Earlier today I went to my local Toys R Us who were open an hour earlier than usual to give customers with autism and other disabilities the chance to shop for an hour before other customers pile in. As soon as I entered the store I noticed 3 differences: not as many fluorescent lights were on (but I couldn’t tell if they had done that simply because it was bright outside so natural lighting was hitting the shelves), there was no music/use of a tannoy, and the store was a lot quieter, more relaxed and easier to navigate without as many busy customers walking around. I got a proper chance to look around at what I wanted without being rushed and also find my way to different parts of the store without feeling like I’m in anyone’s way or needing to be reclusive when other people came near me. I felt accepted by the staff working there too, they didn’t seem to mind at the checkout if I didn’t take much notice of them, but instead, seemed happy to help.
I felt a little out of place at first because I was clearly one of the oldest people in there (I’m 18) and I also hadn’t gone to buy anything in particular but just to look around and see what the shopping experience would be like, but after a while I felt that the atmosphere was very relaxing and a lot my anxious traits were lowered – it was a place where I could be myself and didn’t have to mask my autistic traits. I went into Boots afterwards and immediately noticed the difference between autism friendly stores and stores that weren’t autism friendly. I wore my sunglasses in Boots because the lights were very bright on the end of isles and also on the ceiling, it was very loud and busy, and the tannoy/buzzer at the till was extremely loud and went on for a very long time but didn’t seem to bother anyone but me.
If my local supermarket done this once a week it would make it incredibly easier to not have outbursts in the shop because I find supermarkets to be the most stressful shops with a lot going on, only just above clothes shops. If I was either a child or had something in mind that I wanted to buy instead of just looking for Christmas presents for my nieces, the trip to Toys R Us today would have been extremely beneficial, but it was still nice and interesting to see how things changed. People don’t seem to understand that autism doesn’t just affect children though, it is a life long condition and there is virtually no help for adults who are “high functioning”, which is why I wish that other shops more suited to adults would host similar if not the same events.
I feel like I’m beginning to repeat myself now, but all in all the store was very relaxing and quiet and enjoyable to be in. I’m not a regular customer at Toys R Us and, even though if I could I probably would buy out the entire Star Wars and Marvel sections, I only go in there if I need to get presents for my 2 nieces or if I am invited there by them, but I’m glad the shop is doing this to help all their other autistic customers.