The 2019 Finalists

Our 9 judges, leading experts in the field of autism have chosen the finalists for the 2019 Autism Professionals Awards. Congratulations to all the finalists.


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.


‘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

Award for Most Inspirational Volunteer

Sponsored by Room to Reward

Elaine Nicholson

In 2007 Elaine Nicholson's youngest child received a diagnosis of Asperger's syndrome at the age of 8 and was the second of her family of four children to receive this diagnosis.  The fact that two of her children were diagnosed with the same condition, highlighted the fact that autism was in her family, both diagnosed and undiagnosed. This second diagnosis stirred within her a gamut of emotions as she grappled with the notion of being part of an autistic family and many tears were shed.

However, the tears did not last for long and negative emotions were soon replaced by positive emotions. Elaine, a qualified counsellor, alongside realising the existence of autism in her family, realised that the counselling community were not 'getting it' regards the autistic neurology and autistic individuals were being treated by counsellors using counselling modalities that were designed for neurologically typical thinkers.  This was round peg square hole treatment, and it incensed her.  Not only was an autism-cognisant modality of counselling desperately required for autistic thinkers, but a similar modality of counselling was needed for their loved ones who lived their lives in worlds where autism dominated.  

Meanwhile, Elaine did undertake a PGC in Asperger syndrome at University to aid her familial knowledge. As she passed this a Master's degree followed, the subject of which was 'an evaluation of a bespoke model of counselling for lives that had become adversely affected by the experience of Asperger syndrome'.  

In 2008 she had started counselling a few people free of charge from her home in Oundle, Northamptonshire, and in August 2012, she moved into a small office taking her 20 clients with her. She formalised the charity at this point also, by registering Action for Asperger's with the charities commission. By the end of the first year, the charity had 500 clients. In January 2019, 3,100 clients were recorded on the charity books.  

October 1st last year marked the ten-year anniversary of the charity. It also marked 10 years of Elaine giving freely 80 hours per week of her time 52 weeks of the year as a counsellor and CEO of the charity.  Lives are being saved.  The mental health of autistics and their families year upon year is rated as 'excellent' and/or 'improving' by the client satisfaction surveys the charity undertakes.  Her Majesty The Queen recognised Elaine's efforts in her birthday honours in 2016 by awarding her with an MBE, the first Queen's honour specifically awarded for Asperger's syndrome.

Jessica Tandy

Jessica is currently a student teacher in her final year completing a BEd Primary Education with QTS degree as she strives to become a Special Needs Teacher.  Jessica is extremely passionate about supporting children through their learning journey, especially those with SEN and in particular those with Autism and challenging behaviours.

From the age of 8 years during her school inset days, college placements and literally any free day available she went into a severe special school with her Mum to support the children she worked with and she has continued to do this ever since. Jessica is now able to spend a lot of time in this Special school mainly as a volunteer but also through some paid supply work and through her placements. Therefore, from a very young age she has gained extensive experience working with children with severe autism, finding strategies to support their individual needs and making bespoke resources to support their individual needs. During her own Primary school days, she supported a child with ADHD during playtimes and was awarded a Governors Good Citizenship Award and her passion to support children with SEN has grown from there.

Whilst being a volunteer Jessica has raised money for the National Autistic Society through completing the Autism Angels 5K run as well as other walks, cake sales, Onsie Wednesday and other sponsored events that we host in school.  She supports fundraising events to raise money for the school during Enterprise days, car boot sales, charity walks and she contacts companies such as ITV to receive donations to raise money. Jessica also supports with fundraising ideas and activities during Autism Awareness week to raise money to purchase resources for children with Autism in school as well as the National Autistic Society.

Jessica loves attending the Autism Show every year to update her knowledge and skills and share this information back in school and with parents. She is always researching the best and current strategies and resources to support our children and when she can afford to she will purchase resources or make them.

Jessica takes time to tune into the children that she works with to understand them and find ways to communicate with them as well as find out their likes and dislikes and then she creates resources for them that motivate them in their learning as well as address their individual needs. She works with children who like spinners, twiddlers etc and she makes individual boxes of their preferred items as well as items that will help them to calm. She makes symbols, schedules, workstations to support the children but to also support the school and parents.  Jessica communicates with the parents and provides support and resources for them in the home and sometimes she is there just for parents to chat to as she understands their children.

All of the work and involvement she does within school, with the children, staff and their families she usually does in her own time during school hours before and after school and she does this because she wants to help and make a difference to the lives of those children and families who need it the most.

Ryan Bardsley

Ryan Bardsley from Chester has been shortlisted for the National Autistic Society's prestigious Autism Professionals Awards.

Ryan Bardsley is a finalist in the Autism Professionals Awards for Award for Most Inspirational Volunteer. They were shortlisted by an independent panel of autism specialists, who were looking for high standards of innovation, creativity, impact and sustainability. The winners will be announced at a special ceremony on 7 March 2019 in Birmingham, as part of the National Autistic Society's Professional Conference.

I take an ambulance around local schools showing young children inside and explaining the work we do, by doing this it makes things easier for ambulance crews as some kids have never been inside an ambulance before and the first time can be quite traumatising, I also teach kids CPR and basic first aid skills as several years ago if it wasn't for my sister knowing what to do I could have choked to death.

The annual Autism Professionals Awards were launched in 2013 to recognise people, services and schools across the UK who are making a difference to autistic people and their families. By celebrating their achievements, the National Autistic Society hopes to increase public understanding of autism and inspire other people and organisations to make a difference too. There are 12 awards for individuals and organisations, covering education, health, social care, employment, and volunteering.

