U.S. locations need to catch on to this fantastic idea
Shopping for gifts has to be one of the most stressful parts of the holiday season. The flashing lights, Christmas music, and crowds can give us all a bit of anxiety, but it’s especially difficult for people who have autism. That’s why Toys R Us locations across the United Kingdom are hosting a quiet hour for parents of kids who have autism.
“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,” Toys R Us marketing director Mike Coogan told The Telegraph. The changes are super simple to put into effect but make a huge difference for people with autism. On Nov. 6 the stores will dim their lights, reduce the amount of fluorescent lighting, cut the in-store music, and eliminate the loud speaker announcements. Store employees will also put up autism-friendly signs and create quiet zones for families.
“For many autistic people and their families a simple trip to the shops, which should be an enjoyable experience, can be fraught with difficulty,” Daniel Cadey, autism access manager for the National Autistic Society, explained. “Autistic children and adults can become overwhelmed with too much information inside a busy store.” The artificial lighting and loud announcements only make it worse. Kids with autism can easily become overwhelmed in these situations and other feels physical pain from the experience, which is definitely not how ANY child should feel around the holidays.
The idea to have a quiet hour is fantastic. We’re huge supporters of it and wrote about it earlier this year when another UK store decided it was time to offer a safe space for their shoppers who have autism. Since Toys R Us is an American-based company we’re hoping to see some quiet hours pop up across the U.S. as well.
The toy giant’s stores are a dream come true for kids. I still remember flipping through their annual catalog every holiday season. By offering the quiet hour, more families can enjoy the massive aisles of awesome toys. “Simple changes like this can make a huge difference to the 700,000 autistic people in the UK and to their families,” Cadey shared. “We hope that many more major retailers will follow the great example set by Toys R Us.”
We hope so too. Let’s not stop with Toys R Us, though. It’d be great if next holiday season Target, Walmart, and every other major retailer offered a quiet hour too.