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Clonakilty celebrates after achieving first ‘Autism Friendly Town' status

October 16th, 2018 5:05 PM

By Kieran O'Mahony

Michael Francis Collins of Clonakilty GAA Club with Jack Burton of Clonakilty Rugby Club at the unveiling of the official Autism Friendly designation sign in Clonakilty. (Photo: Cathal Noonan)

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THE ‘can do’ attitude of the people of Clonakilty was celebrated last week as the town became the country’s first Autism Friendly Town. 

Speaking at the launch of the accreditation event at Clonakilty Park Hotel on Tuesday morning, Catriona Scally of Scally’s SuperValu – whose store was the first to spearhead an autism friendly shopping experience three years ago and which was later adopted by SuperValu in all their stores nationwide  – said that she knew that the people of Clonakilty would work together to get this over the line.

‘We are an amazing people here and we are a can-do people and I am so proud of what we have achieved in meeting those challenges in making our world a better and more friendly place for the autistic community,’ said Catriona.

‘We have been on this journey since July and we’ve had an amazing response and it was oversubscribed. With the help of Adam Harris and AsIAm, we have started a process for this country and it’s a huge honour that this has started in this community.’

This journey to make Clonakilty Ireland’s first Autism Friendly Town began in July which saw businesses, organisations, community groups and sports clubs undergo training and organisational changes to ensure they secured full Autism Friendly accreditation. 

This accreditation has now been rolled out in 91 organisations and includes a three-year plan to ensure the sustainability of the accreditation and is reaching 25% of the town’s population.

Founder of AsIAm – an organisation that works to build a more inclusive Ireland for the autism community ¬–  Adam Harris, said this has brought ‘autism outside of the autism community’ and commended the people of Clonakilty.

‘It’s created a space where the stigma of autism has been addressed and your commitment to being autism friendly and meeting our community halfway sends a powerful message of acceptance to autistic people around Ireland and it challenges every business and every community to consider what is possible,’ said Mr Harris.

Those that worked hard to get the town’s new status were also recognised by being awarded AsIAm ‘Hero’ awards. 

Local woman Patricia O’Leary, who started the whole process when she suggested the idea of autism friendly shopping to Scally’s SuperValu in 2015, was one of the recipients, along with the Scally family and SuperValu Ireland.

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