There are around 700,000 autistic people in the UK. Being autistic means someone sees, hears and feels in a different, often more intense way to other people, which can make the world a very overwhelming place.

Every autistic person is different and many people also have a learning disability, mental health problems or other conditions. With understanding and tailored support, autistic people can live full and rewarding lives – whether in education, work or living as independently as possible.

Ryan Bardsley said: I am honoured to be nominated for this awards as this reflects the hard work being put into my project by teaching young children lifesaving skills!

Carol Povey, Director of the National Autistic Society's Centre for Autism, said: "We run the Autism Professionals Awards each year to recognise and celebrate the people, projects and organisations doing amazing things for autistic children, adults, or their families.

"All the finalists should be commended for impressing the judges and standing out among so many excellent nominations.  

"By celebrating their achievements, we hope to improve public understanding of autism and inspire other people and organisations to make a difference too."

For more information, please visit

Achievement by an Individual Education Professional

Lynda Evans

Lynda is an inspirational educationist working at The Beacon Folkestone as Head of Inclusion and Outreach.  She developed the integrated observation and assessment EYFS provisions to allow collaborative working for young people, which led to her opening a 'Child Support Centre' incorporating an ASD assessment team. She co-developed 'Pathways to Inclusion' adopted across the County promoting the continuum of inclusion experiences for special and mainstream collaboration.

Recently her work has continued to shape provision in Kent through the implementation of the ASD Champions programme promoting the development of ASD awareness in schools, and facilitating higher level training for key staff to 'champion' ASD best practice.  As a member of the County ASD group, Lynda is helping to shape training, knowledge and practice across all provisions.   Lynda is also contributing to Initial Teacher Training and mentoring to enhance ASD understanding in partnership with Canterbury Christ Church University.  Currently working with the University of Kent with their Imagining Autism Project, Lynda is utilising her expertise to implement the project across the County for schools and families to access.

Lynda is continuing to lead on NAS parenting programmes and collaborate with the Shepway Autism Support Group, in addition to developing Nurture provisions to support pupils within the district that require alternative learning environments.  Lynda continues to work directly with individuals on the autism spectrum to ensure that their voice continues to be heard.

Jonathan Baron

Jonathan Baron began dancing nine years ago after moving to London. He studied Psychology at Brunel University and was passionate about combining the two fields of Psychology and Dance.

Six years ago, he began his role as a Teaching Assistant at Hillingdon Manor School, an independent specialist school for children on the autism spectrum. The school had never had dance as an established department therefore Jonathan was keen to establish Dance as part of the schools offering.  An after school club was initially launched for one hour every week with five students attending. The club grew after the success of their first performance and as a result the Senior Management Team decided to add the subject to the school curriculum on a part-time basis. After a year the subject was introduced full time and has continued ever since, now catering for over 40 students. A large part of the success and growth of the department is owed to Johnathan's hard work, dedication and passion for the subject.

Jonathan is also a professional dancer with the company Boy Blue Entertainment.

Julie Dalton

Julie began her teaching career in Rochdale in 1983. She was a mainstream secondary science teacher for over 23 years. She undertook a number of teaching positions ranging from Head of Science to Head of Year and SENco. Julie has personal experience of having a niece on the spectrum and the difficulties she encountered in her journey to adulthood. This led to her genuine interest in wanting to make a difference to children and young people with ASC. Due to this Julie has been working tirelessly for Rochdale Additional Needs Service for over 12 years as a senior lead teacher for the TASC team (Team for Autism and Social communication). This service supports ASC children in mainstream schools from Nursery to Post 16. Julie and her team have been proactive in raising ASC awareness, through training and supporting schools with inclusive ASC practice. This has led to setting up successful Annual ASC conferences and taking an active role in the implementation of Rochdale`s Autism Champions schools initiative.

Award for Outstanding Achievement by an Individual on the Autism Spectrum

Sponsored by Network Autism

Alis Rowe

Alis Rowe is the founder of the social enterprise, The Curly Hair Project. She has a 1st class chemistry degree and a Masters. She is an author, scriptwriter, songwriter, rapper, film director, marketer and award winning entrepreneur.

The Curly Hair Project supports people on the autistic spectrum and the people around them. Our products and services include: books, animated films, webinars and training.


Chris Bonnello

Chris Bonnello is a former primary school teacher with Asperger Syndrome, now a writer, special needs tutor and international speaker. After a damning report into his deficiencies at the age of four, and an educational psychologist later describing him in an official report as having a "slightly odd personality", he now focuses on defining himself by his strengths rather than his weaknesses, and encourages other autistic people to follow the same philosophy. In 2015, Bonnello launched Autistic Not Weird to share his insights from both a personal and professional perspective, a venture which has seen him attract 96,000 Facebook followers, and over 1.8 million page hits on his website ( His first publication, "What We Love Most About Life", was an uplifting book designed to help autistic young people feel less alone, and his first novel "Guerrillas", a novel with special needs heroes, will be published in May this year.

Nathaniel Hawley

Nathaniel Hawley (Nat) is a successful business leader, social entrepreneur & trustee of multiple charities. Nat who was diagnosed with autism, dyslexia & dyspraxia at a young age has used his learning differences to empower & campaign for people on the autism spectrum. In the last 2 years he has trained over 2000 individuals with a range of diverse learning conditions.

The 27-year-old, is the neurodiversity employment director for Exceptional Individuals, the first employment partnership for neurodivergent people. Nat created an academy which is aimed at talented neurodivergent job seekers to find meaningful employment.

