A first for Ireland with Clonakilty becoming Ireland’s first Autism friendly town

SuperValu and AsIAm partner with the entire community of Clonakilty to secure full Autism Friendly accreditation

Tuesday 9th September: SuperValu, alongside local retailers Eugene and Catriona Scally of Scally’s SuperValu, Clonakilty is proud to announce that Clonakilty has officially been designated with an Autism Friendly status by AsIAm.

This is a first for Ireland and marks one major step in the on-going partnership between Adam Harris, Founder of AsIAm, Middletown Centre for Autism and SuperValu who, together, are committed to raising understanding and awareness of autism in communities across Ireland. The journey began in July and saw businesses; organisations and community groups undergo training and organisational changes to ensure they secured full Autism Friendly Accreditation.

In 2015, Scally’s SuperValu in Clonakilty was the first retailer in Ireland to implement changes in-store that would ensure that members of the Autism Community could enjoy a better shopping experience. Fast forward three years, and a nationwide journey is underway to deliver nationwide awareness, understanding and acceptance both in stores and communities.

Driven by a focused steering group and town committee in Clonakilty, the accreditation process has now been rolled out in 91 organisations and included:

  • Engagement and training 25% of businesses and voluntary organisations
  • Engagement and training of 50% of public services
  • Engagement and training of 50% of school communities
  • Engagement and training of 50% of healthcare professionals
  • Engagement of 3 employers
  • Reaching 25% of the town’s population
  • Develop a three year town plan to ensure the sustainability of the accreditation

All organisations have committed to putting the following measures in place:

  • Staff training
  • A Social Story
  • Becoming Service dog friendly
  • One sensory activity (e.g. a relaxation box, a quiet time or quiet room)

In addition to this, a town plan has been designed to ensure that the Autism Friendly accreditation is sustained and extended to any and all organisations in the community wanting to contribute to its ongoing success.

Speaking about the project, Catriona Scally, Scally’s SuperValu Clonakilty 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.’

Speaking about the initiative, 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.”

SuperValu Managing Director, Martin Kelleher said, “At SuperValu our ambition is to build more inclusive communities across Ireland. Our work with AsIAm and Middletown Centre for Autism over the past year has opened our eyes to what we can do beyond the each and every store to ensure we use our unique position in the heart of 217 Irish communities to make positive changes across Ireland. This is a project we are so proud to be a part of.’

Around 1 in 65 people in Ireland live with Autism and are to be found in every community and school in the country. They apply for every type of job but are often misunderstood, excluded or left behind due to a lack of understanding in society.

To find out more visit www.clonakilty.ie/autism-friendly-town.

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