“People think I don’t know when I’m being picked on, but I do. I just don’t always know why, which in some ways is worse” – Sam Gardner
That harrowing account account was given by Sam Gardner an 18-year-old American high school student on the autism spectrum. Sam is a character in the Netflix original series Atypical. The show opens the discussion on the autism spectrum and ponders the question of ‘what it means to be normal’.
The storyline revolves around Sam trying to have seemingly normal teenage experience ranging from him trying to get a girlfriend to just interconnecting with the popular kids. In the end, his ultimate desire is just to fit in and feel less alone, something we can all align with at one moment or another.
Supermarket giant Coles understands the difficulty some may face with what may seem like a mundane task like buying groceries. In a recent effort Coles piloted a sensory friendly shopping experience relieving the stress of those with Autism spectrum disorder ( ASD) and their shopping companion. ASD is estimated to have a global prevalence of approximately 2.0% of the population, that is an estimated one in 100 people; that’s almost 230,000 Australians.
For the duration of August to October for an hour each Tuesday Coles Ringwood and Balwyn East in Victoria will open their doors to a more ASD friendly environment.
During the quiet hour there will be:
- Reduced overhead Coles Radio music
- Dimmed lighting
- Reductions to cash register and scanner volumes
- Removal of roll cages from shop floor
- Temporary hold on trolley collections
- Avoidance of announcements over the PA *excluding emergencies
- Offering of free fruit at customer service
- Availability of trained team members to assist customers
The supermarket environment with its loud sounds and bright lights are all to familiar for Sam. As recalled by his mother, Sam’s last trip to the shops proved to be unbearable due to the lighting, sound and other environmental factors.
Coles quiet hour attendee Kerry is a mum to a five-year-old, her son Liam relates to Sam’s struggles. She believes programs like the Coles quiet hour initiative could make all the difference not only to herself but others alike.
Kerry told Kidspot, she often avoids shopping with Liam as large crowds frighten him. But she thinks the quiet hour is a fantastic idea. This was just one of the many positive comments Coles received.
Earlier this year, Aspect conducted a study which asked individuals on the autism spectrum and their families about their shopping habits. The study revealed that one of the most common shopping times was Tuesday mornings.
Even though quiet hours’ sound like a fairly new idea to some, the UK have been piloting quiet hours for sometime now. In October the UK is hosting its first nationwide quiet hour, Intu, which owns 14 shopping centres nationwide, will take measures to ensure the comfort of ASD shoppers. This isn’t the first time the UK have paired with the National Autistic Society, earlier this year Tesco and Toys R Us held a quiet hour UK nationwide.
There has not been any released numerical data on the success of the quiet hour however numerous people have shown support and commented their experiences on the Coles Facebook pages as well as to media outlets and online news forums.
Since the campaign has so far been a success hopefully we shall see it spread nationally throughout Australia and into more stores. Hopefully those with ASD at some point can feel as happy as Sam did at his prom when the school adopted a silent rave in order for him to enjoy his prom.