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Antrim store trials 'friendly hour' for customers affected by autism

April 10, 2017 02:12 PM

Our Antrim store is the first supermarket in Northern Ireland to trial a 'friendly hour' to enhance the shopping experience for those affected by autism.

The trial included dimming the store’s lights, silencing the tannoy, switching off Asda FM and turning off hand driers in the toilets to create a calm and quiet atmosphere.

Caroline Hesketh, chair of Autism NI Antrim Community Support Group, co-ordinated the visit and some members of the group attended with their children.

She said: "A weekly shopping trip can be an incredibly daunting experience. 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."

General store manager Robert Ryans said: "By running this trial event and making some small changes to our day to day operations, and by fully briefing all of our colleagues about it, we were able to provide a better shopping experience for this group."

The idea was first mentioned at a community meeting involving Caroline, Asda NI Corporate Affairs Manager Joe McDonald and South Antrim MP Danny Kinahan.

Danny 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."