group photo of the winners at the Autism Professional Awards 2018 
The winners of our Autism Professionals' Awards were announced at a special ceremony in Harrogate last night (7 March). Congratulations to our 15 winners, and all our finalists too.

The annual event, supported by headline sponsor Axcis Education Recruitment, was hosted by Jane Asher and Kate Fox. Jane is our president and Kate is an award winning stand-up poet. They handed out 15 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 each nomination on their innovation, creativity, impact and sustainability.

The top accolade, the Lifetime Achievement Award, went to philanthropist Dame Stephanie Shirley in recognition of her commitment to improving the lives of autistic people through her foundation.

Laura James was another major winner, receiving the Award for Outstanding Achievement by an Individual on the Autism Spectrum, sponsored by Network Autism. She is an author and journalist who has campaigned and written widely about autism, including in her memoir Odd Girl Out

The Inspirational Volunteer award, which is sponsored by Room to Reward, was given to Mandy Garford in recognition of the huge amount of work she does supporting autistic people and families in Kent, in part as chair of the Dartford and Gravesham Branch of our charity.

The education accolades went to Ashley High School in Cheshire, the University of Lincoln’s Student Wellbeing Team, Gloucestershire County Council’s IMPACT service and Adele Beeson who works as a specialist skills tutor for Spectrum First Ltd. HM Prison &Young Offenders' Institution Parc was recognised as Outstanding Adult Service for their work improving support for autistic prisoners and EmployAbility at Cadent received the Most Supportive Employer Award.

Carol Povey, Director of the National Autistic Society's Centre for Autism, said: "A huge congratulations to all our winners and finalists. They should all be very proud for standing out among so many high quality nominations.

"It's been fantastic hearing about their innovative work and the impact it's having autistic people and their families. But we know that support and services in the UK are still far too patchy. We hope that sharing the stories of our winners and finalists will inspire other people and organisations - and give them some ideas about how they can make a real difference." 
The winners are:

Individual awards

Axcis Award for Achievement by an Individual Education Professional
- Adele Beeson, Spectrum First Ltd
Lifetime Achievement Award, sponsored by Pulse Community Healthcare
- Dame Stephanie Shirley
Award for Outstanding Achievement by an Individual on the Autism Spectrum, sponsored by Network Autism
- Laura James, author and journalist
Award for Most Inspirational Volunteer, sponsored by Room to Reward
- Mandy Garford, Dartford and Gravesham branch of the National Autistic Society
Award for Outstanding Healthcare Professional
- Penelope Clarke, NHS Shetland
Award for Most Inspirational Social Care Professional
- Carolyn Tucker, Surrey Choices

Team awards

Award for Inspirational Education Provision - Schools

- Ashley High School, Cheshire
Award for Inspirational Education Provision - Higher and further education

- Student Wellbeing Team, the University of Lincoln 
Award for Inspirational Education Provision - Other Education Providers

- IMPACT, Gloucestershire County Council
Award for Outstanding Adult Services

- Alpha 1 Supported Living Unit - HM Prison &Young Offenders' Institution Parc
Award for Outstanding Health Services
- Axia ASD Ltd
Award for Outstanding Family Support
- KAT Family Support, The Kent Autistic Trust
Award for Most Supportive Employer
- EmployAbility at Cadent
Award for Most Creative Community Project
- Aukestra - Aukestral Creative Solutions
Autism Accreditation Excellence Award
- Roman Fields School, Hertfordshire

For more information about the winners and the awards, visit the Autism Professionals Awards website