The winners of the Autism Professionals Awards have been announced at a special ceremony in Harrogate (7 March 2016). The top accolade, the Lifetime Achievement Award, went to Dr Dinah Murray in recognition of her research and campaigning work.

The National Autistic Society event, supported by headline sponsor Axcis Education Recruitment, was hosted by Sarah Hendrickx and Rina Lina who are both autistic. Sarah is a specialist consultant and author, and Rina is a stand-up comedian. They handed out 14 awards to individuals and teams involved in education, health, social care, employment, community projects and volunteering. The winners were chosen by an independent panel of 10 autism experts who judged them on their innovation, creativity, impact and sustainability.

Caroline Hearst was also a major winner, receiving the Award for Outstanding Achievement by an Individual on the Autism Spectrum sponsored by Network Autism, in recognition of her wide-ranging work supporting autistic people and improving professionals’ understanding of autism. Autism Together won two awards for their Step into Work Plus programme: Most Supportive Employer and Outstanding Adult Services. Parent to Parent, the National Autistic Society’s volunteer-run telephone support service, won the Award for Innovative Family Support.

In the education categories, Shannon Coles won the Axcis Award for Achievement by an Individual Education Professional, after impressing the judges with the support she’s given to young people on the autism spectrum over 40 years. Meanwhile Birtenshaw School in Bolton and Ulster University’s Coping with University Life project won the Inspirational Education Provision awards for primary and secondary/over 16 education.

Carol Povey, Director of the National Autistic Society’s Centre for Autism, said:

“It was wonderful to meet so many talented and passionate people and to hear about the difference their work is making to autistic people and their families.

“The standard of this year’s entries was outstanding, so all our finalists and winners should feel extremely proud.

“As well as recognising their achievement, we hope that by sharing their stories, we can inspire other people and organisations. Caring and innovative professionals and services can transform the lives of autistic people and their families.”

The winners are:

Individual awards

Axcis Award for Achievement by an Individual Education Professional

  • Shannon Coles, STARS

Lifetime Achievement Award

  • Dinah Murray

Outstanding Achievement by an Individual on the Autism Spectrum, Sponsored by Network Autism

  • Caroline Hearst

Most Inspirational Volunteer

  • Jane Frost

Outstanding Healthcare Professional, sponsored by Ora Nurse

  • Dr Helen Pearce, Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust

Team awards

Inspirational Education Provision – Primary School

Inspirational Education Provision – Secondary and over 16

Inspirational Education Provision – Other Education Provider

  • Creative Learning Team, Sunderland Empire Theatre

Outstanding Adult Services

Outstanding Health Services

Outstanding Family Support

Most Creative Community Project

Most Supportive Employer

Autism Accreditation Excellence Award, sponsored by Autism Accreditation


For more information about the winners and the awards, visit: