Autism hour

Round & About

autism

For autistic people every day experiences such as trips to the shops can be challenging which is why the National Autistic Society is asking everyone to do their bit and help.

October 5th marked the start of Autism Hour which runs over the course of the week until Saturday 12th.

Shops and businesses are asked to dim their lights and reduce noise to help create a calmer atmosphere for autistic shoppers.

The campaign is being sponsored by The Entertainer for the second year. The toy shop chain holds autism hours every Saturday to make the experience less overwhelming.

There are more than 700,000 autistic people in the UK but only 16 per cent feel the public understand them. Last year, more than 11,000 businesses including The Entertainer, Argos, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s took part in the National Autism Society’s autism hour campaign, taking the first steps to create autism friendly communities in the UK.

Why not ask your local shops to join in? The NAS website has a prepared letter you can hand to local retailers asking them to take part and explaining what’s involved.

There are two key parts to autism hour:

Make adjustments to the shop so it is less overwhelming, turn down any music and other background noise and dim the lights if it is safe to do so

Share information about autism with staff
Autism Hour can make a real difference but many businesses go further by holding the hours every week or month.

Among those extending this commitment is Reading’s Oracle shopping centre which last week launched a weekly ‘quiet hour’ to make shopping accessible for all.

The Quiet Hour will take place between 9.30am and 10.30am every Tuesday when the new initiative will see ambient lighting, music and tannoy announcements either turned off or down to a minimum to ensure the centre is accessible to all shoppers in Reading.

Andy Briggs, general manager at The Oracle, said: “At The Oracle we pride ourselves in offering a fantastic shopping and leisure experience for everyone.

“We strive to offer a safe and comfortable space for friends and family to shop, connect and have fun and the introduction of our weekly Quiet Hour is just another step in our ongoing efforts to ensure a great experience for all.”

Find out more

For more information, visit the Customer Service Desk on Level 1 or call

0118 965 9000

Museum & Jigsaw

Round & About

autism

Haslemere Museum and Jigsaw School have teamed up to help special needs visitors get the most out of museum visits.

Autism gives people a special view of the world which can make unexpected events and visits to unfamiliar places very challenging but this initiative can help with that.

Hayley Locke, a senior teacher at Jigsaw, visited the museum, which already had many facilities for school visits, after being approached by them.

She said it felt like a safe place “with lots of interactive activities”. Hayley added: “I could see our pupils enjoying a trip there, including those I wouldn’t usually suggest to visit a museum.”

Kay Topping, the museum’s education officer, visited Jigsaw to watch some classroom sessions as the school worked on preparing pupils to visit the museum’s dinosaurs gallery. The class teacher demonstrated the four-step format used, based on a method called Attention Autism. This ranged from handling dinosaur and fossil toys to making fossils.

“It was great to see the children in their own environment and see how a session works at school,” said Kay.

“I learnt not to expect them to engage too much, and that engagement is more likely to be with individuals rather than as a group.”

Six pupils aged six to 11 went on the museum visit – which was a great success and included a session on dinosaurs, handling the toys and making fossils. The children were prepared with the visual schedule and social story and arrived to a familiar face.

“The trip went well, especially as this was a totally new environment for the children,” Kay said.

Hayley agreed: “It was lovely to see each pupil engaging with the activities. The preparation and the familiar learning format certainly helped them get a lot more out of it.

“One pupil was nervous of the new place but once calm he enjoyed stirring the plaster to make fossils. Another loved all the dinosaur toys and is now keen to explore other animals in the museum.”

Further visits are planned including to the African exhibition.

Photos show Harry exploring dinosaur toys and Tristan getting to grips with the ammonite 

More information

Find out more about the Jigsaw School and what they do here