Autism – how aware are you?

It is estimated that in the UK about 1 in every 100 people has autism (ASD). Public awareness is growing all the time, but businesses can do more to assist autistic adults and children in daily life.

All you need to know about Autism

Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that alters how people perceive things and interact with others. Autistic people see, hear and ‘feel’ the world differently to others. According to the National Autistic Society, “if you are autistic – you are autistic for life; it is not an illness that can be cured.”

Autism awareness ribbon - Runcorn Shopping City

Autism is known as a spectrum condition, meaning that autistic individuals are affected by the condition in different ways. Some autistic people also have learning difficulties, mental health issues or other conditions – meaning the support needed for these individuals varies.

Because Autism is such a prevalent condition, it is important that we as a nation know how to treat autistic people. It has been recognised that the lack of help and assistance in UK shopping centres is alarming, that’s why we here at Runcorn Shopping City are doing something about it.

So, what are Runcorn Shopping City doing?

First off, all of our staff have been given the relevant training to ensure they can assist those with autism around the centre at all times. We understand the due care and attention that people with autism need, and that when out shopping – things can sometimes become too much for them.

This is why we are actioning the issue and making sure that an autistic person has no reason not to enjoy a day out to the shops as much as the next person.

We have made arrangements to have the centre operate an autism-friendly environment every Wednesday between 4 pm and 5 pm. This includes the following adjustments:

  • Making our ‘chill room’ available for those with autism, the chill room is accessed using a radar key. If parents and carers who are visiting the centre do not have their radar key, please do make us aware.
  • Dimming our lighting and the inclusion of calming colours
  • Music playing to be turned down to a nominal level to add to the creation of a calming environment overall

In the words of Karl, our Centre Manager: “it is important for children, parents and carers alike that the person is calm – because of this, we now have a ‘chill room.’ Our chill room, so to speak, is a quiet room where a child or individual can go to relax and calm themselves down which is fundamentally important if the autism causes the person to get worked up. The room is filled with bean bags and low lighting in order to create a calming effect – soothing, dark colours also accompany the room for this reason.

Paul Whittaker from HAFS has proclaimed that the way in which Runcorn Shopping City are helping those with Autism is “a great idea” and his help and guidance through the project has ensured that it is going to be a successful one.

At the end of the day, shopping should be an enjoyable experience for everybody. (Yes, that includes husbands and fathers who have been ‘dragged along’) and if we work hard to ensure that the experience is made smooth for everybody, then we are well on our way to achieving that.

To find out more about how Runcorn Shopping City is taking steps to assist those with autism, or if you have any ideas how we could improve our Autism support or awareness please do contact us   

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