The winners of the Autism Professionals Awards 2017 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 Ria Lina who are both autistic. Sarah is a specialist consultant and author, and Ria 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, our charity’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 our 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
Birtenshaw School, Bolton
Inspirational Education Provision - Secondary and over 16
Coping with University Life, Ulster University
Inspirational Education Provision - Other Education Provider
Creative Learning Team, Sunderland Empire Theatre
Outstanding Adult Services
Step into Work Plus, Autism Together
Outstanding Health Services 
National Adult Outpatient Neurodevelopmental Clinic, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust
Outstanding Family Support 
Parent to Parent, The National Autistic Society
Most Creative Community Project
Footprints Life Camp, the Holmewood School
Most Supportive Employer
Step into Work Plus, Autism Together
Autism Accreditation Excellence Award, sponsored by Autism Accreditation
Woodcroft School, Loughton

For more information about the winners and the awards, visit: www.autismprofessionalsawards.org.uk.