Shopping during the festive season is sensory overload for everyone, but for children on the autism spectrum, it's a particularly daunting task. The signs, the music, the announcements, the Santas running around — it's enough to make anyone run for cover, particularly those with sensory issues. To create a more comfortable shopping experience for families facing these issues, Toys R Us stores across the United Kingdom will offer a "quiet hour" on Nov. 6. The morning shopping hour will feature more dimly lit, music-free aisles and no announcements over the loud speakers. Management will also designate quiet zones for families and place autism-friendly signage throughout the stores.
Toys R Us Marketing Director Mike Coogan told The Telegraph, "Holding such events has given our teams extreme pride in reaching out to autism groups within the community. Making slight adjustments to stores and creating a quiet shopping period allows children and young adults to experience the fun in a toy shop, regardless of their disability."
It's an experience that more and more stores and kid-friendly attractions are trying to create for children on the spectrum. Earlier this month, an Australian zoo opened its doors early for guests with autism so they and their families could avoid heavy crowds and loud noises while enjoying the exhibits. And over the Summer, a ShopRite store in Philadelphia converted one of its checkout aisles into a sensory-friendly lane. The store manager swapped sugary candy and snacks for items like crayons, stress balls, toys, and wet wipes after a little girl had a particularly upsetting meltdown in a traditional checkout line.
We can only hope that more child-friendly locations adopt such programs in an effort to make all of their customers feel more comfortable.