The judging panel consist of leading experts in the field of autism from a variety of professional backgrounds across the UK.


Jonathan Andrews
Autism awareness advocate & Professional Ambassador for Aspiring Solicitors



Jon Adams
Artist, autism advocate and speaker
photo by James Allen


Gary Cooper
Chief Executive of Middletown Centre for Autism

Dr James Cusack
Director of Science, Autistica

Adam Feinstein

Adam Feinstein
Writer, Autism Researcher, Poet, Translator, Editor of Looking Up, the International Autism Magazine

Yolanta Lasota
Chief Executive Ambitious about Autism

Cathy Steedman
National Director, Autism Initiatives in Scotland

Dr Catriona Stewart
Autism Consultant and Researcher

Jim Taylor
Independent Autism Consultant


Rona Tutt OBE

Dr Rona Tutt OBE
Independent Consultant





Catherine Steedman is the National Director for Autism Initiatives in Scotland.  She has worked with autistic people for over twenty years.  Her career started as a Registered Nurse before moving to the voluntary sector, during which time she attained a Masters Degrees in Community Care and a Masters Degree in Advanced Positive Leadership.  Throughout her work in the voluntary sector she has developed housing and occupational services; developed transition strategies and promoted stakeholder involvement.  Her research into quality of life for autistic people is a foundation for the work that Autism Initiatives in Scotland is undertaking. 

Catherine is a trustee of SWAN and has supported a variety of smaller charities

She sits on the Scottish Government’s Governance group and has sat on various working groups aimed at improving the lives of autistic people.

At just 22 years old, Jonathan has already done great work for autism awareness and acceptance. In 2015 Jonathan secured a training contract with leading law firm Reed Smith. He was disappointed that no openly autistic people seemed to be in the legal sector or attended talks on disability when other conditions were represented, so he resolved to do this himself.
He’s appeared on TV and radio for the BBC and London Live, and was published in the Financial Times, discussing this issue. He also works with several employment organisations, including as a Professional Ambassador for Aspiring Solicitors.

Jim Taylor, formally Principal, Director of Education and lead in the development of New Struan School, now works as an independent autism consultant. An inspirational and internationally- regarded professional, Jim is relentless in his pursuit of excellence for people with autism. He has had a significant impact on colleagues and the families he has supported over the years and his new venture ‘Jim Taylor Knows Autism’ is what it says, with his irrepressible, highly-valued sense of humour and honesty.

Jim has over 30 years’ experience of working in the field of autism and has influenced many people in the UK and beyond.  His contribution to spreading and identifying best practice is considerable and his ability to inspire others to follow his philosophy means that his work will be sustained.  The judges said that his boundless enthusiasm, a profound knowledge of autism and an exceptional sense of humour characterised Jim’s contribution to the field.

Adam Feinstein is a writer, autism researcher, poet, translator and Hispanist.  He is the editor of the international autism magazine, Looking Up (  He was also editor of the autism-related website, Awares - run by Autism Cymru, Wales’s pioneering national charity for autism - and organised the annual Awares international online autism conference, the largest of its kind anywhere (with more than sixty top experts and thousands of delegates online).  Speakers included Dr Lorna Wing, Professor Uta Frith, Professor Rita Jordan and Professor Gary Mesibov.

Wiley-Blackwell published Feinstein’s book, A History of Autism: Conversations with the Pioneers, in the UK and the USA in 2010 to worldwide acclaim. It has since been translated into several languages. (Professor Simon Baron-Cohen , director of Cambridge University’s Autism Research Centre, described it as ‘a treasure trove … and a terrific book’). He is currently writing a book on autism and employment.  He has a 23-year-old son, Johnny, with autism.

Feinstein’s biography of the Nobel Prize-winning Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda: A Passion for Life, first published by Bloomsbury in 2004 and reissued in an updated edition in 2013, was also widely praised (Harold Pinter called it ‘a masterpiece’).

He has given numerous lectures on autism and Neruda around the world, including the United States, Mexico, Argentina, Russia, Spain, Italy, Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands. He broadcasts regularly for the BBC and writes for the Observer, the Financial Times and the Times Literary Supplement. His poems and translations have appeared in many publications.

