Social story board created at Larne ASDA to help people with ASD navigate the store

Children and young people with Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are being supported by staff at Larne’s ASDA branch following the creation of a social story board at the supermarket.
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The move comes as employees at the Redlands Road site recently became the first company to complete their ‘CALM’ bag awareness training as well as creating a social story board to help children and young people with ASD to navigate the store.

CALM’- Creating A Little Moment, was launced by Access Employment Limited (AEL) in Larne in August, offering assistance for people who have been diagnosed with ASD, as well as their loved ones.

The initiative also aims to provide training to businesses, making them aware of the signs to watch out for, what ASD is and how to use CALM bags.

Staff at ASDA's Larne branch recently completed CALM training with AEL. (Pic: Contributed).Staff at ASDA's Larne branch recently completed CALM training with AEL. (Pic: Contributed).
Staff at ASDA's Larne branch recently completed CALM training with AEL. (Pic: Contributed).

The AEL-created CALM bags contain resources to help young people with ASD manage challenging environments, enabling the child and their relatives to visit places they had believed were ‘off limits.’

The bags are available for children aged 0-6, 7-12 and 13 and over and can be created with a company logo on them. They help to ‘create a little moment’ for the young person.

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Each bag contains ear defenders to allow ASD individuals to limit sensory input and the amount of sound they are exposed to in a quick and dignified manner.

Sensory fidget toys and stress balls offer a calming activity that keeps their minds engaged and hands busy, while also helping them to self-regulate, stay focused and relieve anxiety.

AEL was established in Larne in 1998 as Northern Ireland's first social firm to support individuals with disabilities, health conditions and social disadvantage into meaningful employment, volunteering and or education.

They achieve this by providing training, advice, information, and support on a range of issues, such as access to education, health, housing, leisure and other services. They also provide training and live work experience within their businesses, to young adults and people with additional needs, learning disabilities and physical support needs.

Jackie Reid, Head of Business at AEL stated: “Through our day to day work at AEL, our programme staff recognised that some of our trainees and our customers in our Lunchbox Café, needed a little moment of CALM.

"There are many environments and settings that families find very challenging for their children with Autism Spectrum Disorder(ASD). Cafes/restaurants, hotels, public transport, supermarkets, sports centres just to name a few.

“Hypersensitivity (over sensitive) or hyposensitivity (under sensitive) to sensory information including noise, lights, smell, taste, touch and body awareness can lead to high levels of anxiety to children with ASD which can then cause high levels of stress for their families.

“This got us thinking about the many different venues families visit and the challenges those settings can present to families with children with ASD, and how can we help them manage the environment that they are in.”

Commenting on ASDA’s involvement in the initiative and the creation of the story board, Jackie added: “This will help to create a more positive, inclusive experience for those with ASD and their families, when shopping in a busy environment. Huge thanks and congratulations to Gail, Glen and the team.”

For more information about CALM and the training available to local firms, contact Jackie Reid via [email protected] or call 02828274992.

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