Mum and autism campaigner Fay Hough tells us how it's the small changes that make all the difference, not just to her autistic son's shopping experience, but to his overall sense of independence. 

"Shopping has always been a dreaded task with my autistic son Bowie. Since birth he’s never coped well with crowded situations, and I remember before knowing he was autistic I used to think ‘wow I generally cannot go to public places without him crying’. It wasn’t till we found out he was possibly autistic that I completely understood why. 

When the National Autistic Society released their first video of the Too Much Information campaign I sobbed like a baby. I knew shopping was a hard task for my son, but to watch that video and be inside an autistic person’s brain whilst they travel through a shopping mall - it really bought home to me how much he struggles.

My son’s meltdowns are violent, and can include the occasional t-shirt grab of a stranger or a kick in the back of a stranger’s legs as they walk past. Obviously, it’s not intentional, and I am always on the ground with him whilst he’s having the meltdown, but it doesn’t stop the commentary from passers-by or the judging looks. Onlookers just think he’s having a tantrum, little do they know the explosion that is happening inside his mind at that moment.

Autism Hour is so important to parents of autistic children. Simple initiatives such as making sure the lights are low, the music is down, the fans have stopped spinning, and the staff are autism aware makes such a difference. 

I’ve had one positive experience shopping with my son and that was simply because the shop wasn’t busy, only a handful of people were in there and the noise was minimal. Obviously, this is impossible to ensure daily, so the fact that Autism Hour is designed to give parents of autistic children and adults a chance to shop in a peaceful and de-sensitised environment is brilliant.

As Bowie gets older he is becoming more inquisitive, this means he wants to venture out more but just simply doesn’t understand the environments he comes up against. By dedicating a specific hour to autistic people, it allows me to take Bowie out and his mind to wander without stress or fear. Therefore Autism Hour is so important, it helps encourage independence."

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