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  • "You've got the smells, you've got the lights, you've got the music, you've got

  • the rustling of the plastic, you've got the trolleys. For a parent of a child

  • with autism myself thinking back ten years ago, it was a very stressful

  • situation and sometimes it was even difficult to get out the door so let alone

  • get them into the supermarket." Tanya Blakey's 17-year-old daughter has autism

  • and Tanya says shopping can be a nightmare. "The withering looks from the

  • general public was often the hardest thing for me, I couldn't explain to

  • everyone that my child isn't naughty she's just having a moment, this is

  • really overwhelming for her, please have some understanding." But Tanya says the

  • impact on her child has been worse. All the noises of a shopping centre that

  • someone without autism can easily filter out builds to a stressful cacophony.

  • "So all these noises are coming at a person with autism at the same level of

  • priority and it can be really overwhelming." Some Countdown stores have

  • been shutting things down for a low sensory quiet hour ever since a staff

  • member in Whanganui who has an autistic child suggested it. The Three Kings store

  • in Auckland has been trialing it for a year now and this week nearly all of its

  • stores around the country are following suit. Countdown says it's a win for its

  • staff who come up with new ideas while parents say it's a massive win for them

  • and the kids.

  • 00:01:40,369 --> 00:01:43,369

  • 00:01:43,520 --> 00:01:50,460 Lights off, music gone, no noisy trolleys, shelf stocking or store announcements

  • and even the checkout volume is lowered. It really is amazing just to sense the

  • mood in the shopping centre since the music was cut and most of the lights

  • were turned down, people are even starting to have conversations because

  • they can hear each other, it is amazing what other sounds that you can pick up

  • once the music's down as well - the quiet hum of the freezer, refrigerators, the

  • rustling of a loaf of bread as you pick it up. Every day sounds that you

  • experience in your own home but overall it's a far less stressful experience

  • with far less sensory overload than usual. Megan Stokes is bringing along her

  • 20-year-old son Conor to get some shopping in after school. He headed

  • straight for the toy section to expand his Hot Wheels collection and wanted two

  • packets of five cars, as he will only buy items in even numbers. "Do you need to buy

  • another one Conor?" "Yeah, another one." "Two of them. We're going to use your money yes?"

  • "So Conor would cry as we drove in to the supermarket

  • to the carpark and he would basically cry all the way around and

  • then be happy once we left so it was a huge sensory issue for him and we didn't

  • realise just how hard it was for him until we realised he had autism.

  • Have a look for cocoa puffs. That's a good idea. Great idea Conor...There they are."

  • Megan says she enjoys the peace and quiet as well. "What is it Conor?

  • Oh it is kombucha, I did want that. Thank you! Yeah it is nice actually it's

  • nice and calming you know - I've had a busy day I work a lot of hours and

  • so then being able to come somewhere and shop in peace - I think it's a great idea."

  • Store manager David Collo says even the staff look forward to the calm that

  • comes with quiet hour. "When I actually do this hour it's actually very calming

  • and soothing and it kind of relaxes you it's almost like doing an hour of

  • meditation, it's actually really, really nice you really get to notice how noisy

  • the store really is and how bright it is because there's like LED lights

  • everywhere and you take it for granted and then when you turn it

  • off it's like wow, you know you can hear crickets, it's cool. Tanya Blakey the

  • national educator at Autism New Zealand says it's really not a major change but

  • a small step to people understanding the struggles of others. "They're making some

  • allowances just like you'd build a ramp for somebody in a wheelchair this is

  • all that this is, and hopefully in a few years time we won't even be talking

  • about it, it'll just be we're all just living together and making allowances

  • for people."

  • Countdown says there's already been positive feedback and it's not being quiet about

  • it. It's spreading the word that quiet hour kicked off nationwide today from

  • 2:30 to 3:30pm except it's two Metro city stores in

  • Auckland and Wellington. Countdown Silverdale and northwest in Auckland

  • will hold their quiet hour from 9:00 to 10:00am.

  • Countdown says it's about being more inclusive but Tanya says she's looking

  • forward to a time when the word inclusive is irrelevant.

  • "This is the beginning of something quite wonderful and I'm wondering where else can this go

  • could it go to cinemas, could it go to shopping malls? My daughter loves

  • going to the theatre you know could there be a little sensory session in the

  • morning. I think when we don't need that word inclusion, when that word becomes

  • obsolete, I think we're there." Word is spreading. Both the Warehouse and

  • Bunnings responded saying they too will look into the initiative. As for Conor

  • he's very happy with quiet hour as well as those Hotwheel cars.

  • "High five mum." "High five Conor."

  • "My Hot Wheels cars that I bought today, and my TicTac minis.

"You've got the smells, you've got the lights, you've got the music, you've got

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B1 conor autism countdown quiet tanya sensory

Countdown supermarkets go quiet for shoppers on the autism spectrum

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    Amy.Lin posted on 2019/12/27
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