Clonakilty is officially Ireland's first autism-friendly town 8 months ago

Clonakilty is officially Ireland's first autism-friendly town

A great example to follow.

Clonakilty in County Cork has officially been named as the first autism-friendly town in Ireland.

A "robust" accreditation process preceded the move, as Clonakilty put together an overall three-year town plan and a rigorous training programme for specific local elements.

The town had to engage and train 25% of businesses and voluntary organisations, 50% of public services, 50% of school communities and 50% of healthcare professionals while also interacting with 25% of the population in order to bring about the necessary changes.

Autism-friendly shopping was successfully introduced at the local Scally's SuperValu in 2015, leading to the development of the subsequent town-wide project.

To date, 212 organisations have been accredited and are now autism-friendly, with more organisations currently in the process of being assessed.

All accredited 'Autism-Friendly Champions' will display a sticker on the entrance of their premises to indicate their status, while also displaying a Service Dog-Friendly sticker.

The Autism-Friendly Champions have met the following requirements to receive accreditation:

  • Followed autism friendly staff training
  • Developed a social story to help prepare the visit to the organisation
  • Are service dog-friendly
  • Are sensory activity-specific and thus can host a weekly quiet time session, make available a relaxation box for customers and host a dedicated quiet space
  • Are committed to working with the Clonakilty Autism Friendly Town Committee on the implementation of the three-year town plan

“It has given us the opportunity to bring autism outside the autism community," said Adam Harris, founder of autism awareness charity AsIAm.

Harris noted that Clonakilty's new status sends "a powerful message of acceptance to people around Ireland” and hopes that other areas of the country will follow its example.