There's a slow-growing trend of businesses creating special time slots for customers with autism where they can freely browse without having to worry about the hustle and bustle of crowds.
Like this Australian Zoo that opened an hour early for guests with autism. It was a huge success.
Now, Autism Spectrum Australia has teamed up with the popular supermarket franchise Coles to introduce a "Quiet Hour" so people with autism can shop in peace. During this time, radios in the stores are lowered dramatically and the lights are dimmed. PA announcements over the store's loudspeakers are stopped (barring emergencies), as are noisy shopping cart collections.
Coles put a ton of effort and research into the initiative, which will test run in all stores until October.
"We have invested in training for team members to increase their understanding of sensory overload and how to best respond to customer needs. Although we have modified some of the physical and sensory stimulators in store, we also hope to achieve a 'no-judgement' shopping space for people and families on the spectrum, where customers will feel comfortable and welcome," said Linzi Coyle, Aspect Community Engagement and Operations in an official statement.
And it seems like customers are very happy with the "Quiet Hour," as people are commenting on Coles' Facebook page to let the grocer know that their consideration is very much appreciated.
Emily Dive's full post on not having to worry about the "sensory land mine(s)" her son faces when they go shopping is great insight into the struggles parents of children with special needs deal with on a daily basis.
Today I walked out of our local Coles (New St,Ringwood) with my son, and a trolley full of groceries. We spent 40 mins in the store, casually walking up and down each aisle selecting the items that we needed. The entire time we were in there, I was fighting back the tears. Today was a milestone for us. We filled a trolley!!! No mad dash to get in and out as quickly as possible only grabbing a handful of items. Lachlan was provided with such a positive experience in an environment that is challenging. Crawling under shelves, running out of the store, screaming, running, and yelling are our "norm" when we visits the supermarket. Behaviours that are his way of communicating "I can't cope". Today, these were obsolete. Today we walked side by side for the entire shopping trip, and the hardest challenge he faced was to make a decision about choosing grain waives or tiny teddies. Kudos to you Coles for your quiet hour today, and acknowledging your environment for people entering your store can be a sensory land-mine for many to navigate.
Once we reached the checkout, and Lachlan was hit with the rest of the shopping complex's sounds, lights, smells and people, he was off like a shot into a quiet store he frequently visits adjacent to the supermarket, whilst I normally shop alone due to the chaos he faces when entering the store. In tears, I left. Passing the manager on the way out commending the efforts of everyone on providing a space that many don't think twice about having to walk into. We are so lucky to have our local store as a pilot for such a great initiative. Please know that your acknowledgment of those who require the simplest of changes to environments to assist in making them more comfortable, is respected and appreciated. Thank you!