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The University of Southampton
Health Sciences

Health Sciences up for national award

Published: 27 February 2015

The University of Southampton has been nominated for a national award in recognition of its innovative e-learning programme developed to teach health and social care students about autism.

The University’s Faculty of Health Sciences is one of only three organisations selected as a finalist for the National Autistic Society’s (NAS) Autism Professionals Awards 2015 in the Inspirational Education Provision ‘other education provider’ category, sponsored by Axcis Education Recruitment.

This annual awards ceremony, which first took place in 2013, recognises and rewards services and professionals that lead the way in innovative autism practice, and make a real difference to the lives of people with the condition in the UK.

As awareness of autism and diagnostic techniques have improved in recent years more people, young and old, are being diagnosed, which means that more health and social care professionals are dealing with the lifelong disability in their day-to-day work.

In response to this, and the Government’s Autism Act and resulting Autism Strategies, Southampton academics developed the online autism e-learning package to embed autism awareness in the training of future health and social care workers. The Faculty predicts that around 3,000 students will access the package over the next academic year.

The University’s Michelle Cowen, director of programmes for Bio Behavioural Health, Professional Practice in Health Sciences, said: “The Faculty has put a lot of time and energy into developing this online autism e-learning package so it’s a real honour to see it recognised in the Autism Professionals Awards.

“More than one in 100 people in the UK have autism, so our health and social care students are highly likely to work with people affected by the condition in their future careers. Learning about autism and how it affects different people is therefore an absolutely essential component of their training.

“We hope that the benefits of thousands of students accessing this package in the next academic year will be felt by local people with autism soon after.”

Carol Povey, director of the National Autistic Society’s Centre for Autism, said: "The autism community gets together once a year to recognise individuals and services, like the University of Southampton, doing ground-breaking work in the field of autism and improving the lives of people with the disability.

“The calibre, variety and sheer number of nominations we received is astounding and the University of Southampton has done remarkably well to stand out. We hope this achievement will inspire other organisations to improve their own practices and go that extra mile to improve the lives of people with autism across the UK.”

The winning nominee will be revealed at the NAS’ Professional Conference on 3rd March 2015 at the Harrogate International Centre, Harrogate.

In total there are 13 awards being celebrated at the Conference, including four celebrating individual professional achievement, and nine recognising good practice by teams or organisations.

To find out more information about the Awards please visit



Notes for editors


The Autism Professionals Awards

  • The independent judging panel consists of 11 leading experts in the field of autism from a variety of professional backgrounds across the UK. Full biographical details of all judges are available on the website:


Award for Inspirational Education Provision – Other Education Provider

  • This award seeks to recognise and reward a team or organisation that has taken a fresh approach to learning and development within education.
  • Judges will be keen to see evidence of how the nominees have used their innovation and creativity to inspire the people they support.
  • Nominations should be supported by practical examples, where possible.
  • Entries are invited from educational establishments who do not fall into the schools’ awards categories, such as adult learning providers and services that build capacity.

Autism Professionals Awards sponsors:


AXCIS Education Recruitment

  • Axcis Education Recruitment is the foremost specialist supplier of quality special educational needs (SEN) staffing solutions in the UK.
  • Their commitment to working with government and professional partners plus its duty of care, ensures that, despite wide-ranging changes in education, they can have a positive effect on the lives of the young people with SEND they ultimately support.
  • They appreciate these young people are some of the most vulnerable in the education system and require inclusive nurture to allow them to achieve to the very best of their ability.

Switalskis Solicitors

  • Three times winner of the Yorkshire Law Firm of the Year award, Switalskis Solicitors offers a wide range of expert legal advice and representation for individuals and businesses.
  • Switalskis legal services are available from nine locations across the Yorkshire region: York, Leeds, Wakefield, Bradford, Huddersfield, Halifax, Dewsbury, Pontefract and Goldthorpe (in association with W. Brook & Co).

Autism Accreditation

  • Established by The National Autistic Society (NAS) and its affiliated local societies, with support from the Department of Health, Autism Accreditation has been the foundation upon which much of the successful expansion of quality services for people with autism has been built.
  • Autism Accreditation works to improve the quality of provision for people with autism by:
    • providing a unified standard of excellence in both policy and practice
    • presenting a systematic framework for continuous self-examination and development
    • giving guidance and support to the services who use our programme so that they can meet the established criteria required for accredited status.
  • Autism Accreditation provides an autism-specific quality assurance programme for over 300 organisations throughout the UK and across the globe. Clients include local authorities, NHS trusts, education authorities, local autism societies and private companies.

Network Autism

  • Network Autism is a place where professionals can come together, open up new channels of information and share good practice.
  • Network autism allows professionals to:
    • connect with professionals in similar situations
    • collaborate in finding new solutions
    • share expertise and knowledge
    • support colleagues in achieving better outcomes.


The National Autistic Society

  • Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people. It also affects how they make sense of the world around them. It is a spectrum condition, which means that, while all people with autism share certain difficulties, their condition will affect them in different ways. Some people with autism are able to live relatively independent lives but others may have accompanying learning disabilities and need a lifetime of specialist support. People with autism may also experience over- or under-sensitivity to sounds, touch, tastes, smells, light or colours.
  • Asperger syndrome is a form of autism. People with Asperger syndrome are often of average or above average intelligence. They have fewer problems with speech but may still have difficulties with understanding and processing language.
  • The National Autistic Society is the UK's leading charity for people with autism and their families. Founded in 1962, it continues to spearhead national and international initiatives and provide a strong voice for all people with autism. The NAS provides a wide range of services to help people with autism and Asperger syndrome live their lives with as much independence as possible.
  • For more information about autism and the NAS, visit
  • Follow the NAS on Twitter (@Autism) or on Facebook (
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