The 2018 Finalists

Our 10 judges, leading experts in the field of autism have chosen the finalists for the 2018 Autism Professionals Awards. Congratulations to all 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.

Axia ASD Ltd is a Chester-based diagnostic service for Autism Spectrum Disorder, Dyspraxia/Developmental Coordination Difficulties and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, amongst both children and adults.

Pulse Community Healthcare provides specialist outcome focused support for both children and adults with a learning disability and/or autism diagnosis, who may present with behaviours of concern.

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.

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


‘Room to Reward’ is a registered charity, founded within the hotel industry, working to reward deserving charity workers and volunteers with complimentary hotel breaks.



















































































































































































































































































































Awards for an Individual

The Axcis Award for Achievement by an Individual Education Professional

Adele Beeson

Adele started her career as a primary teacher with an interest in special educational needs. With the diagnosis of her son she became interested in autism and retrained as an autism professional. She has since supported autistic people across the full age-range in a variety of settings.

Adele now works as a specialist study skills tutor for Spectrum First ltd.  supporting university students to achieve their full potential. Her special interest within the field is sensory processing and she has been working with her students to develop a sensory curriculum as an awareness-building tool. She has recently led staff training in sensory processing.

Adele was diagnosed with autism and ADHD while studying for the MA Autism Spectrum which she completed in 2017.

Joanna Hastwell, Disability Adviser (Autism), University Cambridge

From studying fine art and the representation of disability in art, Joanna began her career in education. Nearly 15 years later Joanna has gone on to work on inclusion in higher education and universal design for learning. Some time ago Joanna studied Autism at Sheffield Hallam University and has co-published participatorary research and delivered projects which have contributed to positive changes in higher education. Joanna worked for Autism Victoria in Melbourne gaining an international perspective and, back in the UK is a board member for the National Association of Disability Practitioners.

Joanna continues to support students with autism to develop their own voice on equality and diversity, and work collaboratively across disciplines to realise inclusive practice.


Lifetime Achievement Award

Kindly sponsored by Pulse Community Healthcare

To be announced at the ceremony

Award for Outstanding Achievement by an Individual on the Autism Spectrum

Laura James - Bluebird, an imprint of Pan Macmillan

LAURA JAMES is an author and journalist. Her writing has appeared in many national and international newspapers and magazines. Odd Girl Out, her memoir on autism, is her ninth book. Since her diagnosis, she has campaigned for autism awareness and acceptance. She is the mother of four adult children and lives in Norfolk with her husband, their cat and two dogs.


Philip Coupe - BAE Systems

Phillip Is an ex design engineer, now an airworthiness engineer for BAE Systems. He came out of his time as an apprentice in design and has since then worked hard to campaign for disabilities and particularly Autism awareness in the work place.

He was diagnosed at 16 but knew something was “different” since a very young age. He took his knowledge of autism and growing up with it and has applied it to his daily life and making BAE Systems a better place, winning awards as part of a diversity team and improving local and broader teams across the Uk with his knowledge and insight into the disability.

As part of his work he has helped to form the BAE Systems UK wide disabilities network which has just passed its first year which has allowed him to reach further than he ever could before. It was his presentation to the board of directors which got the funding which Phillip sees as a great achievement.

Many people have told him that their lives have changed thanks to his work, their lives now have a purpose and a weight has been lifted. His belief is that this is what makes it worth it and drives him to keep going and pushing for more and more awareness in the workplace.

Award for Most Inspirational Volunteer

Kindly sponsored by Room to Reward

Mandy Garford - The National Autistic Society

Mandy is the mother of 3 children on the autistic spectrum and a qualified teacher who specialised in challenging behaviour. Mandy is the Chairperson of the Dartford and Gravesham Branch supporting children and adults on the spectrum and their families. Mandy also speaks on Autism at Canterbury Christ Church University, to various groups such as Kent Search and Rescue, and held a ‘What is Autism?’ Day in her town centre.

For World Autism Awareness Week last year Mandy invited all the children on the autistic spectrum from all schools in Dartford to submit work which was displayed in a successful art exhibition. This year she has invited all the schools in Gravesham to participate in Art of Autism 2, involving an Art Exhibition Centre and a Historic Light Ship on the River Thames.

Mandy runs an Autism Café every week and is locally considered a one stop shop for Autism, supporting shops during Autism Hour, supporting Early Help, local businesses and schools, speaking to members of the community, and responding to countless emails from people living anywhere in the South East. During Autism Hour Mandy and members of the team went to speak to staff at Sainsburys, Bluewater Shopping Centre and others to ensure that staff understood the challenges faced by those on the Autistic Spectrum and were supported in their Autism Hour plans. Every step was highlighted by social media and the local community got involved. Mandy and the team visited as many Autism Hours as they could over the week drawing the attention of both the local Mayors.

Mandy has set up/admins three Autism pages and a group on Facebook, often using her local network to share any autism events such as playdays, support groups or visiting speakers, ensuring Autism Awareness is promoted within her local communities. The team rarely turn down an opportunity for an Autism stall and Mandy even arranged and ran a networking marketplace event for other charities and local groups building the community links.

Mandy is on the committee for the Multi Agency Autism Group that locally hold information talks from Autism Experts once a month for parents, carers and professionals.

Mandy is a local councillor and attends the All Party Parliamentary Group for Autism ensuring that she is aware of anything autism locally and nationally, building good relationships with local MP’s who have consequently attended autism debates and committees at Parliament, ensuring that the Autistic Voice is represented.

Dawn O'Neil - True Colours Inclusive CIC

Through out my childhood I was socially excluded, rarely invited to birthday parties, had no friends and was often isolated and bullied by the other children in my class. My education suffered as I was slower than the others and teachers didn’t have the time to spend with me except the chemistry teacher in the 3rd to 5th year of high school who worked with me and was able to achieve a C grade in Chemistry.

