Parents of children with autistic spectrum disorder know all too well the difficulties of the seemingly banal task of food shopping.
It’s hard enough trying to wrangle a tot who doesn’t struggle with heightened sensory environments so it’s easy to understand how Coles’ decision to enforce a quiet hour is a welcome change for many on the ASD community.
For one hour each week, select Coles supermarkets will switch off the radio, dim the lighting by 50 per cent and reduce register volume to make the experience easier for people with autism.
Trolley collection will also be banned between 10:30am and 11:30am every Tuesday, while announcements will be restricted to emergencies only.
"People on the autism spectrum often have difficulty processing sensory information and can find sounds, light, smell, touch and taste overwhelming," Aspect's community engagement and operations manager, Linzi Coyle told Fairfax.
"Together with Coles, we're achieving a 'no-judgment' shopping space where people on the spectrum and their families can feel comfortable and welcome whilst grocery shopping."
The initiative was rolled out earlier this year across Victoria and was commended as a resounding success.
Earlier this year, Emily Dive thanked Coles in an emotional Facebook post for “acknowledging your environment for people entering your store can be a sensory landmine for many to navigate.”
She said she left the Ringwood store in tears of gratitude because of how successful the changes were for her son Lachlan who has autism.
“Lachlan was provided with such a positive experience in an environment that is challenging,” Ms Dive wrote.
“Crawling under shelves, running out of the store, screaming, running, and yelling are our “norm” when we visit the supermarket.
“Today we walked side-by-side for the entire shopping trip, and the hardest challenge he faced was to make a decision about choosing Grain Waves or Tiny Teddys.
“Kudos to you Coles for your Quiet Hour today.”
Visit autismspectrum.org.au for the full list of participating stores.