AN 'INSPIRATIONAL' Otley woman has won a National Autistic Society award.

Shannon Coles was one of three finalists shortlisted for the Axcis Award for Achievement by an Individual Education Professional at this year's Autism Professionals Awards.

Shannon, who has been supporting young people on the autism spectrum for 40 years, found out she had won at a ceremony in Harrogate on Tuesday, March 7.

Her work began as a teacher in specialist schools then, in 2004, she co-founded and worked for STARS - a Leeds Children's Services outreach team of autism specialists.

Her role with that organisation included Autism Education Trust training and outreach teaching, including offering advice to early years groups and schools.

Director of the National Autistic Society's Centre for Autism, Carol Povey, 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.

"Shannon should be extremely proud to have stood out among so many outstanding finalists, impressing the judges with her 40 year career supporting young people on the autism spectrum.

"I hope that by sharing Shannon’s and the other winners and finalists’ stories we can inspire other people and organisations.

"Caring and innovative professionals and services can transform the lives of autistic people and their families."

Recently retired, Shannon is still involved in supporting autistic children and their families, before and after diagnosis, and runs a monthly social group for people with Asperger syndrome.

She said: "It has been a privilege to meet and support so many wonderful and creative young people throughout my career.

"I hope my work, which I have enjoyed so much, has had a positive impact on the young people I have worked with."