Now that Halloween has (just barely) passed, the holiday shopping season is quickly approaching. Black Friday is known for the madness that occurs every year, but every day of shopping between Thanksgiving and Christmas can be packed with stress. Instead of getting caught up in the pressure of getting the best gift for every person on your list, we should remember that the holiday season is about being together, and stores like Toys ‘R’ Us are helping families affected by autism have the opportunity to shop together.
For children and adults with autism, the overabundance of lights and sounds in many stores (especially amplified during the holiday season) can become overwhelming, but going to shop without their children shouldn’t be the only option for these families.
In an effort to make the shopping experience more enjoyable, this year every single Toys ‘R’ Us across the U.K. will open one hour early for families affected by autism. On Sunday, November 6, over 100 stores across England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales will dim the lights and turn off music and loudspeaker announcements to reduce the stimulation. Autism-friendly signage will also be used, and specific quiet zones will be available if needed.
“We are delighted that Toys ‘R’ Us is again showing the way by hosting an autism-friendly shopping event in every Toys ‘R’ Us store in the lead up to Christmas,” said Daniel Cadey, autism access manager for the National Autistic Society. “Staff who understand autism will be on hand to help, and the lighting and amplified sound levels will be reduced to lessen the impact on autistic customers. Simple changes like this can make a huge difference to the 700,000 autistic people in the U.K. and to their families.”
The quiet shopping event began in 2014, when mom Victoria Holdsworth approached her local store, explaining how difficult the overstimulation was when trying to shop with her son.
“In 2014, we were approached by a mum who was also co-founder of a local autism group called Autism Friendly U.K. She explained her situation to the local store manager and asked if there was any way we could hold a special shopping hour for her and other families in the area. Her son has sensory issues and normal shopping conditions caused upset,” said Justine Pryce, PR manager for Toys ‘R’ Us. “On discussion internally, we agreed to action … and take it across the country for similar groups.”
This sounds like a fantastic event. An hour of shopping might not sound like much, but it will make a huge difference for so many families. Toys ‘R’ Us is also looking to bring the events to the U.S. by working with local groups, like they did with Holdsworth and Autism Friendly U.K.
“We’re working on a plan to test these types of opportunities on a local level — pairing our stores with local organizations to create an event for kids with special needs and their families, and will also assess opportunities to scale it nationally,” Candace Disler, assistant manager of public relations for Toys ‘R’ Us in the U.S., tells Babble.
We seriously love this idea and hope that more stores follow their lead here in the U.S. So many families will have a better holiday season because of this huge act of kindness.
h/t: HuffPost U.K.