Julie Dalton from Rochdale Borough Council's additional needs service, which supports children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), has been shortlisted in the National Autistic Society's prestigious Autism Professionals Awards.
Mrs Dalton, a senior teacher for the council's Team for Autism and Social Communication (TASC), is a finalist in the Autism Professional category. She was shortlisted by an independent panel of autism specialists, who look for high standards of innovation, creativity, impact and sustainability.
Julie and her team provide support and advice for mainstream schools with children and young people with a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC) or social communication difficulties.
Some of the inspiring and innovative work that has led to Julie's nomination is the development of hub schools across the borough. These provide a place for parents and teachers from other schools to meet with the team to gain advice and support.
Innovative collaborative work has been undertaken by the TASC team and the educational psychology service in offering accredited training for Autism Champions within Rochdale schools. This has been seen as an excellent strategy to support schools in developing and improving inclusive ASC practice.
They have also developed coffee mornings in schools, for parents to meet with other parents of children with ASC in a relaxed environment, where they can catch up and gain support from each other, and annual conferences which teachers and parents alike have found to be an excellent vehicle to raise awareness of autism and the support the council provides.
Julie, who is delighted with her nomination, said: "I am extremely humbled that I have been shortlisted for such an award. I see this as a real team effort, both from the dedication of my wonderful team and the schools across Rochdale that we have the privilege of working in."
Councillor Kieran Heakin, Cabinet Member for Children's Services, said: "Well done to Julie and her team. I know Julie sees this nomination as a reflection of all the hard work the team are putting in. They are working really hard on providing support to children, young people and families and this award nomination is recognition of that. It's a great follow up to our recent positive Ofsted SEND visit which praised our work on autism support."
The annual Autism Professionals Awards were launched in 2013 to recognise people, services and schools across the UK who are making a difference to autistic people and their families. 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.
There are around 700,000 autistic people 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.
Every autistic person is different and many people also have a learning disability, mental health problems or other conditions. With understanding and tailored support, autistic people can live full and rewarding lives – whether in education, work or living as independently as possible.
Carol Povey, director of the National Autistic Society's Centre for Autism, said: "We run the Autism Professionals Awards each year to recognise and celebrate the people, projects and organisations doing amazing things for autistic children, adults, or their families. All the finalists should be commended for impressing the judges and standing out among so many excellent nominations. By celebrating their achievements, we hope to improve public understanding of autism and inspire other people and organisations to make a difference too."
The winners will be announced at a special ceremony on Thursday, 7 March 2019 in Birmingham, as part of the National Autistic Society's Professional Conference.