Autism Hour 2018 saw 11,768 UK businesses host over 30,000 Autism Hours across the week of 6-13 October. This represents precious minutes where store lights were dimmed, noise reduced and staff and the public were informed about autism. 

Since Autism Hour’s launch last year, we doubled the number businesses involved and almost quadrupled the number of autism friendly hours. Thank you to everyone who encouraged businesses to register, to those who attended events in your area and to our Autism Hour sponsor, the Entertainer, for supporting this important initiative. 

These changes have benefited autistic people and their families as well as increase education for staff and the public about how life is experienced for the 700,000 autistic people in the UK. 

Tell us your experience

National Autistic Society staff, branches and supporters spent months reaching out to shops and businesses to ask them to commit to host an Autism Hour. Participating stores included our Autism Hour sponsor, the Entertainer, along with Sainsbury’s, Ikea, Lloyds, Co-op, Schuh, Home Bargains, Pets at Home and many more. Even Liverpool Football Club's Anfield store held an Autism Hour for its fans. Small changes were made for an hour but the awareness and understanding of staff will hopefully continue to improve shopping experiences for autistic customers and their families.  

Our supporter survey told us that 64% of autistic people avoid the shops and 28% have been asked to leave a public place for reasons associated with their autism.

Autism Hour reflections

South Hampshire branchGlamorgan House Autism Centre, who visited Greggs in Neath Abbey, told us, “It was a great experience for our individuals and an emotional one to be a part of. For some of the individuals, it was their first time to sit in and eat at such a venue.” Greggs went the extra mile for autistic people, shutting off the ovens to minimise smells and shutting off tills to prevent loud noises and flashing lights.

The National Autistic Society’s South Hampshire branch worked with Eastleigh's Swan Centre to hold an Autism Hour and an all-day Sensory Sunday. They even had a visit from the Mayor of Eastleigh. 

The Royal Mint Tour in Llantrisant, Wales hosted Autism Hour where they also received their Autism Friendly Award after a year of working with the National Autistic Society Rhonda branch and local families. 

Autism Hour online 

Autism Hour reached a huge audience through social media and press coverage including the first ever autism friendly live TV show. Loose Women hosted three shows discussing autism with our ambassadors, Christine McGuinness and Anne Hegerty. One of these episodes had a particular focus on autism with Christine talking about her family, a visit to the shops with Fay and Bowie and autistic comedian Robert White talking about his late diagnosis. 

Loose Women panel on Autism Hour episode

Our content creators, Connor, Florence and Kevin appeared alongside Tom Purser on BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show

BBC panel discussion

We had 25 real stories from across the autism spectrum featured on our website. Across the week these real stories and other content reached 8.3 million people via social media and a video created by ViralThread received an additional 1.7 million views. 

Make these changes last 

Autism Hour is designed to show businesses the simple steps they can take to improve shopping experiences for their autistic customers. We hope that, after participating, many more of them will follow The Entertainer’s example and introduce permanent changes to make their business more autism friendly, including through working towards our Autism Friendly Award

Quiet Hours are becoming more common in stores and we will continue to campaign to encourage businesses to make their environment more autism friendly. It’s only with the donations of our committed supporters that we can reach out to more businesses.

Please support our work

Don’t forget we’d love to hear your feedback – please complete our Autism Hour 2018 survey.

Don’t miss out next year – sign up to hear about Autism Hour 2019.