"Like the people I support I have autism, & use this unique positive experience to make the world a more inclusive place, one person, one day at a time."

"Creating an autism academy was a huge step for me, to move from a person who felt ashamed of his autism at a young age to a person that is empowered by it. I would now not change the way I think for the world."

"Looking back on his journey, Nat looks back with a sense of pride. He says, "I had long been a spokesperson for autism organisations, leading my own academy for people with neurodiversity is a dream come true."

Award for Outstanding Health or Social Care Professional

Sponsored by The Lorna Wing Centre

Dr Gloria Dura-Vila

Dr Glòria Durà-Vilà, MD, MRCPsych, MSc, PhD, is a Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist and the Medical Lead for the ASD Pathway in Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.

She was born in Spain but has lived her entire professional life in the UK, and combines her work in the NHS with teaching and research in the fields of Cultural Psychiatry and Medical Anthropology for which she was awarded a PhD in 2015.

Glòria is incredibly committed to making the ASD assessment process as patient-centred as possible. She has thoroughly remodelled the way children with possible ASD are assessed in Surrey and the many innovations she has introduced in the ASD pathway have dramatically improved the quality and cost-effectiveness of the ASD assessment process.

The impact of her clinical work goes well beyond Surrey, reaching a national and international level, through teaching, interviews and publications. She is a visiting lecturer at University College London and Queen Mary University of London. Her passion for communicating the Autism diagnosis in the best possible manner compelled her to write My Autism Book: A Child's Guide to their Autism Spectrum Diagnosis which has sold well over 9,000 copies worldwide, with 29 five-star reviews on Amazon. It has become a best-seller and established as a valuable resource for parents and professionals to explain ASD to a child with the diagnosis.
She lives in London with her husband and their two young children, with whom she shares her passion for music, art and travel.

Sally Fitzpatrick

Sally is a Registered & Chartered Psychologist who has worked for HMP Wakefield for over 20 years. Having recognised a gap in service provision for men with Autism, Sally has made tangible steps that have, and continue to, improve the lives of men with Autism in custody. Originating from her case work with one man in 2011, Sally has shown passion and tenacity in driving organisational change. She has embraced HMPPS' goal to create a safe, rehabilitative environment, where men with Autism are accepted and supported to make their own life choices and make the changes necessary for risk reduction. Throughout her career, Sally has shown a personal commitment in providing hope for Autistic men within complex and diverse settings. She has challenged staff to identify and understand the needs of these men and to expect the unexpected from those who have, for many years, found their environment overwhelming and isolative.

Sally's work has included the introduction of This Is Me (TIM), a locally developed information sharing initiative designed to ensure the needs of men identified as having learning and/or social functioning needs are met across the prison. TIM is embedded into all local prison processes, including sentence planning, adjudications, activity allocation and participation in programmes and interventions. Sally has developed and introduced an Autism Awareness training package to all directly employed and partnership agency staff across HMP Wakefield and trained prisoners who are employed in areas of responsibility in understanding Autism to improve staff-prisoner and prisoner-prisoner relationships. Her work has extended beyond HMP Wakefield; the TIM is now being introduced into other Long Term High Security Prisons and in the wider Prison Service.

In 2018, HMP Wakefield became the first adult male prison in England to achieve accreditation with the National Autistic Society. Since 2015, Sally has been instrumental in enabling HMP Wakefield to achieve this accolade. These outcomes have been a direct result of Sally, and a growing team of passionate and knowledgeable staff, imagining things can be different. Sally is currently involved on the development of the Mulberry Unit; a bespoke unit at HMP Wakefield for Autistic men who have significant difficulty in managing their behaviour day to day and often experience protracted periods in segregation. This alternative location will provide an evidence based environment, regime and facilitative milieu to enable autism informed officers and specialist staff to deliver formulation driven individualised assessment and interventions.

Sue Hatton

Sue Hatton taught for 25 years in main stream and special education where her journey into understanding autism and the autistic individuals she taught developed. They were and always have been her teachers.  Two of her students have subsequently co-published books with her. 

A move to the voluntary sector developed this way of co-working as the Learning and Development Manager for an autism charity where she ensured the involvement of autistic people in all aspects of staff training. Writing and research continued with two other books co-published with autistic adults.

Following ten years in the voluntary sector Sue moved to work in the private sector as an autism advisor where she quickly established the need for staff to once again listen to the autistic voice and learn. Setting up an autism strategy with an autism specific training pathway for staff to move along, from autism aware, to autism friendly ways or working and on "autism intelligent practice."  Not something that happens with two days of training but something that takes time and experience with different autistic people.

Outside work Sue is involved with support circles for three autistic individuals, one of which has been for the last 22 years.  Sue has a commitment to charity in Ghana, West Africa which cares for and supports disabled children and adults who have been abandoned, many of whom are autistic.  This summer will see her seventh visit to the community to work with those who are autistic and offer staff training and development in a very different cultural context.  Sue raises money for this charity in various ways including selling the honey from her hobby of bee keeping. 

Sue's motto is, "do what I can where I can and keep learning."

Team Awards

Award for Inspirational Education Provision - Primary Schools & Early Years

Linn Preschool Assessment and Development Centre Staff Team

Linn PSADC delivers high quality teaching for preschool children with additional support needs. We provide a safe and supportive environment and passionately believe in the value of an excellent, inclusive education where health, emotional well-being, sensory and communication needs are being met. We are a closely knit team and work very closely with our colleagues in Psychological Services and Speech and Language Therapy. We feel that sharing our knowledge and expertise in the field of Autism is important and we run a varied training programme for carers and professionals. We host open doors events which our mainstream colleagues and families can attend. We are always here to listen and to help. We pride ourselves on being a listening centre and are pleased to share our successes. We regularly ask for feedback. During a recent parent survey one parent stated, "Thank you very much for all your kindness and care of my son whilst at Linn. It is a super service that you provide for children with ASD and your commitment, influence, teaching and love of the job show every day. My son has become more confident and independent in your care."


