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Autism-friendly events a success

May 2nd, 2018 7:10 AM

By Brian Moore

At Scally's first Autism Friendly Shopping Evening in 2015 was Fiona Kennedy and her daughter Aislinn with their autism service dog Max; Eugene Scally of Scally's SuperValu, and Patricia O'Leary, of Autism West Cork. (Photo: Paddy Feen)

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A WEST Cork woman, who has received national and international praise for her work on behalf of people with autism, is planning on rolling out her autism-friendly shopping experience across the country.  

It has been almost three years since The Southern Star spoke with Patricia O’Leary from Ballinascarthy about her plan to make the weekly shopping trip a safe and pressure-free experience for people with autism, and since then a number of national retailers have signed up to the programme.

Patricia also works with ‘My Canine Companion’, a group providing training and companion dogs to those with autism. She said that following the success and the support shown by Scally’s SuperValu in Clonakilty, where the first autism-friendly shopping evening took place three years ago, more and more retailers and autism support groups around the globe are contacting her to learn about her programme.

‘For most of us doing the weekly shopping is not something we have to give a lot of thought to,’ Patricia said. ‘But for someone with autism, their family or their friends, a trip to the local supermarket must be planned with almost military precision.’

People with autism are hyper-sensitive to sound and light, any loud noise or bright light can cause a reaction that is both unpleasant for the sufferer and for the people around them.

Patricia is busy training staff and organising autism-friendly shopping experiences with some of the country’s top retailers.

‘Of course Scally’s in Clonakilty has had great success with their shopping evening and since the first trial back in 2015, M&S in Cork city, Liffey Valley in Dublin and M&S in Killarney, as well as Brown Thomas, have all come on board,’ she said.

To aid Patricia in her work to bring a better future for people with autism, the TSB in Clonakilty will be hosting the annual fundraiser in aid of My Companion Canine and Autism West Cork, with Mayor of Clonakilty John Loughnan on Friday April 27th at 11am.

‘I look forward to seeing old friends and new at the TSB in Clonakilty on Friday,’ Patricia said. For more on Autism Friendly Shopping see their Facebook page or contact Patricia on 087 8126549.

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