young woman standing on a train

We catch up with Saskia Lupin, autistic actor, and star of our latest TMI campaign film, 'Diverted.' Saskia shares her shopping stories with us, from difficulties with queues to lack of clear information, and offers a few words of wisdom to staff and businesses on making small changes to help autistic customers.  

Have you ever had any difficulties going to the shops, related to your autism? If so, why and can you recount an example?

Yes, it was a big problem as a child since I would feel as though I was being judged and constantly on edge. My mother and sister were there though to always remind me to take my time and not to worry. If anyone was to be impatient with me, they would give them a piece of their mind :) It used to also be difficult standing in line, which would get packed with people and them getting too close, then feeling so many people behind you when you're trying to figure out how to pay and what to say. It's now not as bad but I feel more comfortable being with someone than being on my own.

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

No, am afraid this hasn't happened in exactly that way. I've had polite members of staff when I have been confused or lost, but not when I have been overwhelmed. I do not feel as if I could reach out as it may not be part of their job to support me.  

What could shops do/could they have done in the past to make the experience better for you?

I'm not sure if they feel part of their job is taking care of people, especially people who require extra support but I guess it could help to feel reassured by the member of staff in a more natural way and not one which is patronising! There's nothing worse when someone who puts there voice higher and speaks to you like a baby. I am a person like everyone else, the more I get spoken to in a normal way, the more I feel I can respond with a clear head and get the information I require.

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