My parents struggled to know what to do with me and considered me to be naughty, they didn’t understand that I found things my brother did as difficult and in reality gave up on me.

Afterschool I completed a Youth training scheme in office skills, but struggled to get employment, as I would mess up interviews or be over qualified. The jobs I did have, I struggled to maintain due to the environment and being socially inadequate, so I have spent most of my life being unemployed which I hate as I know I have a lot to offer.

Over the years I have been to various GP’s who have said I had mental health issues and prescribed me with antidepressants, which I never took, as I knew I wasn’t depressed. I went to see a locum GP in 2016,who referred me for a learning disability assessment which lead to me being diagnosed on January 12th 2017 as having Asperger’s Syndrome at the age of 46!

From then on it has been my goal to make sure the younger generation with autism don’t have to go through what I did by raising awareness of autism. In March 2017 I was invited to join the Wigan adult autism partnership board where I have been an active member, delivering our ‘Autism friends ‘awareness sessions to businesses and community organisations in our local community, such as Job Coaches at the local job Centre, Wigan’s shopping centre which has lead to them now having quiet hours.Wigan council staff and Senior management team including the leader of the council & CEO of the council and Greater Manchester joint health and social care team. I also volunteer as a befriender for those that are isolated, a driver for a local transport charity and at a local autism social group.

Award for Outstanding Healthcare Professional

Penelope Clark - NHS Shetland

I moved my entire family 800 miles to Shetland to take on the lone position of Community Liaison Nurse (Learning Disabilities & Autism). Shetland has a population of 23,000 people and supporting both Adults and Children. Shetland has a very proactive Autism Strategy in place. With this I have changed the referral process so people can refer direct, cutting down waiting times and worry. I have initiated a regular Learning Disability and Autism meeting, bringing professionals and 3rd sector workers together to create a multi professional team that ensures joined up cross sector working, ensuring better communication, raising awareness and supporting better out comes for those with Autism and Learning Disabilities. I work with a ranges of services including supported living and out reach, day centres, respite services, other professionals such as children’s nurses, schools and social workers and of course individuals and their families. I also work with Shetland Health Improvement Department around training and raising funds to promote awareness and the health of those with Autism and Learning Disabilities on the Island. I believe in positive outcomes and promote Autism as such. I will support individuals and their families to embrace their diagnosis as something positive and certainly nothing to worry about.

Anna Westaway - Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust

Anna is a Senior Specialist Speech and Language Therapist who works within the mainstream schools Paediatric Speech and Language Therapy service in Sheffield. She has specialised in working with children with autism for over 15 years, including working within special schools and pre-school settings as well as multi-disciplinary assessment and diagnostic pathways. Her current role involves working with children, school staff and families directly, providing support to other speech and language therapists as well as organising and delivering training around autism and communication skills. This includes developing an enhanced pathway for children with significant communication needs in mainstream. Anna completed a MA in Autism Spectrum in 2016 at Sheffield Hallam University, and through this developed an interest in inclusive communication within healthcare, which formed the basis of her dissertation research project. She is also passionate about training for all speech and language therapists to develop their skills in working with people with autism and is producing a local resource to guide continuing professional development for staff at all levels of their career.

Award for Most Inspirational Social Care Professional

Lorna Durant - Eden Futures

Lorna started her career in autism as a support worker in 1989. It wasn’t a planned career move but she’s never looked back. She joined Eden Futures in 2014 and was appointed onto the Executive Team in 2016. Her objective is to always keep Autism on the agenda supporting the progression of understanding and development within the organisation. She launched Eden’s first Autism Strategy in 2016 with a clear vision to make Eden Futures the best provider of services for people with Autism. Lorna is passionate about service user involvement, ensuring the voices of those with lived experience is never silenced and Positive Behaviour Support. She developed and facilitates an organisational Expert by Experience program and a Partners Board.


Carmel Perry - Together Trust

Carmel has over 38 years’ experience working in health and social care. Her life-long passion began as a teenager in Ireland where she volunteered at St Paul’s school youth group supporting young disabled children. Carmel’s working career began at St Thomas’s Hospital in Stockport as a nursing assistant. Followed by working at Cale Green Nursing home, also in Stockport, for 18 years. In 2000 Carmel joined the Together Trust as a night care worker. The charity aims to empower the people who use the services to help them break through their barriers, to take control of their lives and experience happiness and feelings of self-worth. And this is very much Carmel’s mantra. In 2004 the Together Trust opened a new home, Pocket Nook and Carmel was appointed as registered manager. Pocket Nook is a specialist home in Bolton catering for five children and young people all of whom have autism and severe learning disabilities. Since it’s opening in 2004, Carmel has cared for 17 young people. During that time, she has received overall outstanding Ofsted judgements at key inspections in seven of the last nine years. Carmel is an inspirational leader to her team and holds the NVQ 4 in leadership and management. Because of this she offers fantastic support to the children in her care making a real difference to their life opportunities and experiences. Outside of her responsibilities at the home, she is actively involved in organising and running participation, activity and engagement events for children and young people across the Together Trust. And in her spare time, Carmel enjoys the simple things in life - walking, outdoor activities alongside supporting and helping people. In the words of one child’s mother: “Carmel sets the gold star in giving and demanding the best for children in her care. Our family owes a huge debt of gratitude to Carmel and her staff she is a truly inspirational and caring professional.

Carolyn Tucker - Surrey Choices

I was born in 1947 and lived in Kentish Town, London. I lived and worked in London until I got married, then moved to Hounslow, finally moving to Ashford, Surrey after having my daughter.

