Tidy Towns winner is Ireland’s first autism friendly village

Donal O'Regan

Reporter:

Donal O'Regan

Email:

donal.oregan@limerickleader.ie

Tidy Towns winner is Ireland’s first autism friendly village

Martin Kelleher of SuperValu; Denis Floyd,Chairperson Birdhill Tidy Towns Committee; and Michael Ring, Minister for Rural and Community Development, celebrate Birdhill's win in the Tidy Towns

BIRDHILL certainly doesn’t sit on its laurels.

The village has been winning awards for its built environment for many years culminating in the overall Tidy Towns award in September 2017.

However, Denis Floyd, chair of Birdhill Tidy Towns, said they also place huge importance on the human environment, improving the quality of life for their residents and ensuring that inclusion is at the heart of everything they do.

An initiative to make Birdhill Ireland’s first autism-friendly village is part of the bigger picture of their community inclusion and integration policy, which aims to be socially inclusive in their development and enhancement of community spaces, and in running community events.

Mr Floyd said it is not their intention to highlight disability as “true inclusion should be seamless”. The project will be formally launched in the community park in Birdhill this Thursday, August 2 at 7pm.

Mr Floyd said they want to create spaces that are accessible to all, from the beginning and not as an afterthought.

“We want to create a community that meets everybody’s needs,” said Mr Floyd.

The committee are working on raising awareness of the challenges experienced by persons with autism, educating the wider community about the condition and creating a more inclusive setting and environment to enable families to access amenities and services in the village, and to participate in community events.

“We have created an autism friendly play area in our community park, including ‘The Nook’, a safe retreat for children who may be experiencing sensory overload. “We have met with local business owners and offered guidance on making their premises autism friendly, through the use of social narratives, photos and video clips, to allow families to prepare in advance of their visit to Birdhill,” said Mr Floyd.

The committee is working on a communication board in the community park to assist children who are pre-verbal or non-verbal to communicate their needs.

They are updating their website to include a video walk through of the community park to all families to plan for a visit.  They have provided noise defenders to businesses, and asked them to make them available on request.

 See birdhilltidytowns.ie for more