Four amazing mothers of autistic adults have come together to launch Autism Friendly Waterford, a group that will lead the charge for Waterford to become Ireland’s first Autism Friendly City.

Working in partnership with Waterford Chamber, Waterford City & County Council, Healthy Ireland and Ireland’s national Autism Charity AsIAm, Autism Friendly Waterford will follow the criteria set out by AsIAm over the next three years, to earn the coveted title.

While work has already commenced, they will be holding an official community launch, which will be formally opened by Cllr John O’Leary, Mayor of Waterford City & County, on Sunday, April 16th at 3pm in the Tower Hotel.

Speaking ahead of the launch, Co-Chair of the Group, Maolíosa Ní Chléirigh, said: “We are a group of parents and allies of the Autistic community of Waterford who are engaging in the AsIAm Autism Friendly Communities initiative to implement actions to make Waterford Ireland’s first Autism Friendly City, where neurodiversity is welcomed and celebrated. Waterford has been voted the best place to live in Ireland. We want to make sure that this holds true for people of all abilities, creating a truly inclusive city and county.

“The support we have already received from stakeholders has been tremendous and with the momentum that is already gathering, we are confident of not only being the first autism friendly city but also the best.”

AsIAm has developed an Autism-Friendly Towns Award which recognises communities who go on the journey to becoming Autism-Friendly. The project began in Clonakilty in 2018 and now some 20 communities have been awarded the title, but no city has achieved it yet.

To be deemed the first city, Waterford as a whole community will need to play its part, implementing small changes that will make a huge difference.

According to Gerald Hurley, CEO of Waterford Chamber: “As our society becomes more aware of autism and the various ways it manifests differently in individuals, we must also become more aware of the likelihood of autism in the workplace. Creating a work environment to suit the needs of autistic people is essential going forward, as people with autism are valuable workers because of their attention to detail, ability to focus, and creative thinking skills. They excel at research and routine activities, and they usually stay with a job once recruited. We want to work with our members and the wider business community to improve our workplace and embrace the amazing autistic thinkers in our society.”

Autism Friendly Waterford will also join Waterford Chamber at their Business Expo on Thursday, April 27th at George Corbett Motors to official launch the campaign to the business community.

Both launch events are free and open to the public, so please come along and see how you can play your part.