Little Learners

Glenbrook Surestart is one of 39 Surestart Projects, funded by the Department of Education Northern Ireland, working in the top 25% most deprived areas in Northern Ireland.   

Little Learners is a needs-led developmental programme for children aged 2 – 3 years' old who are presenting with suspected Autism. Little Learners is a co-production between Glenbrook Surestart (North Belfast) and Belfast Health and Social Care Trust Child Development Speech and Language Therapy (SLT) Service. The programme was developed in response to increasing numbers of children presenting with social communication difficulties.  Specialist support is provided for children in a safe, nurturing play environment, which accommodates their needs and supports their development while they await other services. 

Three Early Years Staff (EYS) deliver the programme devised and overseen by the Lead Clinician for SLT intervention for autistic children. The children receive developmentally appropriate, positive play experiences and targeted support around social communication development. Interventions offered are based on TEACCH methods, PECS and Intensive Interaction. The following principles underlie the Little Learners programme:

  • We presume potential.
  • We value child-led interactions.
  • We respond to all communication, in all its forms.
  • We encourage communication, in all its forms.
  • We guide, model and show.
  • We wait.
  • We make it meaningful and motivating.
  • We make it fun.
  • We value teamwork with parents and professionals.

Parents are actively included and supported to understand and implement strategies through workshops, 1-1 feedback with Staff, Stay and Play sessions and home visits. Parents express high levels of satisfaction and pride in seeing their child achieve things they had thought were impossible. As one parent said "I was able to leave and take with me new routines to help ******.  Can't believe the difference in him and how well the girls are with him.  I'm amazed.  Great team working with ******, can't get over the tasks he completed.  I'm so thankful to the girls at Little Learners."

St Anthony's

Saint Anthony's is a co-educational Primary School on the outskirts of Johnstone. The school built in 1969 and is currently undergoing a major refurbishment Saint Anthony's serves the communities of Corseford, Spateston, Johnstone Castle, Elderslie, Howwood and Lochwinnoch. Saint Anthony's covers all stages from Primary One to Primary Seven, with a role of two hundred children. The school has a Unit for with Children with Communication Difficulties or an ADD diagnosis based in the school. The pupils in the Unit benefit from a low pupil-teacher ratio.  They also have the services of a Speech Therapist. At present, Saint Anthony's unit has 36 pupils.

These pupils are supported with and individual education plan. As each pupil is an individual, he or she may at times, require individual attention to overcome a learning difficulty.


Award for Inspirational Education Provision - Higher & Further Education and Other Education Providers

Joseph Paxton Campus

Wirral Hospitals' School is a Community Special School. We are a therapeutic alternative setting for the young people of Wirral. Our pupils join us as they have health issues including anxiety or depression comorbid with ASC, ADHD, Specific Learning Difficulties and some students have specific medical difficulties. They are consequently unable to access mainstream education. This is often following periods of disruption in their education. After a time, they may return to mainstream education if their health allows.

We are successful in creating a positive feeling around the school. Our outstanding staff commitment and understanding is supported by an extensive programme of training and this has a significant impact on outcomes for the students. The consistent approach throughout the school enables students to make considerable progress managing their emotional well-being. This approach in our class room organisation also plays a key role in pupils being able to engage in lessons quickly and efficiently.

To further enhance our work, we offer a number of key provisions alongside the core curriculum; We have developed and utilised the work of 'Social Thinking' (Michelle Garcia Winner) across the school which allows our students to explore social communication and interaction skills. We run a Learning for Life programme where students apply their learning about themselves and apply Social Thinking to all aspects of daily functioning and interaction with particular focus on the environments outside of school. We offer a wide variety of extra-curricular activities and trips including Duke of Edinburgh, overseas trips (including Disney Land, Paris), work experience and visits to Further and Higher education establishments.

We strive to ensure our students develop a positive understanding of their needs and strengths so that they can develop the independence and resilience they need to achieve their potential in life.

We are proud of the flexibility, compassion and empathy our staff consistently demonstrate every day.

We have a team of teachers, teaching assistants, learning mentors and other support staff.

Here are just some of our team!

Annette Owen-Petkova – SENCO
Pauline Hoey – Head of House
Phil Balfour – Food
Kirstie Goulding – SALT
Callum Leach – PE & Sensory Intervention


Leamington LAMP is a non-profit Alternative Education Provider. It was founded by Director Timothy Ellis in 2013 as an arts school and was joined by Co-Director Philip Burley. LAMP is a specialist school for young people with ASC, high anxiety and mental health issues. The students undertake Maths and English GCSE, A Level Japanese and NCFE Level 2 and 3 qualifications in Art, Games Design, Music Technology & Performance, Photography, Theatrical Make-up and Computing. All these subjects are also offered as engagement / enrichment for learners that aren't quite ready to undertake a qualification.

We also offer additional activities in lunchtimes and after school. These include Experimental Music, Archery, Dungeons & Dragons, Cookery and Table Tennis. Speech & Language Therapy is on offer to those that have a requirement through an EHCP. PHSE is provided for all students.

