Congratulations to all the winners of the 2013 Autism Professionals Awards.

Winner of the Axcis Award for Achievement by an Individual Education Professional

Winner: Soraya Monzon Diaz Wing Coordinator, Portfield School

Soraya has shown an exceptional commitment in trialling innovative approaches to support students. She has played a significant role in Portfield School’s peer reviews, the development of in-house training programmes and in supporting staff and students through challenging periods of change and development.

Some students can be particularly challenging and Soraya has employed a wide range of creative strategies to enable students to have continued access to the curriculum.

Soraya liaises closely with parents to strive for consistency between home and school life for students. One parent said she has been ‘given her life back’ and calls Soraya her angel.

Soraya has been totally dedicated to the school and its students. Her infectious enthusiasm has been a huge motivator for other staff.


Winner of the Lifetime Achievement

Winner: Dr Judith Gould Director - NAS Lorna Wing Centre for Autism

Judith is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist, with 40 years experience in research and clinical practice.

Judith’s early work in the 1970’s led to the concept of a spectrum of autistic conditions.

Judith developed a professional training programme in her methods of diagnosis, DISCO, to-date reaching over 1,500 professionals. This training is offered nationally and internationally.

Her commitment to her clinical work with individuals and their families remains an important aspect of her work. Her current passion is the recognition of the way in which autism manifests itself in girls and women.

Everyone who has worked with her have been inspired by her dedication and have themselves remained in the field of autism. Her lifetime of work will continue to have long term benefits for people with autism.


The Award for Inspirational Education Provision

Winner: Farringdon Autism Spectrum Provision

We are an LA-directed provision for children with Autism Spectrum (AS) and are situated within Farringdon Community Sports College in Sunderland. We have been established since 2007 and are now in our fifth year, with students in Years 7-11. We were the first provision of this type in Sunderland and currently admit students city-wide who have a statement of SEN and a firm diagnosis of AS.

We have places for 6 students per year group plus up to an additional 3 assessment places. The LA provides teaching assistants on a 1:2 ratio, plus AS specialist teachers in the roles of manager and deputy manager.
Enhanced transition planning and preparation takes place in Year 6 and Year 9 as groundwork towards both key stages and the challenges they present to both students and families. An independent living skills and travel skills programme is to be delivered in the summer term for our Year 11 leavers in preparation for their transition to further education or employment. Read more...

At Farringdon, we consider unstructured times of day to be important learning opportunities for our students with AS. As well as providing a safe haven, we also operate an activity choice system staffed by AS trained TAs.

Emotional understanding is addressed through various means such as quiet room, sensory room, sensory diets, social stories, drawing out feelings, comic strip, barometers, 5-point scales.
We operate an open door policy, and all parents are made welcome within the provision. They are able to make contact through the medium which is most suitable to them, whether it be phone, email or home/school diaries.

Farringdon ASP is best suited to students:
- who can access mainstream lessons with support - who have autism as their primary presentation, even if they have multiple diagnoses
- whose parents/carers are happy for their AS to be discussed openly and positively with them in order to help them understand their needs. This will enable them to develop independent coping strategies to assist their learning and development, rather than perceive their AS as a block to their success in later life.

Our vision for our provision is that we grow as we go- Farringdon feeds the future, building the foundation for life long learning and development.

In the AS provision at Farringdon, we are passionate about Autism. We promote good autism practice, encourage positive attitudes and celebrate difference.

We aim to create a nurturing learning environment that champions individuality and enables students to fulfil their personal potential. During their time in Farringdon AS Provision, our students will be encouraged to develop respect for themselves and others and build confidence and self esteem so that they may have pride in themselves.

Every student should leave with a better understanding of the world and the ability to function successfully in society and make a valuable contribution to their community.

“Its all cakes and cuddles in this spinning world!” Y7 Student in ASP



The Award for Outstanding Adult Services

Winner: Autism Initiatives Number 6 One-Stop-Shop

The Number 6 - One Stop Shop supports adults with high functioning autism and Asperger Syndrome. Since opening in 2005, Number 6 has supported over 800 people from Edinburgh, the Lothians and most recently from the Scottish Borders.

On commencement of our services the concept of a one-stop-shop was completely innovative. Workshops and activities were (and still are) developed around the needs of the individual and are evaluated by the individuals themselves. This results in real service user involvement rather than tokenistic approaches. This high level of reflexivity has ensured No 6’s continued relevance.

Services and activities can be accessed from one place - a hub. Where the individual is unable to access the hub, staff will meet them out-with and bring the services, where possible, to them. Workshops and activities are also held outwith our city centre location - within East, Mid and West Lothian – to ensure geography is not a barrier.

To ensure we provide the right services to as many people as possible and make best use of staff resources, we have developed group work-shops where emerging themes are identified, including –

  • Employment - practical help
  • Relationships guidance
  • Late Diagnosis Group - there has been very limited support to people with autism who have received a diagnosis later in life. This group is developed with real life examples
  • Live Life to the Full - although this is available generically, we have adapted this course to take into consideration the specific needs and thinking styles of people with autism.

All our approaches are strengths based and we take time to understand individual thinking styles and develop personalised approaches to capitalise on strengths and skills and to support the individual in realising their gifts and aspirations. Our groups promote peer support and ‘peer power’.

