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Meeting Places MAR Shopping and IKEA mark Autism Awareness with Adapted House

The latest study in Portugal, developed by the Ricardo Jorge Institute, estimates that there are 50 thousand people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), although all studies worldwide point to about 1.9% of the population. This equates to a possibility that we have almost 200 thousand people in Portugal with ASD, but many undiagnosed

According to the Portuguese Autism Federation, in the last 30 years there has been an increase in the number of diagnosed cases of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in all countries where prevalence studies are carried out. In Portugal, the latest study points to 50 thousand people, but the Portuguese association "Voz do Autista" estimates that there are many more undiagnosed cases. Some of the main challenges that people with ASD face are related to the lack of adaptation of spaces necessary for their functionality and inclusion. Therefore, on the eve of another World Autism Awareness Day, which is celebrated on April 2, the meeting places MAR Shopping Algarve and MAR Shopping Matosinhos, in partnership with IKEA Loulé and IKEA Matosinhos and the O2a Centre for Therapy and Development, open the exhibition and awareness initiative "Adapted House".

Between April 1 and 16, on floors 0 of MAR Shopping Algarve and 1 of MAR Shopping Matosinhos, will be exhibited prototypes of two rooms adapted to the needs of people with ASD. There will also be talks for the general public and for professionals, as well as information and awareness actions guided by Psychologists and Therapists of O2a.

According to the O2a Centro team, which intervenes in an integrated way with more than 100 children with ASD, the adaptations of public, work, educational and housing spaces must take into consideration not only the physical and sensorial accessibility, but also the socio-emotional and communicative skills of each person to be as inclusive as possible. The O2a Centro team, responsible for the project, explains that needs vary according to the degree of severity of the ASD and the individual characteristics of each person. This project was developed according to the state of the art and the most current guidelines. The model rooms were designed taking into account an age group between 4 and 9 years old and a mild to moderate degree of severity. In this way, the implementation of this project will be observable in the prototypes of adapted rooms on display at the centres.

Overburdened families

According to the National Institute of Statistics, the average monthly gross salary of the Portuguese population was 1,411 euros in 2022, the 17th lowest among the 26 member states according to Eurostat. Families with children and young people with ASD are overwhelmed emotionally, psychologically and financially. The specific housing needs to promote the families' well-being and quality of life is a further cost, and therefore MAR Shopping and IKEA are teaming up to show how these adaptations can be made at the most affordable cost possible.

The solutions on display will be subsequently donated to families with children and young people with ASD, with economic needs, identified by the municipalities of Loulé and Matosinhos. O2a Centro will also offer specialized intervention to a family in need during one year, namely a weekly session of Speech Therapy and Psychology and a fortnightly session of Occupational Therapy.

"This is another initiative with which we seek to contribute to greater inclusion for all people and to raise awareness of the needs of specific groups in our communities. Of course there is still a way to go, but this can be a starting point for issues that currently are not much talked about, such as the specific needs of people with ASD, which, according to studies, will continue to be more and more," explains Sandra Monteiro, spokesperson for Ingka Centres Portugal, owner of MAR Shopping Algarve and MAR Shopping Matosinhos.

"The home can and should be our place of refuge, comfort and security. We also realize that it can bring us tranquility and well-being, both physical, mental and emotional. It was, therefore, a pleasure to think of a solution for people who have particular needs, proving that, with the regular products in our range, it is possible to create functional solutions, relevant and always very accessible, regardless of the condition of each person, "says Cátia Carvalho, Home Furnishing & Retail Design Manager at IKEA.


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