This year LAMP will be celebrating a 20 year shared history with its Director. In 1999 he set up the first Alternative Education facility in the Midlands to use creative technology in music and art to engage young people struggling in mainstream settings.

In 2003 Ellis obtained funding from the Learning & Skills Council to set up studios in Rugby and Leamington Spa to work in collaboration with regional schools to help young people on the edge of mainstream education. In 2006 the company was awarded Social Enterprise of the Year at the British Business Awards and Investing in Young People award in 2007. Ellis was nominated a Fellow of The Royal Society of the Arts in 2008.

The approach at LAMP centers around the needs of the young person. Course content is often led by a young person's actual interests. We are all on first name terms with staff and students and share the same kitchen and lounge. We all socialise at breaktimes and even cook lunches together. We work closely with schools and Autism Teams at the Local Authority.

When a student is referred, if there's anxiety around visiting we will suggest that they just peep through the front door and meet Ripley, our school dog. Ripley is a Cockapoo and she has a calming effect on anyone she meets. Following on from a first visit we often find that the young person will come and spend a while looking around. Then we look at getting into some enrichment activities before planning a timetable of courses.

LAMP owes its success to a strong leadership team, fabulous staff and students.

Photo, Anna Cygal, Level 2 Photography Student.

The Holmewood Sixth Form

The Holmewood Sixth Form (THSF) is a specialist provision situated in North London catering specifically for autistic young people aged 16-19. At the heart of the THSF offer is our passion for changing the narrative around what autistic people can achieve.  Our motto is 'Think Differently', and as an independent sixth form we have the freedom to consistently think outside the box as to what we provide and how. We build on our past successes to ensure we are always at the forefront of best autism practice.

The focus of our sixth form is to ensure young people are prepared for their life beyond school. We fully individualise the curriculum so that students can reach their aspirations by gaining independence in personal and work related skills alongside academia. This, coupled with integrated OT, SALT and psychodynamic therapy, enables our students to gain confidence, independence and self-awareness, so that they are able to live their life the way they want to, within the community. We have built partnerships with local colleges and provide individualised support so that our students can experience mainstream inclusion.

Graduates leave with confidence to enter the world of work and the community. This confidence is not only due to the fact that they have been taught explicitly through bespoke experiences of worldly expectations, but also comes from self-understanding and awareness of their autism and the wonderful possibilities that neurodiversity can bring to the workplace and the community.
Employers are impressed by our students, and in turn become more aware of the strengths of those with autism generally.

Despite being a relatively new provision, in January 2018, Ofsted graded the Holmewood sixth form provision 'Outstanding'.

Award for Outstanding Adult or Children's Services

Founders House Service

In July 2018 Scottish Autism opened our newest residential development, Founders House. Scottish Autism's mission is to enable people with autism through 'the whole life journey', and Founders House has been designed to recognise the changing support needs of older autistic adults and those living with additional health and mobility challenges, such as Parkinsons, arthritis and sight loss. Founders has been designed specifically for a group of aging adults who have additional health and mobility needs. Principles of individualisation and future-proofing have been at the fore of the environmental design, with a mixture of self-contained flats and shared communal spaces enabling a high level of personalisation whilst preventing risks of social isolation and recognising the value of supportive communities.


The Inclusion Project Area Managers

The Inclusion Project was founded 3 years ago by Managing Director Simon Jackson-Turner, after noticing that post education life can be an abyss for people with Autism and Learning Disabilities; difficult to find activities that will facilitate the lifestyle that young adults desire. For the past 3 years, The Inclusion Project has been on a mission to solve this issue.

In its first few weeks of service, Simon worked as the sole Group Leader, supporting 4 Participants across 5 days a week; cultivating relationships and partnerships with local Councils, great recreational establishments and companies, all of which are still active to this day. Now, The Inclusion Project supports over 550 Participants, across 9 Counties, with 16 Area Managers and over 80 Group Leaders, helping to spread the importance of: community inclusion for all people. 

Simon's wealth of experience – a Grade 1 Teacher in a Special Educational Needs College; Head Coach of The Special Olympics GB Basketball Team; a multi-award winner in the field of Learning Disabilities – has all helped to facilitate an outstanding level of care and development, not just for Participants, but Area Managers and Group Leaders too.

Collectively Area Managers bring over 170 years' experience working with and supporting people, especially young adults, with Autism and Learning Disabilities. All Group Leaders complete the Care Certificate within their first 8 weeks of starting with The Inclusion Project and are experienced within care and support from a variety of backgrounds.

The Inclusion Project envisions a world in which all people with Autism and Learning Disabilities have the opportunity to enhance their quality of life, realise their personal life aspirations and become valued members of welcoming communities.

Our Team of Area Managers are second to none; we are so privileged to have the best of the best working with our Participants and Families; nothing is too much trouble; they diligently ensure that our Participants are supported by the best Adult Social Care Teams, and they set targets and develop plans to facilitate working towards these goals. They liaise with Families and Local Authorities and do the most tremendous job on behalf of Participants they support, their Families and the Care workers they support, train, supervise and guide as well as for The Inclusion Project as a whole. We have had our own Inclusion revolution! And long may it last!

Simon Jackson-Turner has employed one of our Participants living with Autism, who has a Masters Degree in Maths, to work with him in the office on our software systems. He is still a Participant with The Inclusion Project, as well as an Employee being paid more than the Living Wage for a job he fulfils on his own merit.

We are about to launch The Inclusion Project Charity with an initiative The Inclusion Project took to the Local Authority – of a Food Truck to serve the local community with e.g. lunchtime sandwiches in offices. This will provide young people with Autism and / or Learning Disabilities paid work in developing their social interaction skills, confidence and independence, team working skills, as well as business knowledge development.

