Life Health & Wellbeing

Saturday 20 July 2019

'It has rejected stigma in favour of inclusion' - Clonakilty becomes Ireland’s first autism-friendly town

Adam Harris Credit: Frank Mc Grath
Adam Harris Credit: Frank Mc Grath
Geraldine Gittens

Geraldine Gittens

Clonakilty has become Ireland’s first autism-friendly town.

Over 80 businesses and organisations carried out four specific actions, in association with the As I Am charity, in order to achieve the accolade.

They erected visual guides and maps to help any visiting autistic person; agreed to host a weekly quiet time or make available a relaxation box for customers or a dedicated quiet space for any autistic people who might experience sensory overload. They also agreed to be service dog friendly.

The local schools, GAA and rugby clubs, Supervalu, gyms, shops, cafes, garda and fire stations are some of the spots who are now autism-friendly.

Around 1 in 65 people in Ireland live with autism. People who are on the autistic spectrum can have difficulty with social communication, social imagination, social interaction and sensory processing.

Adam Harris, founder of AsIAm explained that the town’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.”

Catriona Scally, Scally’s SuperValu Clonakilty added: "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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