Thesun.ie: Clonakilty named as Ireland's first autism friendly town as community bands together for training and organisational changes

autism inclusion

Measures such as staff training, becoming service dog friendly and developing sensory activities, such as relaxation boxes and quiet rooms are being rolled out

CLONAKILTY has been named as Ireland’s first autism friendly town.

The status was dedicated to the Co Cork town after businesses, organisations and community groups underwent training and organisational changes to facilitate people with autism.

Jack Burton, Finn Mortell, and Michael Francis Collins, alongside Martin Kelleher, Managing Director, SuperValu and Adam Harris, founder of AsIAm

�Cathal Noonan

Jack Burton, Finn Mortell, and Michael Francis Collins, alongside Martin Kelleher, Managing Director, SuperValu and Adam Harris, founder of AsIAm

Measures such as staff training, becoming service dog friendly and developing sensory activities, such as relaxation boxes, quiet time or quiet rooms are being rolled out in 91 organisations.

The process saw the engagement and training of 50 per cent of public services, 50 per cent of school communities and healthcare professionals and ultimately reaching 25 per cent of the the town population of over 4,500 people.

A focused steering group and the town committee in Clonakilty drove this major step in the partnership between Adam Harris, Founder of AsIAm, Middletown Centre for Autism and SuperValu.

Local retailers Eugene and Catriona Scally of Scally’s SuperValu, Clonakilty became the first retailer in 2015 to make changes in-store to improve the shopping experience for the autism community.

Patricia O’Leary, My Canine Companion, Martin Kelleher, Managing Director, SuperValu and Adam Harris, founder of AsIAm

�Cathal Noonan

Patricia O’Leary, My Canine Companion, Martin Kelleher, Managing Director, SuperValu and Adam Harris, founder of AsIAm

Now Supervalu are working with AsIAm to increase nationwide awareness, understanding and acceptance both in stores and communities.

Speaking about the project, Catriona Scally said: “Following the overwhelmingly positive response we received from the Autism community in Clonakilty, Scally’s SuperValu knew that there was more we could do to help.

“We always knew this was an ambitious undertaking, but we had the best in the country guiding us coupled with a community spirit and determination that is hard to beat.”

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Adam Harris, Founder of AsIAm said: “This morning’s designation marks an important milestone for the autism community in Ireland.

“The town of Clonakilty has rejected isolation, stigma and loss of potential in favour of autism inclusion, acceptance and cooperation.

“The small changes which the organisations in the town have committed to will make a tangible difference in the life of autistic people locally but will also have a much wider impact – challenging businesses, organisations and communities across Ireland to think what they can do to become more autism-friendly.”

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