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Over the 10 years in DIGG Childrenswear I have definitely seen an increase in the number of children who shop with us who have a diagnosis of Autism. This is great news and I think a positive fact as now kids are being diagnosed earlier and can get the help and intervention they need.
As Autism month is now upon us I thought it would be a fitting time to highlight how we help parents and kids with autism in our shop.
As a trained Occupational Therapist I am aware of many of the signs of autism and often parents do not have to and don't tell us that a child is autistic or is on the autism spectrum. We immediately as a team are able to put the skills we have learned over 10 years into action.
These tips have been shared with us by a practising Occupational Therapist on how to make the shopping experience as enjoyable as possible for parents and children
1. Limit music altogether or use low relaxing music.
This point made me think of an example whereby we had a little boy who became really distressed at the noise our shop door made when someone entered and exited. It was a loud beeping noise which to be honest I no longer hear I am so used to it. However, this wee man was so upset therefore we accessed our alarm system and turned the setting to silent which totally changed this shopping experience for the family and they left happy campers with a beautiful outfit for their special occasion. Such a simple thing changed things around for them.
2. Keep areas clear and structured and don't overload railings
We recently changed the layout of our shop to try and accommodate for this. We are now in a very busy season for boyswear for confirmation and communions, therefore, we relocated this department away from the changing rooms so as to avoid congestion in this area. This means kids can get changed and interact with their parents without a huge crowd around them. This can make a huge impact on the whole shopping trip
3. Have comfy chairs for time out and relaxation
This is difficult I know for many shops due to space restrictions however we sourced little chairs and got them covered in nice subtle fabrics that can then be stored in the changing room when not in use. These little touches can ease stress and anxiety so much.
There have been times when all of these steps have not resulted in a positive shopping trip. I have seen so many distressed parents as they know they have to get that special outfit for a family wedding. Therefore there have been many instances where we have been able to let parents take items and try at home and return whatever hasn't been suitable the next day. Or parents have contacted us to say their child is not able to come into the shop and could we style some outfits together, perhaps send pictures via email, whats app or messenger. They can then involve the child in the shopping process in the home environment, allow them to choose what they like and then the parents can come pick up the chosen outfit.
There are so many things we as shop owners can do to help parents and children and we all need to be more aware of the steps to be taken.
The National Autistic Society is a fantastic source of information for all of us to become more educated and aware of how we can help.
Thanks for taking the time to read this and feel free to comment any other tips that may be useful to us as business owners when working with familes with autism.
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