The 2018 Winners

Awards for an Individual

The Axcis Award for Achievement by an Individual Education Professional

Winner: 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.

Lifetime Achievement Award

Kindly sponsored by Pulse Community Healthcare

Winner: Dame Stephanie Shirley

Award for Outstanding Achievement by an Individual on the Autism Spectrum

Winner: 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.

Award for Most Inspirational Volunteer

Kindly sponsored by Room to Reward

Winner: 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.

Award for Outstanding Healthcare Professional

Winner: 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.

Award for Most Inspirational Social Care Professional

Winner: 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

Winner: 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!”

Award for Inspirational Education Provision - Higher and further education

Winner: 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

Winner: 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.”

Award for Outstanding Adult Services

Winner: 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.

Award for Outstanding Health Services

Winner: 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.

Award for Outstanding Family Support

Winner: 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.

Award for Most Supportive Employer

Winner: 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.

Award for Most Creative Community Project

Kindly sponsored by Axia ASD Ltd

Wnner: 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’.


Autism Accreditation Excellence Award

Winner: 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.