Jody Coxon headshot photo

Jody Coxon has two autistic teenagers, Cameron and Harry. In this short blog, she recounts a difficult shopping experience a number of years ago before explaining how shops can help.

“Something was bothering Cameron, my five-year-old autistic son. No child really likes shopping but he got on with it. But, waiting in line to pay he began covering his ears and getting distressed. I knelt down to try and get him to focus on me but he pulled away, ran off and pulled a dozen cereal boxes off a shelf! A tut of disapproval rang in my ears as I tried to regain some control.

"'The alarms so loud, it’s hurting!’ I couldn’t hear an alarm. A store worker approached and asked if we needed help but by that point I had to just leave. The alarm was from an open fire door, not loud but loud enough to affect my child’s senses to the point of meltdown. We used headphones after that trip and didn’t venture to shops on busy weekends again! 

“We have had some great experiences shopping though. Very helpful and understanding staff, kind assistance and being helped to be in and out as fast as possible, has made a massive difference to me and Cameron! But there’s more to be done.

“People on the autism spectrum can be extremely sensitive to sounds, touch, tastes, smells, light or colours, which can make going to the shops really difficult – even causing distress, upset and meltdowns. We pick our moments to shop and my children only come if they need to. 

“The initiative for stores to be more autism friendly is very welcome from my point of view. The experience should be as stress free as possible so that people on the autism spectrum can access something so mundane and easy for many of us, but that can be a huge source of stress and a very difficult experience for them. Just a basic understanding from staff would be an incredible start, along with a few tweaks to some shops' music and lighting. Minor things that would make such a huge difference!”

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