Birdhill Is Ireland’s First Autism-Friendly Village.

Birdhill Is Ireland’s First Autism-Friendly Village.
Tuáthla Lucey
Tuáthla Lucey

24 Jul 2018

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

However, Birdhill community also places huge importance on the human environment, improving the quality of life for the residents, ensuring that Inclusion is at the heart of everything Birdhill does. This initiative is part of the bigger picture of our Community Inclusion and Integration Policy which aims to be socially inclusive in our development and enhancement of community spaces, and in running community events.

It is not Birdhill community's intention to highlight disability, true inclusion should be seamless.

The aim is to embrace the concept of Universal Design, i.e. to create spaces that are accessible to all, from the beginning and not as an afterthought. The Birdhill community wants to create a Community that meets everybody’s needs.

They are working on

  • Raising awareness of the challenges experienced by persons with Autism
  • Educating the wider Community about the condition
  • Creating a more inclusive setting and environment to enable families to access amenities and services in the village, and to participate in Community events.

To date, the Birdhill Community have worked on developing our Inclusion and Integration Policy, with an action plan. They 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.

We are working on a Communication Board in the Community Park to assist children who are pre-verbal or non-verbal to communicate their needs.

We are updating our website to include a video walkthrough of the Community Park to all families to plan for a visit.

We have provided noise defenders to businesses and asked them to make them available on request.

Our Inclusion and Integration officer has prepared a PowerPoint presentation to provide an opportunity for community members and businesses to learn more about the condition.

We will review our plans regularly and liaise with agencies such as ASIAM and Autism Ireland to ensure that we remain aware of best practice.

Birdhill community consider diversity in all our planning, and using the principles of universal design creates environments that meet peoples' needs.  Universal Design is good design which allows us to celebrate the uniqueness of us all.

The project will be formally launched in the Community Park in Birdhill on Thursday 2nd August at 7.00pm.