I joined EmployAbility in May 2001. I previously worked as a secretary/PA for some high profile companies, working for different MD’s and Chairmen at Bell Atlantic, Bell Canada, Olivetti, March Cars (Formula 3 racing company).

Whilst working for a Media Freight organisation as secretary to the owner, I became friendly with a young man who was deaf. One day, whilst looking through the local paper, I noticed an advertisement for an Employment Support Officer, working for Surrey County Council – the Team was called EmployAbility. I believe EmployAbility had only been going for about two or three years when I started. They had branched off from the Day Centres. I applied for the job and was surprised to be asked along for an interview. I didn’t really have any experience of any type of disability, apart from the young man who worked in the office (who by the way had taught me how to sign ‘good morning’). So didn’t think I would get the job. One of the questions I was asked at my interview was, “Why should an employer employ someone with a disability?” My answer to that was “Why Not?”

I found out, many years later, that reply, clinched the job for me. I still believe very much 'Why Not' and will go out of my way to ensure all my customers are given the same opportunities as people who don’t have any disabilities.

I have always been fortunate in my endeavours to find employment for people with different disabilities and have, over the years, been very lucky in always being one of the Team who breaks all targets and usually doubles them – One year I even trebled them! I love a challenge and if someone tells me I will never get this or that person into a paid job, I go out of my way to prove them wrong! Don’t ever tell me I can’t do something – I will… I have a sign by my desk it say’s I CAN AND I WILL. WATCH ME!!!! I also have another sign that states WELL BEHAVED WOMEN RARELY MAKE HISTORY!!!!! This probably defines me as well – Oh dear!!!

EmployAbility has grown over the years in size. EmployAbility is now part of Surrey Choices. This is a Local Authority Trading Company which is solely owned by Surrey County Council. I have in recent years learnt BSL (Level 2) and feel, however much I think I know, there is still so much more to learn.

Whilst working for Surrey County Council I gained two NVQ3's, one in Supported Employment and the other in Advice and Guidance. (Include it is section where I mention my BSL Lvl 2.

I have noticed, over the last 5 years, I work with a much higher percentage of people who come under the Autistic Spectrum. Everyone under this spectrum is different and I feel very strongly it is wrong to label people. I look at each individual, their strengths, their fears, what they are able to do and what is difficult for them. Different environments they are able to work in (or not, as is the case with some of my customers). What scares them, what causes anxiety, stress, and start with this. I get to know each and every customer well. I am always open with them. They have to be able to trust me before they can move forward. I get to know whether they can talk on the phone, or whether they prefer a text, how long it takes to process the information I have given them and I always try not to change things last moment if possible, or give them something to process last minute. I always endeavour to find a job that dovetails their skills with employers who accept not only our support and training but learn to accept wholeheartedly their new employee into their organisation inclusively.

Over the years, I have worked with many different staff members. I have built up great relationships with families and employers and hope that the knowledge I have learnt over the years has enabled me to open doors and fulfil the dreams of all my customers. Of course, I don’t always get things right, there are failures, I am not perfect, BUT I do believe, in the end the success stories outweigh the failures and some of those success stories make my job the best job in the world!

Team Awards

Award for Inspirational Education Provision - Schools

Ashley High School

Ashley High School delivers high quality teaching and specialist knowledge for students aged 11- to 19 year-olds with high functioning Autistic Spectrum Condition, Aspergers Syndrome and social communication needs. We provide a safe and supportive environment and passionately believe in the value of an excellent education. Staff at Ashley are highly trained in holistic approaches for supporting students and recognise that they will achieve best when their mental health, emotional well-being, sensory and communication needs are being met. Thanks to this targeted support and individual interventions, student’s talents are recognised and they are able to gain outstanding personal and academic achievements, which are exceptional considering their starting points. All of our students leave with qualifications ranging from Entry Level Certificates to GCSE to BTEC and City and Guilds. In September 2014 the new Ashley Sixth Form and Enterprise Zone was created to further support student’s personal and academic development and to prepare them for independent adult life.. This has led to a high percentage of students confidently achieving vocational qualifications, further education and employment. Ashley High School has always worked at the heart of its community. We believe in working with the community to raise the achievement and aspirations of our students and families. Residential visits, German exchange visits, Duke of Edinburgh, Forest Schools, along with a range of extra-curricular activities and community projects, are all particular favourites; as students say they are learning to interact socially, which is a skill they need for later life. Alongside this, we have our own independent living facility and independent travel training programme. Here at Ashley High School, we feel that sharing our knowledge and expertise in the field of Autism, is important and we run a varied training programme for parents and professionals in the local area. We are always here to listen and to help. We pride ourselves on being a listening school and are pleased to share our successes. We regularly ask for feedback. During a recent parent survey one parents stated, “Everyone involved in the school is happy, positive and supportive. Leadership of the school is first class, professional, honest and realistic. We just love Ashley!”

Autism Specturm Condition Resource Provision - Wilmslow High School

The Wilmslow High School ASC Resource Provision began in a large mainstream school with over 2000 students, 13 years ago, but began evolving into the provision it is today in 2014, when Katie Goodwin took over. Forest School was introduced later that year as an alternative way of experiencing learning outside the classroom. Students are taught to use tools, make fire and den building, amongst other things. Forest School sees the students begin to take responsibility for their learning as well as taking risks and becoming natural collaborative learners. It has had a profound effect: “It is difficult to convey the impact these activities have had on my child’s self-image, confidence, social skills, learning and enjoyment of school. Thank you so much everyone!” To ensure flexible, reactive and bespoke support, the team use effective communication tools throughout the day to ensure that everyone is well briefed on any trigger points and operate a tag team approach to help with de-escalation. This communication is extended into the home environment, with parents and carers being part of the team as well. According to one parent, “The resource is like a second family … the future is bright, that was unimaginable 4 years ago!”

