Calls to make Lucan autism friendly town
By Aideen O'Flaherty
A COUNCILLOR has called for Lucan to become an autism friendly town, an initiative which requires the involvement of a number of local businesses and community groups to enable the area to become responsive to the needs of autistic people, at Tuesday’s monthly meeting of the Lucan Area Committee.
Fine Gael councillor Vicki Casserly tabled a motion at the meeting, where she referred to Clonakilty, Co Cork, which recently became Ireland’s first autism friendly town.
In order to acquire this designation Clonakilty had to go through a robust accreditation process, according to Cllr Casserly.
The village had to engage and train 25 per cent of businesses and voluntary organisations, 50 per cent of public services, 50 per cent of school communities, 50 per cent of healthcare professionals and three employers.
The town also had to reach and engage 25 per cent of the town’s population and develop a three-year Autism Friendly Town Plan, and Cllr Casserly is hopeful that something similar can be replicated in Lucan, after receiving a positive response to the idea at a public meeting she recently held, which featured guest speakers Frances Fitzgerald TD and Adam Harris from Ireland’s national autism charity AsIAm.
Cllr Casserly told The Echo: “There are a lot of families in Lucan living with autism, and I think it’s really important to take measures to make sure our area is inclusive for everyone.
“Having an autism friendly town will remove barriers and allow acceptance, and it will help people who are usually hindered by the environment.
“The whole thing is about acceptance, social integration and giving people the opportunity to participate in their own community.
“It’s a huge community effort, but everyone in the community is looking to progress this.”
A number of measures have been implemented in Clonakilty for it to receive autism friendly status, including staff receiving autism friendly training, businesses developing videos and maps so people with autism can prepare for their visit, and local organisations have developed sensory activities.
South Dublin County Council said, in response to Cllr Casserly’s motion, that they will contact Cork County Council “to ascertain the extent, if any, of the council’s involvement in the Clonakilty initiative before any decision can be made relating to this motion.”
Cllr Casserly, who is a carer for her son James, who has cerebral palsy, added: “I know with James that no two diagnoses are the same, and a diagnosis shouldn’t impede you being able to do anything.
“There’s often buzzwords about equal access and inclusivity, but you have to put action behind the words.
“Twenty people have signed up to start a committee for Lucan as an autism friendly town, and AsIAm will be involved in it, and we’re trying to get the HSE involved too.
“It takes 12 months to complete [the fundamental aspects required for an autism friendly town accreditation] as you also need to have a town plan in place to develop it.
“It shouldn’t take that long, because I’m enthusiastic about it and I really believe it’s the right thing to do – it’s something I’m very passionate about.”