Maggie Hall's social Fridays are legendary amongst out Participants;

Peter Seymour's innovative days out bike riding, drama performances and connections with Saracans Rugby offer opportunities that supports our Participants with Autism in requiring instruction following from authority figures, social skills development and team work;
Simon Jackson-Turner is right now in Abu Dhabi at the World Special Olympics as Team GB Head Basketball Coach, taking two of our Participants as Team GB players he has supported himself;

Simon Hathaway's personalisation of provision is outstanding in his in-depth knowledge of each Participant's needs, goals, and aspirations – 'one size does not fit all', as we know Autism spans a spectrum;

Kerry Kane's evening opportunities of Discos, outings and social clubs, has provided a social life for both Participants and their Families;

Hannah Mullens can be found with her Participants doing anything from indoor rock climbing through to dance classes;

Cameron Greer's provision of day opportunities for young adults with Autism is second to none with Participants competing for places in his area;

Cameron Walters offer of a 'big brother buddying' service fosters lasting friendship relationships that are too often the first experienced in Participants' lives;

Jimmy Harpum's keep-fit, dog walking, and cookery sessions carry a warmth and sense of achievement that Participants thrive on;

Anna Jennings partnership with local schools and colleges is providing volunteering work experience opportunities for our Participants, where her expertise is utilised in producing amazing outcomes, pride, confidence and CVs, enabling Participants to aspire to paid work in the future; Cheryl Mucklin and Tina Wilson run our Weekends programme, that has taken our young people skating, on outings, out for meals together, developing a group identity of trust and shared experiences;

Vicky Smith and Marcus Sandiford run our One to One service, utilising local facilities like the use of Arsenal Football Club's stadium' sensory room, swimming, walks and socially integrative activities;

James Graham is the ultimate 'big brother' emanating a sense of fun and positivity for Participants to bask in and flourish through being with him;

Bea Chase's passion for supporting adults with Autism has produced results with Participants facilitating their growth of trust to help them live a more fulfilling life of their own choosing;

Troy Thompsons' 'Guys that do Gigs' has opened up a world of experiences for Participants to attend concerts, use public transport and to plan evenings out that will inevitably broaden out Participants' 'comfort zones'.
A few words from Participants that has been with The Inclusion Project since its first year: "I have already recommended The Inclusion Project to many of my friends who are due to leave School in the future." 

"Thank God I have found you guys. Your team need a big pat on the back, they are at the front line of your company and they are doing you proud.  Well done."

"The Inclusion project has given me my life back; I was depressed after leaving college, with no purpose in my life and I just collapsed on the floor in my living room sobbing with despair about my future. Then The Inclusion Project came into my life and turned it around. I get up in the mornings knowing that I have lots to do and to aim for. I help Maggie run things and am a Mentor Ambassador for The Inclusion project and have even given a presentation about it to parents."

A few words from Sarah, a parent of a current Participant: "Our son left college and now attends The Inclusion Project.

This is brilliant, he thoroughly enjoys every day, staff are wonderful and the variety of things they do is really good for his development and transition into adult life.

The end of formal education was something we had been dreading more or less since his first day of school, as we were petrified he'd drop off a cliff edge with nothing to do.

The Inclusion Project has provided exactly what he needed and we would thoroughly recommend it for anyone in a similar situation as we were."

"The Inclusion Project is a dynamic, modern organisation run by a team of people who know what they are doing and I always know my son is safe and having a good time whatever he is doing with them. I has enabled me as his main carer to resume my career and to help others in doing so and to have a family life and time with my other children"

"The combination of social activities sporting activities and healthy living choices has progressed my daughter to such an extent she can now live independently with support form The Inclusion Project at Home."

Wigan Adult Autism Partnership Board

A growing movement of autistic people in Wigan are working with Wigan Council and its partners to influence real change that is driven by the Autism Friends awareness sessions that have raised awareness of autism to over 4000 people, influencing many businesses and services to make adjustments necessary to allow people with autism to live happy and healthy lives. Wigan involve people with autism in everything that they do leading to truly innovative practice including the development of autism friendly match day experiences at both the football club and rugby clubs and virtual video technology being introduced to Shopping Centres, Colleges and Leisure Facilities. In addition, the Adult Autism Partnership Board have developed their own Autism Alert Card, Website and Business Award that will help Wigan become a more autism friendly Borough.








Award for Outstanding Health Services

Sponsored by Axia ASD Ltd

Sleep Tight Trafford

The Sleep Tight Trafford team are trained sleep practitioners 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. Working in partnership with Trafford council and NHS CCG, 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. Through supporting families, providing personalised sleep plans and training professionals, its therapeutic alternatives to medication have proved effective in treating sleep issues. Improving the sleep of children and young people with autism has a long term impact to that individual and their immediate family. Sleep can improve general health and immunity and increase resilience and emotional wellbeing. This in turn can improve school attendance and therefore educational attainment, helping the young person to fulfil their educational potential and wider lifelong opportunities. "I can't tell you what a difference it has made to all of us to have a full night of sleep! Thank you so much for all of the support and help and the great materials, it means so much to finally have proper sleep for all of us."

