This dramatic recreation shows what it's really like to be autistic
The National Autistic Society has found out that almost seven in 10 autistic people stay away from shops, and nearly a third have been asked to leave a public place because of their autism. A shocking statistic, and one that some of the biggest retailers are trying to combat with the help of the groundbreaking initiative from the charity, Autism Hour.
Chris Packham, animal enthusiast, autistic man and National Autistic Society ambassador, is keen for people to know what it's really like living with the condition:
“I rarely go into supermarkets. I find that environment really challenging, all of the bright lights, the confusion of the enormous complexity of goods in there, plus all the smells and the sounds. It’s a difficult environment. And that’s why I’m very keen to support Autism Hour, those shops which offer an hour where they make the whole atmosphere a lot more relaxing for autistic people.”
An individual on the autistic spectrum might consider the world around them overwhelming at times. Thankfully, the National Autistic Society have created the Autism Hour. This scheme is designed to get retailers to create a more autism-friendly shopping environment.
So what's involved in an Autism Hour, and how does it make people's lives easier? During the week of October 6th - 13th over 10,000 shops and businesses will be doing the following things to help autistic shoppers.
1. Reduce noise
Overwhelming noise is a common barrier to autistic people accessing shops. Where possible, in-store tannoy announcements and other controllable noise should be reduced.
2. Dim the lights
Lighting, particularly fluorescent strip lighting, can be overwhelming for autistic people. Wherever possible, whilst maintaining a safe premises, lights should be dimmed or switched off.
3. Inform staff
As a society we can't expect everyone to be an autism expert but everyone should understand autism. The National Autistic Society provide information about autism to help staff make customers' experience a positive one.
4. Help us to understand
During the week of 6 October, the National Autistic Society will be asking participating shops and business to share information about autism with their customers.
For some, it might be difficult to understand how different the world can appear to an individual who is on the autistic spectrum, but the wonderful folk at the National Autistic Society have created a dramatic video that re-creates the overwhelming experience of walking through a shopping centre as a child on the autistic spectrum.
A little help really can make a significant difference to someone with autism in a moment when they're finding things a little overwhelming. The first step to being of help is to gain a little understanding of what autism is and how it can feel to those on the autistic spectrum.
There are also several other ways for you to get involved with Autism Hour. This guide to getting involved provides support on volunteering, getting shops involved and much more.
For more information on autism and getting support visit autism.org.uk. You can also join their online community or find out where your local volunteer-led branch is. Alternatively phone the helpline on 0808 800 4104 or contact them online here.