Gainsborough School - Gainsbrough Primary School

Gainsborough Primary school is a vibrant, diverse school community with additional resources for pupils with autism. Gainsborough’s holistic and positive attitude towards the inclusion of pupils with autism ensures that all pupils with ASD reach their potential whilst being educated within their local community. At Gainsborough pupils access highly specialist and personalised curriculums including targeted interventions such as attention autism, sensory circuits, messy play, sensory stories, intensive interaction, hydrotherapy and much more. Gainsborough is committed to ensuring that pupils develop skills that they need to have outcomes that are successful beyond their primary school experience, this includes promoting emotional resilience skills, life skills and communication skills. The school is committed to pupils using school funded high tech communication devices at home and also taking them on to their secondary placements so that skills learnt at Gainsborough are meaningful and long lasting. Pupils with autism are a central part of the school community. The nomination for the whole school team rather than the inclusion team only celebrates that at Gainsborough the whole school community supports pupils with autism. This is promoted in a variety of ways including autism awareness events, whole school commitment to using language and visual supports, all school staff having enhanced training, video interaction professional development for all staff and mainstream peers being involved in interventions for their classmates with autism.

Award for Inspirational Education Provision - Higher and further education

Birtenshaw College

Birtenshaw College was established in 2014 in response to the lack of local further education opportunities for young adults with a disability. Personalised learning is at the heart of the College Curriculum and focuses on the Preparing for Adulthood outcomes and desired long term aspirations as identified in learners’ Education and Health Care plans. The College has high expectations and believes that all learners should have a voice and make choices about their future. The College has created its own smallholding farm and community café to develop employability skills for its learners. As a relatively new provision, its strong reputation within the community has resulted in Birtenshaw College being the first choice post-16 provision for many families.


Coleg Elidyr Education and Care Team

Set in 180 acres in rural Carmarthenshire, Specialist Further Education College Coleg Elidyr is judged as ‘Excellent’ by Estyn, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate for Wales. The college continues to go from strength to strength and is the only Further Education College in Wales to have secured formal accreditation by the National Autistic Society. It was recently featured in a BBC Wales television programme ‘Jaco and me’ that highlighted options for young people with autism in Wales. In addition to this Professional Award nomination, the college has also been shortlisted by the Times Education Supplement FE Awards for ‘Specialist Provider of the Year’ 2018. The work of the education and care teams in providing truly person-centred educational and residential provision that demonstrates a consistent understanding of the challenges facing young people with autism and learning difficulties and disabilities is widely commended. For more information visit and @colegelidyr on twitter.

Student Wellbeing Team, The University of Lincoln (WOW Summer School)

The WOW Summer School gives potential students the opportunity to develop coping strategies to deal with some of the challenges they may face in advance of enrolling on a course in September of each year. This helps to reduce potentially debilitating anxiety levels which unknown environments and new beginnings can create for this particular group of students which often can be overwhelming and may result in a student failing, interrupting or even withdrawing from University. A specific programme of events to provide students with experience of academic sessions, orientation of the city and campus, meeting the Students’ Union, a meal out together, budgeting and finance has been created by the Student Wellbeing team in a 3 day programme and 2 night stay on campus during the summer before they enrol. Students are provided with a room within the University Halls of Residence and live with other students for the duration of the residential. This gives them the opportunity to engage socially with their peers and to build strong relationships which could potentially last for the duration of their study. The summer school also includes an introductory session during the Welcome day to support parents, delivered separately from the students, which provides answers to any queries that they may have about their child becoming a student and the level of involvement they may want to have. The Student Wellbeing Team are on site 24/7 to help support students; however, every effort is made to ensure that the students received an experience which would reflect real University life. The students are also supported by a team of Student Crew to assist them with any challenges they have during the week. Questionnaires are completed following the programme and feedback has been extremely positive, indicating that the aims of the summer school are being met in terms of the students’ perceptions of the experience. The results indicate that the experience offers a significant and positive impact for students in terms of their retention and progression levels in their chosen programme of study. Students reported feeling less anxious about starting in the September and feedback included the following statements: “I feel completely different about joining university now; I am not anxious at all and can’t wait to return in September” “I definitely feel more comfortable with the staff and feel happy that they are all so approachable and supportive”. “My daughter has gone from being anxious at the mere mention of University to actively looking forward to coming in September! She said she could never have coped with everything all at once and the summer school has really helped her” “I think this course is a fantastic idea and will more than likely be a huge part of the reason I’ll attend in September. Thank you very much” “One of the best decisions I’ve made. Would recommend to all that are unsure about uni”


