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'You're an incapable mother. Your child shouldn't be allowed out'

An Autism charity hopes to dispel myths about the disorder by training shops and businesses how to deal with children who have autism.

Thomas and, assistance dog, Nana.
Thomas and, assistance dog, Nana.

AUTISM ASSISTANCE DOGS Ireland is launching a new training programme to help shops and businesses support autistic children and their families.

The training, which is set to be launched in the coming weeks, is designed to give staff a crash course in how they can can help a family with autism that they come into contact with during their working day.

The training plans have been in development since October 2017. Their importance was illustrated by a recent incident which saw a mother and her son being told to leave a Lidl store in Dublin because they had an autism assistance dog with them.

Cherie Tynan of Autism Assistance Dogs Ireland explained that people with autism and their families routinely suffer discrimination.

“We would have families coming to us looking for a dog where they’re regularly told things like: ‘You’re an incapable mother’, ‘you need to go to parenting classes’ or ‘your child shouldn’t be allowed out’”.

People wouldn’t say those things to a mother who had a child with Spina bifida. Because they can’t see the disorder they don’t realise it exists.

“We’re trying to help people not discriminate,” she added.

A lack of public awareness can make things extremely difficult for children and families who live with the autism. The charity aims to use the workshops as an opportunity to dispel some of the myths around the disorder.

As part of the three-hour training programme, which will be facilitated in morning, afternoon or evening classes, participants they will hear from parents of autistic children, they will learn why autistic children can have difficulty in stores and what exactly they are experiencing.

“A sensory overload can cause a ‘meltdown’, too many lights, too many sounds. There is so much content to process that the child just goes to pieces,” Cherie explained.

Numerous shops and businesses around Ireland have introduced autism-friendly events in recent years. These involve initiatives supermarkets not playing music and lowering their lighting and till sounds.

Hopefully, with the training, more businesses and staff will learn what autism is. What to look out for and what they can do to make life better for families.

Any shops or businesses interested in availing of the autism awareness training can contact Cherie Tyner on Cherie@aadi.ie or 085-8783280.

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Ceimin Burke

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