Photo of George Stanbury (Campaigns Officer) in spectrum design

I started working at the National Autistic Society just before last year’s Autism Hour campaign week. As an autistic person, it’s so amazing to hear how businesses all over the country take time to learn about autism and support their autistic customers with a few small changes.

The people we support were able to have lunch at their local Greggs, spend time with animals at Pets at Home and watch the first ever autism friendly TV show.

Since 2017, we’ve had 40,000 Autism Hours and counting. Autism Hour means that hundreds of thousands of staff learn about autism, and it’s growing every year. The majority of staff carry that knowledge with them every day, so they’re better able to support their autistic customers. After understanding how important this is, many shops have made permanent changes by running regular Autism Hours or achieving our Autism Friendly Award.

Of course it takes some time to see changes in how our local shops work to support autistic people, and to do this properly is a real journey, but we’re seeing huge progress.

Our Autism Hour campaign week is a moment for businesses to reflect and learn, and in that sense it’s so much more than just 60 minutes.

I’m sure that as we move into this October, we’ll see even more businesses taking their first autism friendly steps, which will help to create a world that works for autistic people.

As businesses find their feet, they may run an Autism Hour at a quieter time, because they want to provide the best experience. Sometimes a business may not offer a perfect Autism Hour – but it gives businesses an opportunity to try new ways to support autistic people and then roll that out in the future, just like The Entertainer or Lloyds.

It’s about understanding that supporting autistic people isn’t hard, and that this is something every shop needs to be doing.

And that is the real goal of Autism Hour.

I want our Autism Hour campaign to make going out and about easier for autistic people, without overwhelming environments or misunderstanding from staff and the public. That can be through more regular Autism Hours or using Autism Hour as a springboard to properly train staff about the autistic spectrum.

But to achieve that dream, we all need to pitch in. If businesses don’t understand why supporting autistic people is so important, then they won’t make changes for the better.

Print a copy of our letter, have a friendly chat with your local businesses and make sure your local shops know they need to do more. Once they see what it means to autistic people in your community, they’ll be sure to take action.

You can find out who is taking part in this year’s Autism Hour campaign week by checking our interactive map.

Visit the map