Group outside the Entertainer store in Scotland for Autism HourMore than 70 shops across Highland – including The Entertainer in Inverness – are taking part in our Autism Hour this week (6-13 October).

From the Co-op in Thurso to Home Bargains in Fort William, shops are turning down music and dimming the lights, as well as providing staff with information about autism to enable them to help and understand customers. 

Alison Footitt, who works at our Highland Information Service in Inverness, said: “Autism Hour is a major event for the National Autistic Society Scotland and I’m really proud that so many businesses across Highland are taking part.

“We know that 66% of autistic people in Scotland avoid the shops. And, shockingly, 27% have been asked to leave a public place for reasons associated with their autism. They and their families want and deserve to have the opportunity to go to the shops, just like anyone else.” 

Cllr Andrew Baxter, Chair of the Highland Council’s Care, Education and Housing Committee said:
“It’s great to see so many shops in communities across the Highlands participating in and supporting Autism Hour. This can make such a difference to autistic customers and their families and helps to raise awareness of how autistic people experience social situations such as shopping and the practical things we can do to make changes.”

Autism Hour was launched last year as the first mass-participation event to encourage shops to be more autism friendly. It is designed to highlight that small changes can make a big difference to autistic customers and their families. We hope that, after participating in Autism Hour, shops will introduce regular autism-friendly sessions.

The Entertainer toy shop, based in the Eastgate Centre, already has a Quiet Hour every week. Gary Grant, CEO of The Entertainer, said: “The Entertainer is committed to creating a comfortable shopping experience for all our customers and our Quiet Hour, which takes place in all stores every Saturday and during the school holidays, for the first hour of opening, allows us to create a calmer shopping environment for autistic shoppers and their families. So, we’re delighted to partner with the National Autistic Society as the official sponsor for Autism Hour 2018 and all 150 The Entertainer stores across the UK, including our Inverness store and 11 stores across Scotland, will proudly participate.” 

Many celebrities have backed the campaign including Anne Hegerty and Christine McGuinness. Chris Packham, TV presenter, naturalist and National Autistic Society Ambassador, said: “I rarely go into supermarkets. I find that environment really challenging, all of the bright lights, the confusion of the enormous complexity of goods in there, plus all the smells and the sounds. It’s a difficult environment. And that’s why I’m very keen to support Autism Hour, those shops which offer an hour where they make the whole atmosphere a lot more relaxing for autistic people.”

There are around 58,000 autistic people in Scotland. Being autistic means seeing, hearing and feeling the world in a different, often more intense way to other people. Autistic people often find social situations difficult and can struggle to filter out the sounds, smells, sights and information they experience, which can make busy public places, like shops, overwhelming. 

Support for autistic people in Highland is available through the National Autistic Society Scotland’s Highland Information Service, which offers advice for parents and carers across Highland, runs events and runs a library of books and sensory items from The Pines in Inverness. 

 

Find out more about Autism Hour and visit your local store here.

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