IN what appears to be a world first, a West Cork supermarket is hoping to hold a weekly autism-friendly shopping evening.
Scally’s SuperValu in Clonakilty held its first night aimed at parents of autistic children on Tuesday night, where lights and noise were kept to a minimum in the store, between 7pm and 9pm.
The idea was prompted by Patricia O’Leary, who is studying autism at UCC. ‘I wanted something that would be inclusive – this night is not just for autistic people, but for everyone. You hear of a lot of events that are exclusive – just for children with autism – but I wanted this to be inclusive,’ she told The Southern Star.
She said she was thrilled when she approached businessman Eugene Scally with the idea of a night, specifically – but not exclusively – aimed at parents who find the routine of shopping with autistic children very difficult.
‘Eugene just said “you tell me when and where and we will do it”,’ said Patricia, who is originally from Dublin. ‘Since I set up the Facebook page, I have had people from the US and Australia, and other countries wondering why their own supermarkets are not doing this.’
On Tuesday night, the lights were dimmed in the shop, and the pager and the music was switched off, making it a much more pleasant experience for people with very sensitive sensory perception – which is a common feature of autism.
Patricia, who is studying for a diploma in UCC, says she has always been interested in the idea of inclusion, rather than exclusion, for autistic people. ‘I want to break down the social barriers. When people hear someone is autistic, they immediately have a fear. We need to embrace the difference,’ she said.
The shop will continue the initiative until Easter, and review the demand for it then. ‘I really want to ask people to support this now that we have it, everyone who was here on the night seemed to be really pleased with it,’ said Patricia. Her next plan is to see if she can organise an ‘autism friendly shopping day’ in Clonakilty.