Award for Inspirational Education Provision - Other Education Providers

IMPACT - Gloucestershire County Council

IMPACT is a multi-agency support service for children and young people in mainstream schools and Early Years settings, their families, teachers and support staff. The team aims to enable inclusion for pupils with autism, working closely with families and educational settings. IMPACT believes all pupils with Autism are entitled to an education that enables them to fulfil their potential and live a happy life. IMPACT was formed in 2015, an amalgamation of several existing teams within Gloucestershire County Council. The team consists of Specialist Advisory Teachers, Specialist Senior Educational Psychologists, an Augmentative and Alternative Communication tutor and Speech and Language Therapists. The team mission statement summarises its ethos and purpose. “IMPACT exists to enable Children and Young people with autism to access education; thrive emotionally and socially; and succeed in life. The team provides support for Children and Young people with autism, advice and training to schools, and support for parents and families.” Team members are involved in strategic planning within the county council to ensure fair and sustainable support for students with autism. Eighteen months ago IMPACT launched the Gloucestershire Autism Inclusion Quality Mark (GAIQM), an innovative project, which has, at its heart, the vision that ALL children will grow up with the roots of acceptance of diversity firmly planted within them. Schools are awarded the GAIQM upon successful completion of a set of standards and an ethos that not only accepts but recognises the value of students with autism. Three settings have already achieved the award and over 50 schools are working towards achievement. Since the launch of the GAIQM, training has been delivered to over 1500 school teaching and support staff leading to increased awareness, understanding and confidence. Alongside the school and community training programme IMPACT hold regular programmes for parents: – The National Autistic Society’s EarlyBird+ programme, Healthy Minds programme and IMPACT’s very own pre-school and 9+ parent programme. At least 50 parents attend each year. The IMPACT team was recently accredited by the National Autistic Society following sustained work with an advisor. Feedback included the acknowledgement that the team have “dedicated supportive staff willing to share amongst themselves, and working beyond the call of duty.”

Intensive Support Team - Outdoor Woodland Learning School CIC

Outdoor Woodland Learning School CIC was started by Esther in 2012 in response to the need to provide outdoor play and learning for children and young people in North East Scotland. Over the last six years it has developed into providing individualised learning programmes for autistic children who have difficulties in accessing either mainstream education or their special educational establishment. Additionally, we support schools who require provision to manage unwanted behaviours. There are now five of us working through the Intensive Support programmes in the outdoor environment across an area of over 6300km2 . Our collaborative and nurturing approach enables autistic children to be both nurtured themselves but also to learn how to nuture others via their own experience. Through using our verbal and emotional interactions as a model on how to interact with children, we seek to enable children to develop a greater understanding of practical empathy. We seek to support autistic children to enable them to have better mental health, both now and in the future. In learning through their experience that the outdoor natural environment is one in which they can relax and re-engage with themselves, children are learning to utilise this knowledge and skill now. Through supporting the schools in creating a more inclusive environment of learning for each individual autistic child, we are supporting the development of a strengths based curriculum that can only benefit each autistic child in their own lifelong learning.

Musical Portraits Team Summer Project - Turtle Key Arts

Musical Portraits is produced and devised by Turtle Key Arts in partnership with the National Portrait Gallery and Wigmore Hall and has been held each year since 2010, it takes place over a week in the summer holidays and is for young people aged 10 to 14 with autism spectrum conditions. The participants are encouraged to use the portraits at the National Portrait Gallery as a stimulus to create their own music by an artist from the gallery, a professional composer and the Wigmore Hall musical ensemble "Ignite". The week ends with a live performance for friends and family. Musical Portraits, free to all participants, inspires confidence and provides opportunities to make social connections with other young people with similar interests and challenges. “I made friends for the first time ever” Musical Portrait Participant “It has been lovely to see my son interact with the other children. Even remembering somebody else’s name is a big step. Many thanks.” “My son said he feels normal and understood for the first time ever, and he we was actually looking forward to seeing other children.” Feedback from Parents of Musical Portraits participants.

Award for Outstanding Adult Services

Alpha 1 Supported Living Unit - HMP & YOI PARC

Once in a prison setting there is the potential for prisoners with a learning disability/autism to fail to comply with their sentence and may be vulnerable to misunderstanding the rules, to bullying and to isolation. Staff working on the Supported Living Unit have a sound awareness, have received job related training and are supported by the LD Nurses to know what it means to have a possible learning disability. They have the necessary skills and competence to adapt the way they approach completion of the routine tasks and process an understanding. The team assisted in changing the unit from a Standard working unit to the Supported Living Unit and worked closely with Education and Healthcare services to improve the level of care and support we were offering, individuals with Autism or Asperger’s. We set up two classrooms one as a learning environment and another as a games room( pictures attached). The classroom was individualized to each individual and ensured they could spend time as a class or if they struggled in busier surroundings they could have more individual time with the buddy mentors and peer partners to enable their learning was maximized. In the games room we used a game called Warhammer and this provided learners with a chance to paint characters that will then be used in a strategy type board game. It has proven helpful in dealing with people with learning difficulties. A classroom was designed to hold the Warhammer workshops which will take place during the core day as part of the time the peer mentors will spend with the Supported learners. The unit has proven to be a significant success with those with learning disabilities improving their behaviour and their basic skills and making their time in Prison far more productive.


AutAngel is an autistic-led social enterprise, which develops autistic-run ventures to support autistic people to lead fulfilling lives and feel able to contribute to society and help transform it to be more inclusive. We are keen to work with allies in the wider community.

Our innovative 10-week programme “Exploring Being Autistic” offers autistic adults the opportunity to explore how autism affects them, together with a group of peers. It was created by our founder and director Caroline Hearst who wanted to offer other autistic adults the experience she would have liked to find when she discovered, as an adult, that she is autistic. Dr Laura Crane conducted a research study into the group which showed that participants were very enthusiastic about it and found it helpful, even life changing. The fact that it was autistic-run was highly valued and felt to be beneficial.  Comments of participants include “I will always appreciate the way this programme opened up my view of autism and helped me see the positive side of it. It has been one of the things that has helped me change my life around” and “It was like finding the classroom where you could actually be normal and make friends and I don’t think any of us have experienced that”. Some participants in the programme now volunteer with AutAngel enabling us to broaden the scope of what we offer.

We also run a follow on group for people who have completed “Exploring Being Autistic”, a monthly peer support group and a weekly gardening group that meets on an allotment. Members work the soil and reap the rewards in vegetables and companionship. Our website offers various resources to the autistic and wider community including a calendar of events featuring autistic people and a directory of experienced autistic autism awareness trainers.

