A couple of small changes could help make Portlaoise an autism-friendly town, according to a presentation made to a meeting in Laois County Council this week.
Breda Murray, chairperson of Laois-Offaly Families for Autism, led a presentation to the Portlaoise Municipal District, where she was joined by fellow members of that group, Elaine McGinn, Stef McGinn and Laura Maher.
They are a group made up of 157 families representing 175 children.
Their presentation at the September meeting followed on from a motion from Cllr Marie Tuohy in June.
Among the suggestions made were for restaurants to offer quiet times as well as visual menus and for special parking spaces (and permits) to be made available to families with autistic children.
“We are happy to pay for a permit every year,” said Stef McGinn.
“We would like a specific permit that we could park. You’d just have to provide a letter from a doctor with proof of diagnosis.
“Being able to park nearer the shops and nearer trolleys would make our life easier. It would be less hassle, less anxiety.”
Such a system is currently in place in McDonagh Junction Shopping Centre in Kilkenny.
Quiet time in shops and visual boards in playgrounds would also be warmly welcomed and make a big difference, argued the group.
They received widespread support from the councillors at the meeting.
“They are all very reasonable requests,” said Cllr Catherine Fitzgerald, who chairs the Portlaoise Municipal District meetings.
“That is not a massive shopping list. A lot of these things can be changed if the Council and Downtown Portlaoise work together.
“I know Marie (Tuohy) has raised this before and it will make your lives easier and make Portlaoise a much easier town.”
Cllr Barry Walsh said that raising awareness is a big part of the process while Cllr Tuohy added that “it would be a very positive move for Portlaoise as a town”.
“What you have brought to us today is very reasonable,” added Cllr John Joe Fennelly.
“I don’t see this as unworkable,” added Cllr Caroline Dwane-Stanley. “Everyone here wants to support our local people,” said Cllr Thomasina Connell.
“These are simple basic things that you have asked for and I will strongly support.”