Grocery shopping is a necessity for most of us, but it’s easier for some people than it is for others. Adults with autism and sensory processing disorders often dread going shopping because of the bright fluorescent lights, noisy carts and checkout beeps, unexpected loudspeaker announcements, and crowded aisles. This can also be a problem for neurotypical parents who have children on the autism spectrum; shopping with kids is hard as it is, but shopping with a child who’s extra-sensitive to light and sound can be nearly impossible!
Luckily, more and more places across the nation are becoming more aware and accepting of people with autism and sensory processing disorders and making an effort to be more welcoming and accommodating to all individuals. Some of these include cafes, restaurants, grocery stores, movie theaters, cruise lines, amusement parks, and even entire communities. And now Morrisons supermarkets in the UK are getting in on the action.
The company has already done a trial run of their autism-friendly program, and now they’ve tweaked some of their earlier mistakes and are rolling out the program as a regular weekly event. Starting on July 21, 2018, every Saturday morning at each of the supermarket company’s locations will include one “quieter hour” for people who are sensitive to sensory stimulation.
During this time period, a sign will be posted outside the store to inform guests about what’s going on and remind them to do their best to be quiet and courteous. Staff are undergoing sensitivity training to be able to assist autistic clients and encourage other shoppers to help make the shopping experience more pleasant for everyone.
Inside the store, the lights will be dimmed, the music will be shut off, and electronic noises will be turned down or off. Staff will make as little noise as possible by avoiding unnecessary movement of carts and other items in the store. They’ll also refrain from making announcements over the loudspeaker during this time.
While a single hour of sensory friendliness one day a week is a far cry from a full-on overhaul of the supermarket experience, we hope that the success of this regular event will inspire both the staff at Morrisons and other organizations to continue to work toward full-time autism friendliness.
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Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?