We are a small organisation with currently three directors and four volunteers. To date we have run projects on a short term contract basis. We are keen to expand to ensure continuity while staying grounded and true to our mission.

Wigan Adult Autism Partnership Board

A creative and powerful movement for change has been developed in Wigan that is driven by an Adult Autism Partnership Board that continually demonstrates a genuine focus on capturing the gifts and talents of people with autism and places people with autism at the heart of all decision making. This ambitious approach has resulted in real innovation including virtual tours of key public buildings across Wigan Borough including shopping centres, Leisure Centres and Schools, reducing anxiety for people with autism and opening up new life changing opportunities. In Wigan people with autism have co-produced and co-deliver autism awareness sessions ‘Autism Friends’ that is changing the way people think about autism and creating an army of over 1000 autism allies to date, significantly raising understanding of autism across the Borough. This bold and pioneering approach underpins Wigan’s ambition to become one of the first autism friendly Towns in the Country and demonstrates the power of an asset based approach that has captured the imagination of people at a local, regional and national level.


Award for Outstanding Health Services

Dr Linda Buchan, Carly Bailey - Axia ASD Ltd

Axia ASD Ltd is a Chester-based diagnostic service for Autism Spectrum Disorder, Dyspraxia/Developmental Coordination Difficulties and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, amongst both children and adults. Axia is founded and directed by Dr Linda Buchan, a Consultant Clinical Psychologist with a forty-year experience in the field of Autism and neurodiversity. Axia has a vastly experienced Multidisciplinary Team of diagnosticians including Clinical Psychology, Speech and Language Therapy, Systemic Family Therapy, Mental Health Nurses, and prestigious trainers, authors and researchers in the field of Autism. Following diagnosis, individuals/families may access brief support sessions to make sense of their diagnosis and future hopes. Individuals/families may self-fund, or seek funding (with support) for, complex psychological/psychotherapeutic intervention where appropriate. Adults diagnosed at Axia can access a monthly post-diagnostic support group which hosts stimulating themes and guest speakers. Axia is committed to partnership, collaboration, empathy and innovation across all aspects of the service. Axia accepts self-funded and private healthcare referrals and is also an independent provider to the NHS (free at the point of access) for NHS Eastern Cheshire, South Cheshire, Vale Royal and Salford. In addition, Axia recently won the tender for diagnostic services of Autism Spectrum Disorder in North Wales Child and Adolescent Services.

Royal Manchester Recognising Autism Management Programme RAMP - Royal Manchester Childrens Hospital

Developed the RAMP service for children young people and families following governances issues identified and parent /carer and professionals views and stakeholder participation since 2006 /7. In partnership with service users, multi professionals and the National Autism Society and Higher Education establishments . The RMCH RAMP programme has helped raise the awareness of Autism address the Autism Act 2009 Think Autism DOH [2016] and other required standards and polices .Promoting inclusivity, equality and diversity at a strategic and operational level to meet the needs for children young people and families .The programme has previously received Nursing Times Awards and Unite the Union for Recognising Autism Management Programme for pushing boundaries and the developed RMCH pathways. Such as paediatric day case elective treatment centre, paediatric radiology and burns unit previously. The RMCH RAMP programme has included collaborative and partnership working to develop different methods of accessible communication, e g pictorial reasonable adjustments healthcare social stories etc. quality improvement work towards creating autism friendly hospital and Trust wide. For example creating the hospital Autism champion model and promoting the model nationally and internationally along with developing quality work following lessons learnt. For example paediatric pain profile developed to improve pain management for children and young people with autism. Improving pathways for children young people and families attending EEG department neuro physiology, paediatric critical care services and attending on the Hospital trauma pathway ,and other paediatric services . With developed methods of routine training and learning development on hospital induction and via additional methods .Along with publications, poster presentations, audit and research undertaken to raise the importance of this work and the achieved outcomes.

Sleep Tight Trafford- Trafford Council, Trafford Health Authority and theTogether Trust

The sleep Tight Trafford team are trained sleep counsellors and are all highly experienced in working with children with autism. Sleep Tight Trafford helps families of children with autism who have significant sleep problems and have previously been prescribed Melatonin. To date every sleep programme implemented has been successful.

Sleep Tight Trafford is an innovative service seeking to prevent problems where possible and enhance the health and wellbeing of children, enabling them to have enriched lives and greater opportunities. Rather than offering medication, the service seeks to address the cause of sleep problems and find sustainable solutions.

Improving the sleep of children and young people with autism has immense benefit to that individual and their immediate family, and this benefit has a long lasting impact. Sleep has an impact on general health and immunity and also increases resilience and emotional wellbeing. This in turn can improve school attendance and therefore educational attainment, helping to fulfil their educational potential and wider lifelong opportunities.

Star Centre Lakeside - Accomplish

The Star Centre is based in Lakeside in Bedford, supporting over 55 autistic adults. The team is made up of Psychologists, Therapy Assistants, Speech and Language and Occupational Therapists, an Art Tutor and a Fitness Instructor. The ethos of the Star Centre is based on Spectrum Star – an outcomes star for autistic adults. This is a visual tool focusing on change and achievements, so that patients can have a positive and fulfilling life and make choices right for them. After completing their Spectrum Stars patients identify areas where support is needed, the Star Centre offers tailored group sessions to support individuals on their progressive journey.

The Star Centre team work in partnership with others to provide support that enables individuals to tackle their Autism with hope and optimism and work toward a valued lifestyle within and beyond any limitation. The team are professionals who listen to patients and focus on the positive outcomes. They believe in the potential of all and through this they deliver the tools and coping strategies to enable patients to move on and live a fulling life with Autism.