The Northdale Centre

The Northdale Centre is the only Autism Specific medium secure NHS facility in the country.  It supports 12 adult males with a diagnosis of Autism and a history of offending behaviour within a therapeutic, structured environment.  The team is made up of over 30 Nurses and Health Care Assistants, a consultant psychiatrist, Occupational Therapist, Occupational Therapy Assistant, psychologist, assistant psychologist, speech and language therapists, social workers and of course the service users themselves.  They work collaboratively on a daily basis to reduce the impact of autism and reduce risk of offending behaviours.  The service has embraced the Safewards framework to provide a therapeutic environment within a culture of involvement, teamwork and respect.  They have also adopted the "My shared pathway" approach which again encourages service user involvement in every aspect of care planning and risk assessment.   The team have been praised for their compassion and commitment to service users within their charge and are always seeking out opportunities to improve.   The Northdale Centre seen many successes of nearly 50 patients moving to less secure environments, non-secure settings and even into the community since opening in 2012.  They believe that everyone is unique and provide individualised care and treatment to ensure the service users have the opportunity to reach their full potential and live "a life worth living".

Trust-wide autism project team

TEWV is one of the biggest mental health providers in the UK.  We employ over 7000 staff and cover a large geographical area in the North East of England.

The TEWV autism project was launched in 2017 in response to national guidance.

Our team includes Autistic people, carers and staff who have been involved in every element of the process.

The project's main themes are:

  1. Clear pathway to diagnostic assessment in every TEWV location.
  2. Staff training in autism awareness and treatment of patients with autism and comorbid mental health issues.
  3. Ensuring that reasonable adjustments for patients with autism are considered and (if necessary) implemented at every stage of the care pathway.
  4. Consistent, high quality transitions from children to adult services.

Together we have created Autism awareness training videos for all staff, face to face training for clinical staff and a Clinical Link Pathway to support consideration of reasonable adjustments to care.

Through the work of the team we aim to ensure that autistic people can access any of the mainstream services provided by the trust and reasonable adjustments to the care provided becomes business as usual.

Award for Innovative Family Support


Established in 2005, the aim of the ASSIST service is to work in a proactive, supportive and preventative way with families and providers so that autistic children and young people living in the Wokingham Borough can be the best they can be.

ASSIST is a Wokingham Borough Council family support service which has developed and changed to meet the requests of the people who use the service, the local area needs and the needs of the local authority.  The team's working model is child centred, using the Early Support and Signs of Safety/Wellbeing principles of working. 

The approach to intervention is holistic, creative and directed by the needs of the individual and those around him or her.  The service provides robust information, support and training, especially supporting families' pre and post diagnosis.  A key factor for the service is to build capacity – always looking at ways to work with many, sharing knowledge, skills and understanding of autism.

Clifford Chance LLP and the National Autistic Society

The unique partnership between the National Autistic Society's Education Rights Service (ERS) and Clifford Chance LLP has given families fighting for the right education provision for their autistic children, access to free advice about their rights. And for families in most need, Clifford Chance have also provided free legal representation.

The partnership works in two ways. First, our charity's ERS empowers families to advocate for their child's rights to the education they need and deserve and to resolve disagreements with their child's school or council. The aim is to avoid tribunals and less than 3% of families need tribunal support.

Second, where disagreements can only be resolved by a tribunal, Clifford Chance helps families who can't afford legal support, representing them over many months in the preparation for hearings, and to undertake the advocacy at the hearings. This saves families hundreds of thousands in waived fees every year.

Clifford Chance also contributes to our charity's ERS volunteer training costs and provided funds through the Clifford Chance Foundation, to help families pay for crucial expert evidence in complex tribunal appeals.

In 2018, Clifford Chance also provided our charity with legal representation at a successful appeal to the Upper Tribunal. This closed a loophole in the Equality Act, so schools can no longer discriminate against autistic students and exclude them on the basis of behaviour which is related to their autism.  

Trinity School and College, Rochester

Trinity School and College is a specialist provision for boys and girls with dyslexia, dyspraxia, and language and communication difficulties as well as those with additional learning difficulties, such as autistic spectrum conditions and Asperger's Syndrome. Registered by the DfE as an 'Approved' school for Dyslexia, Speech, Language and Communication difficulties and Autism. Trinity has been recognised as an educational provision which can support learners with Anxiety and Adjustment challenges.

The Executive Headteacher joined the school in September 2013 and works with a highly professional team of Senior Leadership team which include two Deputy Headteachers, three Assistant Headteachers and a Head of Education.

Trinity School occupies three Georgian houses, with the college situated 5 minutes away at 41 New Road. Close to the centre of Rochester in Kent Trinity provides a safe and secure area for play and socialisation. There are specialist Art Rooms, a Science lab, Food Technology and Life Skills Classroom, Catering and Hospitality Kitchens and Learning Zones, an ICT suite, a Library and Textile room, Dyslexia and Speech Language and Communication Centres for the School and College and an Occupational Therapy resource room and a further fifteen classrooms. The College is located at 41 New Road, in a former school building and has an Art, Expressive Arts and Music Rooms, Vocational Learning Classrooms, for Construction and Hair - 3 - and Beauty and a further 8 additional classrooms. Assemblies are held within the College provision.

Through our distinctive approach we encourage and develop our students to be the very best they can be – giving them the confidence to be themselves and drawing out their incredible abilities. Our students are happy, they experience success and each finds their individual opportunity to shine.

Award for Most Supportive Employer

Autism Exchange with the Civil Service

The Fast Stream and Early Talent (FSET) Diversity & Inclusion team seek to help FSET become "...the most inclusive graduate and early talent employer in the UK by 2020".  They oversee the provision of a number of key positive action initiatives within the Civil Service, including the award winning Autism Exchange Internship Programme, Summer Diversity Internship Programme, Early Diversity Internship Programme and Intern Coaching Programme. They also drive diversity outreach - to connect with talented and diverse student groups - through a range of diversity partnerships.



