An autism and sensory-friendly initiative was launched at Parkway Retail Park in Limerick today.

It is designed to make shopping and store visits easier for people with autism and other sensory difficulties.

Parkway Retail Park asset manager Sigma, which manages eight retail parks across Ireland, said it wants to make the customer experience easier for families of children with special needs.

They are providing autism-friendly car parking spaces outside stores and specific tills to avoid queuing and to allow for an easier exit.

The project, in partnership with Limerick Autism Group, was launched with an autism-friendly family day for families of children with autism and other sensory issues at the park today.

Store staff have been trained to help with the new measures, and new signage and peaked caps are being made available for people with autism and other sensory issues which will block out light and help staff to identify people who may need assistance.

"There needs to be bigger and better awareness of autism in our communities across the country and Parkway Retail Park is more than happy to lead the way," said Sigma’s Paddy O’Connor. 

The launch has been welcomed by local parents of children with autism.

"Having a child with autism means we have many hurdles in life, it’s great that going somewhere like the Parkway Retail Park will not be one of them," said Michelle Kirwan, mother of Sam (5). 

"Most people have autism awareness, the next step is autism acceptance. With these changes, retailers are giving children and adults with autism the chance to shop comfortably, independently and have family shopping trips without the fear of sensory overload," said Emma Fennel, mother of Sadhbh (5).

The Lidl group of supermarkets has also introduced quiet sensory friendly evenings every Tuesday to help people with autism with reduced lighting, no noise or music and lower till scan sounds.