Dr Rona Tutt, OBE, is a Past President of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT). She has taught pupils of all ages in state and independent, day and residential, mainstream and special schools. She has an MA in Linguistics and a PhD in the education of children with autism. A former head teacher of an outstanding special school, in the 1990s she was asked by the local authority to establish the first provision in the area for children on the autism spectrum. Rona is a winner of the Leadership in Teaching Award, and has received an OBE for her services to special needs education. Last year she received an Outstanding Reviewer Award for her work on the International Journal of Educational Management. 

Rona has been on the Expert Reference Group of the Autism Education Trust (AET) since its inception. She was on the Expert Group for the Salt Review (2009-10) and the Steering Board for the Complex Learning Difficulties and Disabilities (CLDD) Research Project (2009-11). In 2011, she was one of the module managers for the complex needs online training materials. In the same year, she joined with Professor Barry Carpenter and Professor Francesca Happe to establish the National Forum for Neuroscience in Special Education, whose patron is Ute Frith. She represents the NAHT on the Special Education Consortium (SEC) and the National SEND Forum (NSENDF).

Rona is vice chair of governors at a school for profoundly deaf pupils and vice chair at a secondary school for students with autism, moderate learning difficulties (MLD) and speech, language and communication needs (SLCN). She has written or co-authored several books on education and is much in demand as an education consultant, speaker, writer, reviewer and judge. 

Dr Catriona Stewart co-founded Scottish Women's Autism Network, SWAN, in 2012 after a doctoral research study focussed on girls with Asperger's syndrome and anxiety. Catriona was consultant academic advisor to the development of Scottish Autism's Right Click online programme for women and girls, launched earlier this year and is now working full-time as an Autism Advisor with the charity. She is an advisor to the National Autism Project and one of their Expert panel. In 2015 she presented to CEDAW of the UN Women, Geneva. SWAN has organised three Learning Event seminars in partnership with Autism Network Scotland at Strathclyde University in 2015-16 and was shortlisted this year for a National Diversity Award.

James joined Autistica from the University of Aberdeen with 15 years of experience working in autism across clinical, educational, social care, policy and research. He undertook a PhD at the University of Aberdeen studying how autistic people detect the actions of others. In his post-doctoral research he developed an automated measure of facial imitation for psychiatric conditions.
James was a co-investigator on the Autism Education Trust’s project on “Outcomes for People on the Autism Spectrum”.  He was also part of a core stakeholder group which successfully campaigned for Scotland’s first ever autism strategy.  Prior to this role, James was a member of Autistica’s own Science Review Panel.
James joined Autistica because he is passionate about community-driven research which can lead to longer, happier, healthier lives for autistic people.  Since joining, Autistica have a published a report “Personal tragedies, Pubic Crisis”, which called for research to reverse the unacceptable levels of early death seen in autism, and led on a cross-charity partnership which ascertained the top ten questions for autism research according to autistic people, parents and professionals. 

Gary Cooper has been Chief Executive of Middletown Centre for Autism since April 2007. The Centre was established in 2007 and is funded by the two Departments of Education in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Prior to his appointment Gary worked as Principal of a School which had a number of specialist units catering for children who had a confirmed diagnosis of autism. The school also has developed an outreach support service for children with speech, language and communication difficulties. Gary has also served on a number of Special School Management Boards.

Jon Adams works cross-platform in image, word, sound, performance and Public art, weaving in fragments of autobiography, science and hidden metaphor. The result is a unique visual perspective of recording and systemizing history, time and place. He has worked with London 2012, Imperial War Museum, Professor Simon Baron Cohen and Sir Peter Brook. He actively feeds into Arts policy and debate around the abilities of artists, diversity and digital inclusivity and is campaigning for parity in the arts for neurodivergent artists through the Flow Observatorium project.

Jolanta has been Chief Executive of Ambitious about Autism since 2009. Previously she was the founding Chief Executive of Turn2us, a new charity that helps people in financial need access the money they are entitled to. She was also the Head of the Governance Hub, the national body charged with supporting the development of third sector governance. She also worked as a Director of I CAN, the charity that helps children and young people with speech, language and communication difficulties.  Jolanta is the Chair of the Autism Education Trust and the Chair of SEND Consortium which runs the service SENDirect. She has a passion for enabling children, young people and families affected by disability to live the life they choose.