The environment of our base is sympathetic to the needs of individuals and can be arranged to take into account of any sensory differences.

Funding received through Health and Local Authorities is not enough to provide a full service therefore we are reliant on our staffs extremely creative fundraising pursuits.

We support other organisations, professionals and groups by providing space for their groups and meetings. Our close links with NHS Lothian diagnostic team results in the co-production and delivery of training with them.

The impact No 6 has had on individuals and their families can not be underestimated and includes –

  • Decreased social isolation - through work shops, social evenings, group activities (including football, snooker, film nights, drop-ins). These help develop social networks and build personal capacity
  • Increased access to housing - through our 'Flat mates' project, we support people to find flatmates and accommodation
  • Decrease admission to hospital - due to the identification of early on-sight signals and increased socialisation
  • Increased self-awareness of their autism and developing strategies to improve quality of life
  • Increased self esteem, confidence and well-being
  • Improved public awareness - free training to external groups including police, social workers, local authority workers, health professionals


TThe Award for Clinical Excellence

Winner: Special Assessment Clinic (Cardiff University)

To illustrate the work of the Special Assessment Clinic we followed R as she was assessed.

R was referred for a routine eye examination as part of her healthcare plan. Her carers informed us that she becomes distressed and agitated in clinical settings. We reassured them that our examination rooms were as un-clinic like as possible. We have removed the ‘big black’ chair and replaced it with a number of waiting room chairs so everyone can sit together. There were no white coats and no traditional letter chart. R was told that she would be seen by Andy and was sent a photograph with the appointment details. There are no closed doors and privacy is maintained by the use of curtains. Everyone is identified by first name.

We were also told that she had no verbal communication and we were able to reassure staff that we had tests that would allow us examine R without relying on her verbal responses.

Upon arrival at the clinic one member of the care team reported to the reception staff that R was becoming agitated in the car due to the change of her normal routine. We were able to bring R directly to the examination room without needing to spend time in the communal waiting area.

It soon became apparent that R preferred to stand during the examination and carers were assured that this is not unusual and that Andy would be able to accommodate this without compromising the results.

R had the detail of her vision checked using the Cardiff Acuity test. This test was developed in the clinic and resembles a PECs flash card with a picture either at the top or the bottom of the card. By watching R’s eye movements when shown the card we are able to determine if she can see the picture. The detail of the picture is made smaller until the result becomes ambiguous. Unfortunately R was becoming agitated and only managed to look at a few cards. Andy was again able to reassure the staff that this was normal behaviour and that the strategy we adopt is to record a minimum seen and that on subsequent visits we start at this level and work smaller.

During the visit Andy was assisted by two final year students. The clinical teaching that this provides is invaluable as it provides a community based skill set that allows people to be seen in local practices.

The examination finished when R indicated that she was ready to leave. A continuing care plan was agreed. This identified that it would be beneficial to see R again in 6 months, and indicated what she could see. This information was provided on the day and by a follow up written report. This provides information in ‘real world’ terms. For instance for R we had no concerns about her vision for walking around and participating in her classes. We also suggested that this information is included in her personal communication passport.

The Award for Innovative Family Support

Winner: Oxfordshire Autism Family Support, Children in Touch

What we do:

Oxfordshire AFS aims to stretch its very limited resources by utilising expertise to maximise our positive impact on the lives of autistic children. The chief vehicle for is partnership working and creating enthusiasm within partnership organisations and commissioners for supporting autistic children.

AFS employs three full time staff and three youth group leaders who work a few hours each week to organise the efforts of volunteers in weekly local your groups.

Through the local Autism Partnership Board, AFS has gained a reputation for delivering high quality projects efficiently and effectively. This has given us the support of parents as well as leverage with 3 NHS Trusts, Children's Services and schools.

Projects currently include:

  • Ongoing support of three youth groups for different age groups
  • A befriending service, partnering autistic children with non-autistic children
  • Holiday play schemes were expanded for 8-18 year olds, mainly staffed by volunteers. These involve activities include canoeing, rock climbing, yoga and mechanics.
  • Innovative Sensory Processing courses for parents and professionals, generating huge interest in further training. Our lobbying for sensory processing awareness has resulted in Paediatric Occupation Therapists presenting a business case for this work to be funded within their service.
  • A training program in autism awareness for professionals
  • Expanding AFS's remit to include young adults. Recruiting a Community Outreach Worker to support 14-25 year olds. This post is part funded by Oxfordshire County Council, as a result of a needs analysis.
  • A Social Situations course for 12-16 year olds managed by AFS, pooling expertise from the Local
  • Authority and Oxford Health (NHS).

What's been achieved?

During 2011 AFS responded to 177 new referrals, during 2012 it responded to over 200 referrals.
We have become established as the first point of call for families after diagnosis, with referrals being received from clinicians, at a rate of 18 new referrals per month.
All new families are offered a home visit and a Family Information Pack.
The project has been involved with 1200children and their families.
Paediatricians have endorsed the quality of AFS services by agreeing to co-work with AFS and to promote their services by distributing AFS literature to all families with a newly diagnosed child.