Irish parents who have a child on the autistic spectrum, or are perhaps even on the spectrum themselves, we have some great news for you.
After a successful trial run last year, Lidl plans to introduce quiet shopping sessions in ALL of their Northern and Southern Ireland stores in a move to reduce the potential for sensory overload for their autistic shoppers (as well as shoppers struggling with other conditions such as Sensory Processing Disorder). If you have a child with autism or are autistic yourself (both of which I can relate to on a personal level), you’ll know that excess noise and stimuli can overload a person with autism leading to distress, often referred to as a ‘meltdown’, which can manifest in different ways.
A common misconception is that an autistic meltdown always appears to be similar to a tantrum, but for some, they can become very withdrawn and even non-verbal for a period of time, or deal with the extra stress by ‘stimming‘ more than they usually do. Either way, sensory overload can make doing a food shop more difficult, so this is a great move by Lidl!
This roll-out begins from the 2nd of April (World Autism Day) and is expected to be fully in place by the end of May!
Irish stores will be implementing the following strategies between 6 and 8 pm every evening;
- Reduced lighting as harsh lighting can be a struggle for autistic shoppers.
- No in-store announcements as they are often unexpected and very loud.
- No music to reduce excess sensory input.
- Priority queueing for customers dealing with autism as well as extra assistance upon request (how amazing?!)
- Till scan sounds lowered – one I am glad to see as the beeping is very uncomfortable for people with sensory issues.
- Autism assistance dogs always welcome.
A map will also be on hand for autistic children to plan their shopping trip, which can be calming as it adds structure to the experience and means that there are fewer ‘unknown’ elements. This initiative has been supported by advocacy organisations such as The National Autistic Society, who have given Lidl valuable input. We’re just pretty disappointed that only Irish stores are doing this…
What do you think? Do you think that other countries need to follow suit?
As mum to a toddler going through the autism assessment pathway, and with my own formal autism diagnosis, I am really pleased to see a big supermarket taking such a massive step in awareness and accommodation for neurodiverse shoppers. Not everyone wants to shop online, so this is a great way to make life a bit easier for those who need it. Thank you, Lidl.
England next, please!
Love from Katie & Team BBY. Xx