Award for Outstanding Family Support

ASD Parent Carers Project East End Community Carers Hub

The charity provides a Home Care Service that operates as a social enterprise and a Carers Hub. The new Carers Hub evolved out of an original Carers Centre in the area established in 1991. The Hub was launched in May 2016. The current staff team comprises 2 full time and 2 part time staff. The ASD Parent Carers Project was set up in October 2016 to provide a range of services and support to parent carers including: A unique ASD Parents Buddying Project; Support Groups and Information Sessions; Bespoke training courses and access to the Hub’s Support and Advice Service offering help with benefit applications and appeals, grant applications and support to attend meetings. All our services are informed and directed by parents. Our aim is to bring parents together to build a strong, supportive community of ASD parents carer in the East End of Glasgow. The Project is delivered by a designated part-time Project Manager. This year we are applying for additional funding to develop a Family Support Service that will provide a range of activities for individuals with autism and their families.

KAT Family Support The Kent Autistic Trust

The Kent Autistic Trust Family Support service has been established since 1997, a free service providing confidential support, a listening ear, reliable information, practical advice, intervention and emotional support, to families, carers and individuals affected by autism. The service offers telephone, email and face to face contact, training and awareness raising for parents, carers and professionals, the issue of ‘autism alert cards’ for autistic children and adults in association with Kent Police, support and discussion with parents/carers of children and adults who are awaiting assessment for a possible diagnosis. Discussions and help obtaining diagnosis and assistance completing documentation. Also providing help with appeals for benefits, support and representation, for those who want to appeal against educational decisions through the SEN Tribunal system, discussion of behaviour strategies and help with completing application forms for benefits (Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment and Employment Support Allowance). They are the only provision in Kent and Medway that provides so many different streams of support through one service, which in itself, shows how much of an impact they have in our community, both support, advice and a helping hand to families and individuals with nowhere else to turn.

Transition Support Service - The National Autistic Society

The National Autistic Society’s Transition Support Service is the only autism-specific advocacy service in the UK supporting young people and their families with the transition from education to adult life. Getting the right transition support is vital to the future well-being and success of young autistic people, but achieving this can be a real struggle: many families describe the transition to adulthood like ‘falling off a cliff-edge’. The service offers free telephone and email advice and support on transition planning, rights and entitlements, exploring options, finding suitable provision and ensuring that young people are engaged and meaningfully involved in their own future. The service began in one National Autistic Society school in 2013 and has grown so that they now offer transition support to young autistic people and families across the UK, with law and practices varying across the 4 nations. Volunteer caseworkers, supported by highly experienced coordinators, are trained extensively in education and social welfare law, rights and entitlements and autism to ensure that young people and their families are effectively involved and understand the transition process and receive quality planning that has a positive impact on the young person’s transition and future. They support every single family who comes their way to navigate the complexities of the law and remain with them as long as they are needed. The service celebrates its 5th anniversary in 2018.

Award for Most Supportive Employer

EmployAbility at Cadent

Cadent owns, runs and maintains four gas networks in England ensuring that the gas pipes beneath the ground bring gas to your property safely. In 2014 we launched EmployAbility, a supported internship programme for students with special educational needs in their final year of education. We have built great partnerships with four local special schools who provide the students and job coaches. The interns spend an academic year in our Hinckley and Coventry offices where they work towards a BTEC qualification and complete three varied and value adding work placements. During the internship our recruitment partners Pertemps work with them on preparing for employment so at the end of the internship they all have fantastic CVs, portfolios of work completed and interview skills. We are immensely proud that to date 74% of our graduated interns have gone on to employment against a national average of just 6%. Those who don’t go on to employment go on to further education. We are now working closely with our local councils and businesses to share our experiences and hope to create many more placement and job opportunities.

Latimer's Management Team - Latimer's Seafood Deli

Latimer’s Seafood in Whitburn is a thriving deli and café business which enjoys sweeping views of the sea from which the fresh seafood produce is caught. It has become a corner stone of the local coastal economy with the Latimer family occupying a cherished place at the heart of the local business community.

The business started with two staff in 2002 and has grown significantly over the years with Robert and Ailsa Latimer’s passion for the region and their locally sourced seafood fayre generating huge local demand. It now employs a small army of 23 staff with two businesses - a seafood deli and café - under the one roof.

Latimer's is an equal opportunities employer and one member of the team Sophie Gray lives with Asperger's and she has thrived in a work environment that has been very supportive toward her.

It is very much a team effort with Robert’s industrious family, third generation Whitburn fishing stock and the site itself, long owned by the Latimer family. Even the bungalow behind the shop is where Robert was born; Ailsa is a former nurse and was brought up on a Northumberland farm. The pair share a tremendous work ethic.

Award for Most Creative Community Project

Kindly sponsored by Axia ASD Ltd

Aukestra - Aukestral Creative Solutions

Aukestra is a truly unique service in our eyes. We run an international professional touring band where many of the members are autistic and many aren’t. This doesn’t matter one bit to us. We are all musicians once we step onstage, our differences don’t dictate our journey, our talents, both collectively and individually do. For that reason we set ourselves the highest of standards when it comes to the quality of our music. We are well on our way to achieving our goal of being regarded as simply ‘a band’, not just ‘that autistic band’ or another disability music project. Hundreds of shows in mainstream venues alongside mainstream acts as well as numerous high profile corporate events has helped us to change perceptions, i.e. you can be autistic and still be as good as your mainstream contemporaries. When we started Aukestra we wanted to offer autistic people with a real talent for music an innovative and groundbreaking alternative to the usual day services or educational routes. We also wanted to provide Local Authority funders with a service that could be bespoke and value for money at the same time. We feel we’ve achieved both of these outcomes in a relatively short space of time (we are only just into our 3rd year as a business) The band is a very challenging yet highly rewarding thing to be a part of; imagine travelling across the world to perform songs and inspire people thousands of miles away. Imagine the skills you need to develop to handle the ever changing environments we visit and the huge social demands of being in the spotlight. It is daunting, no doubt about it but everybody who commits to becoming an Aukestrian will see their lives change in incredible ways. We are always striving to be different from other services and we are very proud to be at the forefront of creativity as change-makers in our chosen field. Catch us at a show and see for yourself why our mantra is ‘Don’t Be Average, Be Amazing’.

