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Revealed: winners of Autism Professionals Awards

The National Autistic Society announced the winners of the 2019 Autism Professionals Awards at a special ceremony at Birmingham Town Hall.

The top accolade, the Lifetime Achievement Award, went to Professor Pat Howlin in recognition of the impact of her research on understanding of autism and support for autistic people.

Photograph credit: www.aaronscottrichards.co.uk/The National Autistic Society

The prestigious Outstanding Achievement by an Individual on the Autism Spectrum award was given to Chris Bonnello – a former primary school teacher who reinvented himself as a writer, tutor and international speaker and runs Autistic, not weird. He focuses on defining himself by his strengths rather than his weaknesses and encourages other autistic people to follow the same philosophy.

The annual awards recognise people, services and schools across the UK who are making a difference to autistic people and their families. This year’s awards, which took place following the first day of the charity’s 10th Anniversary Professionals Conference, were hosted by Carrie Grant, a broadcaster and vocal coach, and Sarah Hendrickx, an autism consultant, trainer, coach and author. They handed out 12 awards to individuals and organisations involved in education, health, social care, employment, and volunteering.

The winners were chosen by an independent panel of autism specialists who were looking for high standards of innovation, creativity, impact and sustainability. By celebrating their achievements, the National Autistic Society hopes to increase public understanding of autism and inspire other people and organisations to make a difference too.

Pat Howlin, the Lifetime Achievement Award winner, is Emeritus Professor of Clinical Child Psychology at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London. She is a founding editor of Autism, a major international journal, and author of over 200 research publications. From her early career, she recognized the importance of taking a lifelong approach to autism and pioneered research on autistic adults and older autistic people. She has always recognised the importance of ensuring all approaches are underpinned by evidence and has stood firmly with families and autistic adults against dubious and unproven treatments.

Photograph credit: www.aaronscottrichards.co.uk/The National Autistic Society

There are approximately 700,000 autistic adults and children in the UK. Being autistic means someone sees, hears and feels in a different, often more intense way to other people, which can make the world a very overwhelming place.

Autistic people have their own strengths and varying needs, from 24-hour care to simply needing clearer communication and a little longer to do things at work and school. Without the right support or understanding, autistic people can miss out on an education, struggle to find work and become extremely isolated.

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

“Well done to all of our winners and finalists.

“I know that it was tough for the judges to choose between so many excellent nominations. Seeing so many inspirational professionals together made me really excited for the future of great support for autistic children and adults.

“Support and services for autistic people are still nowhere near as available and high quality as they should be. But today’s winners and finalists show that there is some really fantastic work going on across the UK. By sharing their achievements, I hope we can inspire other professionals and organisations and give them some ideas about how they can do their bit to create a society that works for autistic people.”

The full list of winners:

Awards for individuals

Lifetime Achievement Award

  • Pat Howlin

Most Inspirational Volunteer, sponsored by Room to Reward

  • Ryan Bardsley

Achievement by an Individual Education Professional

  • Julie Dalton

Outstanding Achievement by an Individual on the Autism Spectrum

  • Chris Bonnello

Outstanding Healthcare and/or Social Care Professional

  • Sally Fitzpatrick

Awards for teams

Inspirational Education Provision – Primary Schools and Early Years

  • Little Learners

Inspirational Education Provision – Higher and Further Education and other education providers

  • LAMP

Outstanding Adult or Children’s Services

  • Wigan Adult Autism Partnership Board

Outstanding Health Services, sponsored by Axia

  • Trust-wide autism project team

Innovative Family Support

  • Clifford Chance LLP and the National Autistic Society

Most Supportive Employer

  • Waitrose High Wycombe

Most Creative Community Project

  • Community Rail Lancashire

Find out more about autism, the Autism Professionals Awards and the Professional Conference by visiting: www.autism.org.uk/professionals