Clonakilty in West Cork is set to become Ireland’s first autism-friendly town.

The initiative is part of the on-going partnership between AsIAm and SuperValu and will see local businesses, organisations, and community groups undergo training and organisational changes to ensure they secure 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. Three years on and more than 100 SuperValu retailers around the country have taken the initiative to their own stores and communities.

Now, under the guidance of AsIAm and SuperValu, the town of Clonakilty has undertaken a commitment to combine the efforts of the entire community to become fully autism-friendly — a first in Ireland.

To receive official autism-friendly accreditation, the town as a whole must commit to:

- Engagement and training of 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 three employers;

- Reaching 25% of the town’s population.

The town has already made significant progress in reaching those targets with a steering group in place to ensure all deadlines are met and the adequate support is provided.

Speaking about the initiative, founder of AsIAm Adam Harris said the response of the town to the plans had been overwhelming and the energy which had been shown had blown his organisation away.

Through this initiative we are looking forward to mainstreaming autism and making big changes for the autism community,” said Mr Harris.

SuperValu marketing director Des O’Mahony said the initiative fits into the retailer’s vision to build more inclusive communities.

“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 Irish towns to make positive changes across the entire community,” said Mr O’Mahony.

“This is a project we are very excited about and proud to be supporting and we have full faith in Clonakilty to become Ireland’s first autism-friendly town.”

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