Raby Community Vocational Services - Autism Together

Raby CVS is a department that forms a part of the Community and Vocational Services at the North West charity, Autism Together. The department has been running for over 25 years and has grown significantly during that time. The current team consists of 77 staff, including 9 managers. It is set over 12 acres of countryside and the tranquil setting provide excellent sensory experiences for people with Autism. The provision offers support for adults with autism and learning disabilities with complex behavioural needs. On a daily basis we have around 70 individuals with Autism that access the service. We provide autism specific activities to enable individuals to achieve their full potential and enable them to lead fulfilled lives. We offer John Muir and ASDAN Awards and have offsite work placements to provide work experience for individuals. We have three main departments that offer activities; these are Animal Husbandry, Horticulture and Woodland Management. All the activities provided are bespoke and tailored to the individuals. Most of the work undertaken is set outdoors, where service users get to work on the farm with the animals, plant vegetables in the kitchen garden or create bird boxes and a range of other woodland projects. We hope to continue to expand the department and provide outstanding autism support to all individuals who require our service.

The National Autistic Society Scotland - external affairs

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the National Autistic Society’s work in Scotland, a group of autistic adults learned to write, hone, and perform their own comedy routines in a series of workshops over nine weeks. The workshops were designed to challenge stereotypes after research found that 73 per cent of autistic people in Scotland said that the public considers them to be ‘anti-social’ and 80 per cent feel they are judged as being 'shy'. The budding comedians were instructed by internationally renowned comedians Janey Godley and her autistic daughter Ashley Storrie. The workshops culminated in a live performance at the Scottish Parliament in front of more than 100 guests including MSPs, business leaders, friends and family.


Autism Accreditation Excellence Award

Margaret Coates Centre

The Margaret Coates Centre is a unit attached to a mainstream school to provide specialist support for children from 4 – 11 as well as offering the opportunity to access a mainstream school. The service has been running since the mid-1960s. It began with one class and has continually expanded since then due to the demand for this type of centre to its present numbers of 22. As well as supporting the children throughout the years we have also offered close support to families as well. Through regular social events, home visits and Saturday Morning clubs. Through identifying and meeting the young learners’ emotional, sensory and physical needs we have been able to ensure that all our learners are here to learn and at school to cope. We now provide music interventions, trips to our local café, gardening, parents’ café led by children, lunchtime clubs, sensory support and personalised learning programmes.

Working with each individual to ensure that their needs are met is critical to being able to deliver a relevant and interesting curriculum. One parent commented, ‘…my son used to spend all his energy coping with the environment and that left very little time when he wasn’t anxious or ‘tuned out’, here at the MCC, he is able to channel his energies into learning rather than coping’.

Phoenix School

Phoenix School is a well-established special school for children and young people with autism aged 3 to 19 and have a 19 -25 college in partnership with Tower Hamlets College. The school offers a unique service to the children of Tower Hamlets. We have created a rich and stimulating curriculum, with a strong emphasis on the expressive arts and horticulture. It is individually tailored reflecting good practice in an environment that supports the pupils’ learning. The pupils learn how to communicate using strategies such as PECS. All pupils enjoy exciting projects which are dynamic and practical and celebrate the rich nature of the school. The school offers a range of sensory and therapeutic interventions and a multidisciplinary approach to pupil needs. We have developed a holistic approach working in partnership other agencies, parents and families to have their needs met from one centre. There is a strong focus on maintaining good relationships between home and school. We encourage respect for others, good manners and tolerance. We believe it is important for pupils to achieve their full potential and importance is placed upon achievement at all levels. We have satellite classrooms based in two main stream schools, one Primary and one Secondary. The model is very effective and progress has been outstanding. Throughout the school pupil achievement is celebrated and positive rewards are used to promote and encourage good behaviour and learning. There is a caring yet purposeful atmosphere within the school and there is a balance of focus between welfare and achievement for all.

Roman Fields School

Roman Fields is an alternative provision; approximately 80% of our students have a diagnosis of ASC. It was first accredited by NAS in 2014 and re-accredited in 2017. The school has improved its academic results to the extent that they are four times better than the national average for similar schools. Even more importantly, the development of students’ social, physical and emotional health has seen significant improvements. Our accreditation report noted Roman Fields is ‘a secure base for the young people where trust can develop, where staff are sensitive to each individual, accept each student for who he/she is and bend over backwards to make the experience within the school successful.’ As a provision this is at the very heart of our ethos. The young people who come to us have, had exceedingly negative and oft times traumatic experiences prior to joining us here. It is our mission to ensure we not only consider these individual needs, but that we strive, to turn their past negative experience into positive experiences to support their future development in a holistic way. As one parent said, ‘They really look at my son’s needs and match them to plans which work. They involve me every step of the way. We are blessed to have our son at this amazing school. It has saved my son and our family. We all now have brighter futures‘. Our aim at Roman Fields is to both ensure the experience of this parent is the same for all and to ensure our youngsters repeat the successes they have enjoyed with us, throughout their adulthood.