Just in time for the hustle and bustle of the holiday shopping season, there is a major toy retailer that is making it their goal to make it a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone. All Toys R Us locations across the United Kingdom (there are over 100!) have set forth to create an autism-friendly shopping event for families with members on the Spectrum.
That’s what we call Holiday Spirit!
Stores will reportedly open one hour early on November 6 to accommodate families who would like to shop, just without the familiar stimuli. Management will dim the lights, turn off store-wide announcements and music, display autism-friendly signage, and designate quiet spaces for families that need them.
Those with autism exhibit a heightened sense of hearing and smell, and in many cases, things that may not appear overtly-stimulating or scary to those of us who are not on the spectrum, can cause anxiety, outbursts, and other behaviors exhibiting distress.
“For many autistic people and their families a simple trip to the shops, which should be an enjoyable experience, can be fraught with difficulty” says 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.”
Not only are UK-based Toys R Us shops offering these quiet hours, but as a company, they offer toy guides for ‘differently-abled’ children, and compile lists of toys that are autism-friendly. Seemingly small things such as this speak to a wider cultural shift that we’re happy to see taking place.
Bravo, Toys R Us! Let’s hope you bring these changes to the United States, and that both awareness and kindness spreads. In our country, 1 in 68 children are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD. With such a huge percentage of our population touched by ASD, it’s important that we not only educate ourselves personally on how to best support these individuals and families, but seek to find ways that their overall quality of life may be improved.
Thank you, Toys R Us, for letting all kids be kids.
Rachel is a wife and mother living in Raleigh, North Carolina. She’s a fan of good coffee, wearer of gray t-shirts, and is constantly starting books she will never finish. Her family is her joy, and she loves to engage with other moms and dads on matters of parenting. Her blog posts have also been featured on the Today Show Parenting Blog and Scary Mommy.