Pets at Home Newtownabbey has teamed up with the National Autistic Society to hold an autism hour on Saturday, October 13.
The National Autistic Society’s Autism Hour was launched last year as the first mass-participation event to encourage shops to be more inclusive, by providing autistic people with a break from the usual information overload often found in stores.
Newtownabbey is one of 440 plus Pets at Home stores in the UK that will be holding their Autism Hour for the first hour of the day, taking simple steps to make the store more autism friendly - from dimming the lights, turning down music and till bells and sharing information about the condition with employees.
With around 700,000 autistic people in the UK, as well as three million family members and carers, Pets at Home will be welcoming these local families to the store to enjoy an hour of shopping dedicated to meeting their needs, as they can experience the world in a different, often more intense way to other people. People with the condition can find social situations difficult and might struggle to filter out the sounds, smells, sights and information they experience, which can make busy public places, like shops, overwhelming.
Research by the National Autistic Society found that 64 per cent of autistic people sometimes avoid going to the shops because the environment isn’t sensitive to their needs.
Gareth Kerr, store manager at Pets at Home Newtownabbey said: “We are proud to be supporting this fantastic initiative once again. We know it makes such a difference to the lives of some of our customers and their families who want to shop for their pets.
“For the first hour of the day on October 13, we will be providing a relaxed, stress free, autism-friendly space for our customers.”
Mark Lever, Chief Executive at the National Autistic Society, added: “It’s wonderful to see so many well-known high street retailers have already signed up – and are ready to make the world a more autism friendly place.
“Autistic people represent a huge part of our society and shockingly, 28 per cent of autistic people have been asked to leave a public place for reasons associated with their autism. They and their families want and deserve to have the opportunity to go to the shops, just like anyone else.
“The National Autistic Society want a world which works for autistic people. With Autism Hour, we want to show retailers the small things they can do to help open up the high street for autistic people. It’s often the smallest change that makes the biggest difference.”
To find out more information about attending a National Autistic Society’s Autism Hour, check out autism.org.uk/autismhour