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Other venues urged to follow Liss Ard's autism initiative

December 12th, 2018 7:15 AM

By Southern Star Team

Some of the families which took part in the lunch for autistic children and their families which was held at Liss Ard.

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A LUNCH designed entirely for those with autism at St Patrick’s Boys NS in Skibbereen, and organised by Liss Ard, was an enormous success. 

The ASD friendly lunch was described as ‘incredible,’ by school princial Alan Foley who said: ‘We couldn’t have asked for more. The level of planning and detail that Aidan Shanahan and the chefs put into the lunch was just unbelievable. They treated it like a wedding.’

Aidan, general manager of Liss Ard met with Alan and deputy principal Anne Crowley in the senior ASD class on a number of occasions beforehand.  

Taking into account the dietary requirements of all of the pupils, it was decided that a buffet would be the best option for the children. That way, the children would not get upset because something they didn’t like was on their plate, or certain bits of food were next to each other. 

Alan said: ‘It was this careful planning that guaranteed that the day would be a success. Many of our families have not been to a restaurant since their children were born. Routine and knowing what is coming next is so important to people with autism. 

‘The smallest change or something new can be really upsetting. Simple everyday things like going shopping can be hugely stressful. People with autism can also be very sensitive to noise and light. Aidan and his staff did everything right in removing stress from the day.’ 

Afterwards, the families went outside and fed the horses in the paddock next door before taking some time to walk around the beautiful gardens. ‘The 14 families that attended the lunch rarely get to meet each other outside of school as they are from all over West Cork. It was great to see them chatting and enjoying themselves. It is definitely something we will hope to do again,’ said Alan. 

Liss Ard hosted a second event, a charity dinner, for 60 guests, where they served a lavish seven-course tasting menu. Guests paid what they felt the meal was worth. The entire proceeds of this, along with the staff’s wages from the night, were donated to the ASD classes in St Patrick’s with a total of €5,275 raised. 

The most impressive aspect of the events was that the idea came from Liss Ard. Aidan Shanahan, the general manager, approached the school in early September wondering if they were interested, recalled Alan.

‘Liss Ard were finishing up their season and wanted to give a little back locally. We really can’t thank Aidan, the staff and the owners the Stern family enough. It  was a great opportunity for us to raise awareness of autism. 

‘There is no reason why others cannot follow in Liss Ard’s footsteps and organise similar autism friendly events,’ suggested Alan.

‘Autism is part of our society. It is we that have to change our ways to make people with autism feel more welcome and understood.’

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