05 April 2017
Asda is the first supermarket in Northern Ireland to trial a ‘friendly hour’ to enhance the shopping experience for those affected by autism.
In response to a request from South Antrim MP, Danny Kinahan, the team at Asda Antrim hosted an ‘autism friendly’ session for a local community group whose members struggle with the ‘sensory overload’ of busy, noisy shops.
Aiming to make the experience as stress-free as possible, the trial included briefing all colleagues in advance, dimming lights, switching off the instore radio, and silencing the tannoy.
Caroline Hesketh, chair of Autism NI Antrim Community Support Group, co-ordinated the visit which specifically targeted local families.
“A weekly shopping trip can be an incredibly daunting experience, not least because of other shoppers’ reactions to autism, which is often referred to as a hidden condition. However it is vital that children are exposed to everyday experiences in a controlled way, as this helps them cope for the future.
The feedback from all who attended was really positive. The calm, relaxing atmosphere in store was perfect for the children, as was the response from the Asda colleagues who were very supportive and accommodating.”
Danny Kinahan, MP South Antrim, said, “I’m incredibly happy that the recent ‘friendly hour’ at the Asda Antrim store was successful and I would like to thank the colleagues for working with Autism NI Antrim Community Support Group to make it possible.
With so many families affected by autism, and the rising number of people being diagnosed each year, I think it is important that we raise awareness and help families out as much as we possibly can.”
Pictured at the Autism Friendly Hour which was trialled in Asda Antrim are: Decoa Irvine and son Harry (age 2), Paula Totten, Asda Antrim, Cassandra Kerr, vice chair of Autism NI Antrim Community Support Group, William Brown, deputy store manager of Asda Antrim, Caroline Hesketh, Chair of Autism NI Antrim Community Support Group, Leah Smyth, constituency assistant for Danny Kinahan, Joan McCoy, Antrim and Alex Bickerstaff (age 2).