Adam Harris, CEO of AsIAm, welcomes Castlebar's Inclusive Events Award in the Autism-Friendly Towns Programme.

Mayo town receives Inclusive Events Award in Autism-Friendly Towns Programme

AsIAm, Ireland’s national autism charity, has officially launched its Autism-Friendly Towns Programme for 2022/23, an initiative that brings communities together to work to increase accessibility, understanding and acceptance for autistic people in towns across Ireland.

Whilst Covid-19 caused huge disruption for autistic people and local communities, this year AsIAm will also present awards to a number of communities in recognition of their progress, including Castlebar, who will receive an Inclusive Events Award.

AsIAm work with communities to build infrastructure and support to make their town more inclusive and ultimately autism friendly. The initiative, launched in 2018, sees towns seek accreditation by providing the necessary tools and measures that include reducing sensory simulation and undertaking staff training to improve understanding of autism across local businesses, clubs and schools.

Currently, autistic people across Ireland face significant barriers, with only 40% of Irish people claiming to have a ‘good’ understanding of autism whilst 60% of people associate negative connotations with autism.

Autistic people across towns and villages in Ireland want to be afforded the same chance in every aspect of life, from going to school and making friends to finding a job and accessing public services.

This year, 19 towns have signed up to the programme where they will recruit a certain percentage of businesses, public services, and voluntary and sporting organisations in their towns as 'Autism-Friendly Champions'.

In addition to Castlebar, those towns are: Clonakilty, Tralee, Clane, Skerries, Sandymount, Waterford, Sligo, Maynooth, Dunmanway, Athlone, Listowel, Rush, Lusk, Swords, Dunshaughlin, Terenure, Ranelagh and Ringsend.

Commenting on the launch of the programme, Adam Harris, CEO of AsIAm, said: “I am delighted to formally launch our Autism-Friendly Towns Programme for 2022/23. This programme will not only help to improve access for autistic people in day-to-day life but create supporting and accepting environments which will benefit many people within the community and promote local business and tourism.

“The past two years have been incredibly tough, with Covid-19 causing a huge disruption for autistic people and local communities, but the resilience shown by everyone, particularly in the aforementioned towns, is testament to what hard work can achieve.”

The Autism-Friendly Towns Programme is being supported by a private philanthropist and has secured funding for the next three years.

For parents, educators, community members and those who want to learn more about autism, the annual AsIAm National Conference – taking place on February 4 next at The Grand Hotel, Malahide – is the perfect event to learn more. Tickets are priced €80.93 and can be purchased at Spaces are limited so people are advised to book as soon as possible.