We caught up with one of our content creators, Andy, who was diagnosed over 20 years ago and started his YouTube channel in 2016 to help raise awareness of autism and improve understanding.

Andy shares with us why he thinks the National Autistic Society’s Autism Hour is important and what more can be done to make shops and services more autism- friendly.   

Why is Autism Hour important to you?

It's a chance for me to go shopping without feeling overwhelmed. Also, it's an opportunity for businesses to understand autistic people and improve their services to autistics.

What is a shopping experience like for you?

Shopping for me can be tricky. Mainly due to shops being overcrowded. I find some shops play really loud music and bright lights which does overwhelm me to the point where I have to prepare myself to venture to the shop.

Have you ever experienced a time when a member of staff/shop has made an effort to be understanding of autism or a sensory issue? 

Yes, I went shopping in the centre of Newcastle and I started to struggle due to my anxieties around crowds. I entered a store in Eldon Square and a member of staff asked me if I was ok or needed any help as I looked distressed. I didn't state that I am autistic but I started to feel more comfortable by the way the staff member handled that situation. This was more than enough for me because I felt safe and accepted without having to give people my life story.

What could shops do to make the experience better for you?

I would say better understanding of autism through work-based training. My negative experiences have been through conversations with employees not understanding the difficulties I have. Turning music either down or off completely as I find shopping centres loud with people talking. To add additional noise is a lot for me to deal with because to me, all of the sounds are a wall of noise.

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The National Autistic Society’s Autism Hour, supported by The Entertainer