For children with autism and their families, even a trip to the toy store can become stressful. In the U.K, the retail chain Toys R Us has decided to take action and change this narrative, implementing a “quiet hour” which will allow these families to shop peacefully.
On the morning of Sunday, Nov. 6, Toys R Us locations across the U.K. will dim their lights, replace most fluorescent bulbs, and turn off any distracting in-store music. Announcements that are normally made over the PA system will not take place. Separate areas will be designated as “quiet zones,” just in case a child does become distressed.
The event will last one hour, and will be exclusively accessible to families of children with autism.
Approximately 700,000 people have been diagnosed with a form of autism in the UK. In the U.S., approximately one in every 68 children is on the autism spectrum.
Autism spectrum disorders are often distinguishable by difficulties in social interactions, and may be treated with applied behavior analysis (ABA) in children under age 18. Many ABA therapists find that quiet, calming environments allow children with autism and related disorders develop better communication and social skills without becoming overwhelmed by sensory stimuli.
“Making slight adjustments to stores and creating a quiet shopping period allows children and young adults to experience the fun in a toy shop, regardless of their disability,” said Toys R Us marketing director Mike Coogan.
Coogan says that it gives the company “great pride” to work with local autism advocacy groups and parents.
Daniel Cadey, the Autism Access Manager for the National Autistic Society, says that he is delighted that Toys R Us locations in the U.K. are allowing parents of children with autism to experience less stressful shopping experiences, especially with Christmas just around the corner.
“We understand toys are more personal to many additional needs individuals,” said Coogan, “So being able to relax and choose something special themselves and enjoy the facilities and content of the store, the same as other children can do without concerns, will help in making their Christmas truly magical.”