ELEVEN Irish towns have officially been branded as 'autism-friendly'.
The first town in the country to be given the status was Clonakilty in Co. Cork last year, but now a number of towns nationwide have followed suit.
The towns of Clane, Bray, Greystones, Wicklow Town, New Ross, Skerries, Lucan, Castlebar, Mallow, Listowel and Tralee are now recognised as autism-friendly places.
The initiative is being driven by Ireland's national autism charity AsIAm, who have joined with supermarket chain Supervalu.
In order to gain the accreditation, businesses and organisations within the communities must take measures and take up practices which reduce sensory stimulation, which often causes distress and discomfort to those with autism.
Staff training has also been improved in those towns in order to better understand and help those with the condition.
Part of the journey to accreditation sees businesses and organisations in communities take measures to reduce sensory simulation that could cause distress and difficulties and undertake staff training to improve understanding of autism, report the Irish Mirror.
AsIAm-based research shows that over 80% of people believe that most businesses and organisations fail to provide necessary tools or help in order to allow people with autism to participate.
Meanwhile, nearly 90% of those asked said that if a particular town was a designated 'autism-friendly' one, they'd be more likely to visit.
Earlier this year, Fota Wildlife Park in Co. Cork was officially recognised as Ireland's first 'autism-friendly attraction' by introducing 'quiet areas' in the park, and offering complimentary earbuds to those who want them.
These small differences can really have a significant impact on those with autism, as understanding the sensory environment and predicting what will happen next often pose challenges to those with the disorder.