Headshot photo of woman in the spectrum logo with quote

Last year, over 11,000 businesses took part in our Autism Hour campaign, with many going on to take further action. To see what that looks like, we spoke to Christie, Store Manager at The Entertainer’s Cwmbran Store.

What did you do to prepare for your shop’s Autism Hour?

Running an Autism Hour is really easy, and it’s something we continue to do every week. We switch off our music, make sure that all of our toy demos are quiet and turn down the lights to prevent sensory overload. In my store, as well as every other branch of The Entertainer, we have training resources so staff can learn about autism, and how they can best support autistic people and their families.

How are your Autism Hours? Do your customers enjoy them?

We receive lots of wonderful feedback on our Quiet Hour with parents of autistic shoppers thanking us for the difference it has made to their child’s experience in store.

For some families, the changes we make mean that they are able to go shopping, as a typical shop environment can be distressing and overwhelming.

Our Autism Hours gives all customers a much calmer in-store experience and we’re able to provide an environment that lets autistic customers enjoy our toys and have fun.

What have your staff learnt when doing Autism Hour?

By taking part in Autism Hour and wider training, we became more aware of how sounds can have a huge impact on children and adults with sensory differences. Noises such as hoovers, unexpected tannoy announcements and our service bell can be really distressing. So, while we knew to reduce background music, we learnt to think about other less obvious noises. This is something that we now consider in our Autism Hours and in our day-to-day work, and we’re proud that this is making a difference.

How have you been taking things further after taking part in Autism Hour?

After our first Autism Hour in 2017, we realised how simple it was to implement the changes.

Having seen the difference it made for our autistic customers, we knew we had to do more.

We worked closely with the National Autistic Society to run Autism Hours outside of the October campaign week and many of our stores received incredibly positive feedback.

We went onto run Autism Hours every Saturday morning, and my store was one of the first branches of The Entertainer to receive the Autism Friendly Award. We’re always looking at how to improve our shop environment for autistic shoppers, and I encourage any business to do this too!