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

Jolanta Lasota
Chief Executive Ambitious about Autism

Dr Catriona Stewart
Autism Consultant and Researcher

Jim Taylor
Independent Autism Consultant


Rona Tutt OBE

Dr Rona Tutt OBE
Independent Consultant





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, received an Outstanding Reviewer Award for her work on the International Journal of Educational Management and an OBE for her services to special needs education.

Rona has been involved with the Autism Education Trust (AET) and the Autism and Girls Forum since they started. With Professor Barry Carpenter and Professor Francesca Happé she established the National Forum for Neuroscience and Special Education, whose patron is Uta Frith. During 2015/16, she was the Interim Chair appointed to establish Hertfordshire's All Age Autism Partnership Board.

Rona is in constant demand to speak at conferences and other events. She is vice chair of governors at an all-age school for profoundly deaf pupils and at a secondary school for students with autism, learning difficulties (LD) and speech, language and communication needs (SLCN). She has written and co-authored several books on education. She is a Fellow of UCL's Centre for Inclusive Education (CIE).

Dr Catriona Stewart co-founded charity SWAN: Scottish Women's Autism Network 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 and is now working full-time with the charity. She was an advisor to the National Autism Project and one of their Expert panel and is currently working as a voluntary advisor to the review of the Mental Health Act (Scotland) as applied to autism and learning disability. SWAN has organised 4 Learning Event seminars in partnership with Autism Network Scotland, Scottish Autism and Inspiring Scotland and this year was given a Scottish Social Services Award under the category "Head Above the Parapet".

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 had 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. He currently serves as an Editorial Board member of the National Autistic Society as well as a member of the Judging Panel of the annual Professional Awards. In 2017 Gary was invested with the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in recognition of his services to children with special educational needs.

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 Chair of the Autism Education Trust and member of the Civil Service Disability Expert Advisors Panel. She has a passion for enabling children, young people and families affected by disability to live the life they choose.