Asda store launches 'quiet hour' to help people with autism

Music, announcements and escalators to be turned off

UK Store Establishes A 'Quiet Hour' For Autistic Shoppers

An Asda store in Manchester is to introduce a 'quiet hour' to make shopping easier for people with autism and disabilities.

For an hour every Saturday, the Asda Living store in Cheetham Hill will fall silent, with in-store music and Tannoy announcements hushed and escalators stopped. Even the televisions on display will be turned off.

Shop manager Simon Lea had the idea after seeing a young boy with autism become hysterical.

"This boy was playing absolute blue murder, kicking and screaming. His mum looked drained," he tells the Manchester Evening News.

"She told me he suffers from autism. He was having a meltdown."

After helping to calm the boy with a football, Mr Lea spoke to a colleague with an autistic child to get some tips on how to make the store a calmer environment.

"It's all about helping people really. Six months ago I would have said 'control your child' even though I've got children," he says.

"But speaking to people with autism and disabled people has helped me think about how I can make it a better place to shop."

The first 'quiet hour' will be on Saturday 7th May, starting at 8am. Anyone is welcome: as Lea points out, many people with anxiety issues would also appreciate the more peaceful environment.

His idea has received an outpouring of support on Facebook - and even some imitators.

"I run a ten pin bowling alley and think your idea would work really well in my industry too," writes Alex Males, the manager at Manchester's Hollywood Bowl.

"Having no music, no amusements blaring, just bowling and refreshments an hour before the general public can enter would be great for supporting the community and raising awareness as you have suggested."

Autistic people often have trouble filtering out what the rest of us perceive as background noise, making a supermarket a bewildering place. The situation isn't helped by passers-by who often believe that a child is simply being naughty.

"If you take a moment to pay attention to all the sounds that occur in the supermarket you will become aware of people talking, tills beeping, the tannoy system, babies crying etc. Imagine all those noises being heard at the same volume," the National Autistic Society warns.

"This would be unbearable for anyone to endure, and this may be what a child with an [autistic spectrum disorder] ASD experiences. Added to this, many noises such as the announcements over a tannoy system are sudden loud noises and unpredictable."

It suggests some shopping strategies for parents, here.

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