P&G Neuro Diversity Team

In 2017 P&G started their first pilot programme to recruit individuals on the Autism Spectrum with the aim of growing the neuro-diversity of their innovation centre in Reading.  Dr Emma O'Leary, who herself has an Autistic son, was inspired by the opportunities that P&G could offer those on the spectrum after learning about the condition and becoming an Autism Ambassador.  This lead to a pilot recruitment experience day, paid work experience opportunities and now in its third year the opportunity has spread to other sites globally.   Events are now being run in Costa Rica, Boston in the US, Cincinnatti and at Multiple sites in the UK.  The programme has company support at the highest levels and is now moving into a new phase from being focused on recruitment to now ensuring employees on the spectrum can have successful long-term careers in an environment that enables them to perform at their best.

Since the start of the programme the UK has given 19 candidates a work experience day, leading to 5 paid work experience for 14 days, resulting in 5 internships and 1 permanent employee.  Building awareness of Autism within the company has lead to employees self-identifying as being on the spectrum and subsequent diagnoses which have then had the full support of the company to grow their self-understanding and change their working environment to better support their needs.

The programme continues to gain momentum and is now being embedded in the over-arching strategy for P&G's global recruitment approaches. The success of the programme is down to the support and passion of company employees forming a large team to make it all happen.  This team is represented by Emma O'Leary R&D Manager, Claire Vellani (HR manager) and Carla Berry (External Relations Manager).

Waitrose High Wycombe

Waitrose & Partners has 349 shops in England, Scotland, Wales and the Channel Islands. It combines the convenience of a supermarket with the expertise and service of a specialist shop - dedicated to offering quality food that has been responsibly sourced, combined with high standards of customer service. 

Waitrose & Partners High Wycombe opened in March 2016 and employs 140 people - all of whom are Partners and have a say in how the business is run. As with all Waitrose shops, our High Wycombe branch is committed to ensuring we provide a comfortable and welcome environment for everyone and will always support those who may need a little extra help. The team works closely with one of our Partners with autism, Bethany, and we're really pleased that she chose to nominate us for this award. All of our team ensures she has the support she needs and flexibility in her role - from having a mentor to a quiet space in the workplace. A number of Partners in the branch have had training from the National Autistic Society so they can support their colleague and customers with autism.

We regularly receive feedback from our customers with autism, who say they return to us because we provide a welcoming environment.

Award for Most Creative Community Project

Act for Autism

Act for Autism is a social enterprise based in Warwickshire that was founded in 2016 By Tessa Morton and Jane Gurnett and its purpose is to empower autistic kids to have a voice and use that voice to share more about autism with the wider community. In the short time it has been running the achievement of the team have been widespread. From creative projects, to training, to conferences to mentoring and counselling. The biggest achievement has been the film project Autism Voices, a 4-day project in Easter 2018, funded by Act for Autism with the sole purpose of supporting the cast of 12 autistic students, to make a film that would help teachers understand how it felt when their autism was not fully understood at school. Since making the film it's impact has been overwhelming. It has been made available to all schools in Warwickshire, been show as part of pgcert training in 2 leading universities, won a prestigious film award in New York, and been nominated for an autism professionals award. But more importantly the students have been brave enough to take the film into their own schools and where previously they felt unseen and unvalued, they now host assemblies and staff training where they show the film and talk about their autism openly to a huge audience. With the success of this film, we are close to securing funding for a second project this year and hope to have similar projects running every year until everyone understand. We believe that making the film and the subsequent showing of the film by the students themselves, has proved to be a perfect vehicle for self advocacy. The pride and self-esteem coupled with the self-acceptance that has come from it has surpassed all expectations. We now show the film on all our parent training and school training courses, to not only inform about autism but to inspire parents and teachers to never underestimate the talent, and the ability and the desire that autistic students have to express themselves.

Books in the Nick

Books in the Nick is a police volunteer initiative recognising the needs of juveniles, vulnerable adults and people with Neurodiversity who have been detained in Police custody. Providing free books that are specifically selected, to support a more productive and less stressful stay. Initiated by Special constable Steve Whitmore this innovative scheme recognise the difficulty autistic detainees encounter when faced with bright lights, loud noise and an enclosed environment. Books can calm people down and give a focus at a demanding time in their lives. Bookmarks placed inside the books, signposts detainees away from knife crime, gangs and homelessness towards local and regional charities offering alternative programmes. Books in the Nick has the additional benefit of improving the relationship between Police staff and detainees.

Community Rail Lancashire

Community Rail Lancashire has five community rail partnerships that cover a total of eight lines or routes; one of the biggest groups of community rail partnerships in the country. Community rail partnerships link local communities to their railway, and work to improve services for all rail users.

Travel is a basic human right. Being able to safely and confidently access public transport is essential to expanding opportunities in youth and in adult life.

With this in mind, we developed the Railway Confidence Programmes; to develop confident rail use in young people with disabilities and additional needs, and young autistic people aged 4-18, and to provide these young people aged 15+ an employment experience to assist them in considering rail and community rail career options.

Since November 2017, our free-of-charge programme has seen hundreds of participants, engaging young autistic people, and has been a fantastic success, with one teacher commenting; "I've been a teacher for 29 years and this is the best school trip I've ever been on!"

For the future equality, diversity and inclusion of rail, it is vital that all young people are given the opportunity to have meaningful employment and travel experiences within rail.