outcome is a more positive experience, as staff more readily recognise when someone is experiencing difficulties, and can adopt a different approach to help them. 


Outstanding Family Support

Carer Support Team, PASDA (Supporting families of adults with autism)

The vision of PASDA is that autistic adults and families live meaningful and fulfilling lives. PASDA aims to raise awareness of the needs and aspirations of families of autistic adults, with professional bodies and the public, in order to influence policy and change attitudes. They aim to work in partnership with others to promote the sharing of practical knowledge and experience in order to improve the quality and range of services available to autistic adults and their family carers. PASDA works in partnership to be carer-led, innovative, resourceful, inclusive and compassionate.




Playworkers- The Yard Adventure

TThe Yard provides care, support and opportunities for fun and friendship for disabled children and young people. The services encourages families to let go and promote challenge, personal growth and supported independence for their children. Their team of specialist playworkers and their unfettered commitment to excellence, combined with decades of good practice is what drives their success and gives them the confidence to know that they really can make a difference to the lives of disabled children and young people across Scotland.




The National Autistic Society Pro Bono Team, Exchange Chambers

Exchange Chambers entered a pro-bono alliance with the NAS five years ago. Until then, they had generally been unable to offer representation at hearings. Many parents, already exhausted by the demands of caring for a child with a lifelong disability, were understandably daunted by the prospect of arguing their case before the Special Educational Needs Tribunal. Barristers from Exchange Chambers now provide free legal representation at such hearings, using their strong advocacy skills to empower and represent parents in the most effective way.



Award for Most Creative Community Project

Active for Autism, The National Autistic Society

The National Autistic Society’s Active for Autism programme was designed to educate coaches and activity leaders so that they can support people on the autism spectrum in sport or physical activity settings.

Active for Autism aims to increase:

  • the confidence and skills of sports practitioners
  • the levels of participation of people on the autism spectrum in sport & physical activity; empowering them to make informed choices about their physical activity and sustaining their involvement over time
  • the self-esteem and wellbeing of people on the autism spectrum through their participation in sport, improving their enjoyment and providing sense of achievement in their physical abilities.
Leicester Day Services, The National Autistic Society

Blaby Road is a modern, autism friendly hub based in the heart of a busy community setting. The people supported by the service can also engage in a number of activities including cookery, technology and office work. The aim of the service is to provide a welcoming low-arousal environment where autistic adults take part in a wide range of meaningful activities. With individualised support, they are able to participate in enjoyable activities both at the centre and in the community, whilst also developing their interests, confidence and independence.



Surf School, The National Autistic Society

The surf school was launched by the National Autistic Society’s Scotland’s Moray and Nairn branch in July 2015. It is run by two volunteers- branch chairperson, Glyn Morris, and water sports instructor, Kev Anderson. As well as giving autistic people an adventure and chance to try something new, the surf school increases confidence and social interaction. Lessons are held on the beach during the summer, and move indoors to a swimming pool in winter. The uptake has been fantastic: lessons are always fully booked on the day they are announced.



Most Supportive Employer

Autism Oxford

Autism Oxford UK’s team is a pioneering collaboration of autistic and neuro-typical people.  Founded in 2009, the team includes autistic trainers, volunteers, parents and therapists. They teach the realities of life with autism (speaking to 3866 professionals in 2014/15), provide Autism Alert Card scheme, and support adults to diagnostic assessment.  Autistic team members enjoy individualised person-centred support, including specialist therapy, adjustments for communication, sensory, anxiety, cognitive and cultural issues, organising, planning, hours and transport. Team earnings fund all support.


Goldman Sachs International

The GS Autism Work Placement Programme commenced with their first placement in 2003. The internal working group responsible for the programme focuses on raising awareness of the programme and identifying placement opportunities within their core business areas, services and support functions, specifically for autistic people. The group, which comprises individuals from across the firm, work with Human Capital Management and AS Mentoring to ensure both the interview process and 6 month placement itself are properly supported and reasonable adjustments are made. This has led to continued success with over 60 placements throughout the firm.



Tapa Edinburgh

It is more than fair to say that the guys at Tapa felt a little embarrassed to be nominated- as Mathew is not only such an integral part of their Kitchen Team, but also because his autism has never been an issue- that it was only when they stood back and considered how far Mathew had come in his time with them that they realized just how much he had actually achieved. The Team feel it is important that everyone knows that they took Mathew on, not because of his autism, but because they liked him and saw an opportunity to train a young man. The journey they have shared has been enriching for everybody and the guys have been imploring more employers to look beyond individual differences when employing- as the rewards are so great for everyone involved.



Autism Accreditation Excellence Award

Limpsfield Grange School

Limpsfield Grange is an outstanding residential school for girls with communication and interaction needs in Surrey. The school allows students unable to manage the mainstream school environment, due to anxiety, to benefit from the full mainstream curriculum.

All students have a Statement of Special Educational Needs or an Education Health and Care Plan. Over 60% of current students have a diagnosis of autism, and many students have additional mental health needs.

Limpsfield Grange aims to re-imagine autism through the lens of gender. As the school that has the largest community of autistic girls in one place in the UK, the school believes that their role is far wider than educating members of their immediate community.


Greenside School

Everything that is done at Greenside school is underpinned by a belief in the importance of establishing relationships and support strategies that allow everyone to access learning and life opportunities.
The Greenside Studio is a specialist, vocational teaching resource, based within the heart of the school’s local community. A ‘’living classroom’’ this local shop provides exceptional opportunities for young autistic people or people with severe learning difficulties to undertake work related learning, including vocational courses designed to develop communication, social interaction and independence skills.



Progress school

Progress Care and Education has been rated as an outstanding special school in all areas by Ofsted. The school provides care and support for pupils with severe learning difficulties, challenging behaviour and autism. Their approach offers individual tailored support and therapeutic practices to enable each child and young person in their care to develop their social and educational skills, along-side teaching them life skills for the future. The ethos of the school is evident in the way they communicate with their individuals, ensuring autistic strategies are in place to offer a safe, enjoyable, learning and living environment.