Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the sights and sounds around you? This is common for people with autism. Walk into a shopping centre and you are confronted with store adverts with bright lights, the noise of other shoppers, music, PA announcements, and possibly the noise of machines like elevators or escalators, then there are all the people around you to top it off. This can be difficult for anyone to process, but is especially hard for some on the autism spectrum.
To help raise awareness about autism and what the people living with it experience, The Pavilions Shopping Centre is participating in Autism Hour on the 2nd October 2017 at 10am.
Autism is a developmental disability that influences various aspects of a person’s life. It is a lifelong disease that impacts how a person communicates, as well as their experience of the world around them. As such crowded and noisy environments like shopping centres can be daunting and unpleasant for someone with autism.
As part of the National Autistic Society’s Too Much Information campaign (http://www.autism.org.uk/get-involved/tmi/autism-hour/sign-up.aspx), Pavilions is helping to confront the myths, misconceptions and stereotypes that surround autism. There are a few ways this will be done within the centre, to help make the environment more welcoming to people with autism.
The music and announcements played in shopping centres can be overwhelming to someone with autism. On 2 October this will be reduced in the centre for an hour starting at 10am.
Bright lights are another concern for someone with autism, and can also be overwhelming. Where possible, and without impacting customer safety, lights will be switched off, or otherwise dimmed to make the environment more welcoming to those with autism.
During the week of 2 October, information about autism with all be available to help customers better understand autism spectrum disorder.
How common is autism?
You may think that autism has no impact or influence on your daily life. But it is more common than you might think, keeping in mind that you can’t always tell that a person is autistic. Around 700 000 people (more than one in 100 people) in the UK are on the autism spectrum, including their families, that is 2.8 million people for whom autism forms part of their daily life.
Of those with autism, 64% avoid going to the shops. That is a considerable number of people that we can make feel more welcome in our centre by making just a few considerate changes to noise and lighting.