While there are always improvements that could be made, we are happy to see more and more autism and sensory-friendly initiatives in Ireland being launched for those with additional needs.
Those who have autism or sensory differences, or who support someone who does, will be keenly aware of the unique challenges that new environments can pose.
With that in mind, here are just some of the best autism and sensory-friendly initiatives in Ireland designed to make your experience travelling around the country a little bit easier.
5. Parkway Retail Park – autism-friendly shopping
Many supermarkets across the country offer autism and sensory-friendly shopping times.
Simple changes such as dimming the lights and turning off the music during these set times can make an enormous difference for people who become overwhelmed in busy stores.
SuperValu and Lidl are two of the major chains spearheading this autism-friendly initiative in Ireland, with more details of times in individual stores available on their websites.
Parkway Retail Park in Limerick became Ireland’s first autism-friendly retail park in 2018. This title was obtained through measures such as extensive staff training and visual signage.
Peaked caps are available for use while shopping that block light stimulation from the sun when moving between stores.
Address: Limerick, Ireland
4. Dublin Airport – autism-friendly service
Dublin Airport offers those travelling through its terminals the option of an autism and sensory-friendly service.
This involves registering online in advance of travelling and being provided with a coloured lanyard or wristband that will identify you to trained staff as having autism or sensory-needs.
You will then be provided with support and assistance from staff at potentially tricky times such as queueing or mixing with large crowds.
Dublin Airport also has visual guides and other preparatory material available for download on its website.
Address: Dublin, Ireland
3. Aviva Sensory Hub, Dublin – making match-day accessible
Going to a match can seem like an unrealistic goal for many autism families. The combination of loud noises, crowds, and fast-moving images is often overwhelming for those with sensory differences.
The newly-launched Sensory Hub at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin is a cubby system which people attending matches can use for five to ten minutes on a first-come, first-served basis.
The cubby is supervised by a trained Special Needs Assistant (SNA), who will support you to adjust the sensory stimulation within to your specific needs – whether that is a complete sensory occlusion or a modified level of stimulation.
This project intends to allow those with different sensory profiles to take a break from the environment of the stadium so that they can feel regulated enough to watch the match. This is undoubtedly one of the most forward-thinking autism-friendly initiatives in Ireland.
Address: Lansdowne Rd, Dublin 4, Ireland
2. Sensory hotel rooms at Radisson Blu, Sligo – simple but effective autism and sensory friendly initiatives
Sligo’s Radisson Blu Hotel was proud to unveil Ireland’s first sensory-friendly hotel room in 2019.
This room features both stimulating and stimulant-reducing sensory equipment, along with adjustable ambient lighting. It is located in a quiet part of the hotel and is specially designed to allow guests to meet complex sensory needs while away from home.
Although at the time of writing this hotel room is the only one of its kind in Ireland, Radisson has revealed plans to roll out this autism-friendly initiative to a number of its other branches across the country.
Address: Ballincar, Rosses Point, Co. Sligo, Ireland
1. Clonakilty – Ireland’s first autism-friendly town
In 2018, the delightful seaside community of Clonakilty in West Cork became the country’s first official autism-friendly town.
This status was achieved through several approaches: training in inclusivity has been provided to 25% of the town’s businesses and voluntary organisations, promoting an understanding and acceptance of how someone with autism might present, and how best to support them.
For families visiting Clonakilty, a range of preparation material is available (including visuals) to familiarise yourself with Clonakilty before your trip even takes place. This can be a crucial step in reducing anxiety for people with autism who might struggle to adjust to new environments at first.
Many of the local businesses that are accredited as ‘Autism Friendly Champions’ have unique visuals and social stories for customers with autism, as well as different sensory activities onsite.
Clonakilty truly is ahead of the pack when it comes to autism and sensory-friendly initiatives in Ireland.
Address: Park Road, Clonakilty, Co. Cork, P85 RD23, Ireland