“Basically, it was fantastic!” – Autism Quiet Hour

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Stressful, bright, busy and loud. These are all words that can be used to describe the world we live in. Now, imagine how overwhelming the shopping experience in today’s hectic world can be for a person living on the autism spectrum.

Autism is a lifelong neurological condition that affects approximately one in every 100 people. The latest research from The National Autistic Society reveals that 79% of autistic people feel socially isolated, and an incredible 64% avoid going to the shops.

So, in conjunction with Autism Jersey and Autism Guernsey, we recently pioneered an Autism Quiet Hour at our Grand Marché stores in both Jersey and Guernsey.

We took the following steps during Autism Quiet Hour to create a more enjoyable grocery shopping experience for our autistic friends:

• Turned off the music
• Avoided tannoy announcements
• Created an autism-friendly checkout with the 'bleep' volume at its lowest setting
• Stationed autism-trained ‘Community Angels’ around the shops to help whenever needed
• Dimmed the lights in-store and in the fridges (Jersey stores only)

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Our autism-friendly checkouts and one of our Community Angels

The feedback we’ve received in response to Autism Quiet Hour has been amazing! And I’m pleased that not only did it help those on the autism spectrum, but also people living with other conditions too. One lady wrote a beautiful summary of her experience :

“For me, the Quiet Hour was an incredibly positive and pleasurable experience, and it is something I would be keen to do again. I felt calm and peaceful walking around the shop, which was such a contrast to how I usually feel. Another thing I hadn’t considered prior to the Quiet Hour was how I’d feel afterwards. Usually shopping is draining and I need to rest and ‘wind down’ for ages afterwards. Today I felt noticeably calmer and more relaxed after shopping and I continued to feel this way in the evening. So, the positive effects of the experience were far greater than just what was happening while I was shopping. The after effects were really beneficial too. My recall of a shopping trip is usually little more than a blur because it is all so overwhelming. This time though, I was able to recall far more about my journey around the store and was able to make a ‘mental note’ of items I didn’t need immediately but will need or would like to try in the future.

Basically, it was fantastic!”

Our Society tries to lead the way when it comes to supporting the needs of Islanders with disabilities and many of our stores now have mobility scooters, on-shelf magnifiers and hearing loops. Earlier this year we also purchased specialist trolleys for children with additional needs.

I am proud to work as part of a business with a purpose beyond profit. Autism Quiet Hour is a fabulous example of how we are making a real difference for those in our communities who face daily challenges due to disability. At the moment we are overcoming some practical issues to enable this as a regular event but our Society is committed to introducing the Quiet Hour in line with our Calendar of events in the near future.

Click the links below for more information on how you could make your business more autism-friendly:
http://www.autism.org.uk/get-involved/tmi/autism-hour.aspx http://autismjersey.org/ http://www.autismguernsey.org.gg/home/

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