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Co-Op to hold Channel Islands’ first Autism Hour

The Channel Islands Co-operative Society is the first business to be holding an Autism Hour in Jersey.

They are working with Autism Jersey, who are joining in with an initiative from the National Autistic Society.

In an Autism Hour, businesses are asked to consider taking a few simple steps for very little effort, in order to make it easier for adults and children who are on the autism spectrum.

The sights and sounds of shopping in a noisy, bustling supermarket can be overwhelming to adults and children with autism – the music too loud, the lights too bright, roll cages (for restocking the shelves) too noisy, too many people, and queues at the checkouts too long.

For people on the spectrum, it’s like all these things are amplified.

Autism Jersey’s Chief Operations Officer, Paul Sullivan, said: ‘We were aware that the National Autistic Society was campaigning for an Autism Hour in the first week of October, and we asked The Channel Islands Co-operative Society if they would like to get involved. We chose them because they have such a strong community-based ethos and we wanted a leading local supermarket because shopping for food is something that everyone needs to do.

‘We were delighted that they said yes and we have been bowled over by how they are going to help. We welcome the fact that the Society says that if the trial is successful, it’s something that they could offer on a weekly basis.’

The Co-op’s Autism Hour will be held in their St Helier and St Peter Grand Marché stores, on Monday 2 October, from 3-4 pm.

 At that time, the Co-op plans to:

*Dim the lights

*Turn off music

*Make no tannoy announcements

*Provide an autism-friendly checkout (the bleeps of machines will be set to the lowest volume)

*Hand out maps to help customers with the layout

*Have autism-trained ‘staff champions’

Mark Cox, chief operating officer of The Channel Islands Co-operative Society, said the diverse needs of its customers was something the company was very aware of.

‘The Channel Islands Co-operative Society is leading the way in support of islanders with disabilities. Many of our stores now have mobility scooters, on-shelf magnifiers and hearing loops and earlier this year we purchased specialist trolleys to be used by children with additional needs in Jersey,’ he said.

‘We didn’t hesitate to say yes to this trial when approached by Autism Jersey and hope that it will help those families affected by autism and highlight the challenges they face on a daily basis.’

If any more stores would like to organise an Autism Hour, they are asked to contact Caroline Moody by emailing c.moody@autismjersey.org