Howgate Centre backs the bid for autism-friendly shops

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The Howgate Centre will be supporting a nationwide attempt to make shopping more user-friendly for autistic people on Thursday.

The National Autistic Society’s Autusm Hour aims to tackle the fact that just a third of those with autism go shopping because of the difficulties they experience.

On Thursday, from 3pm to 5.30pm, the Howgate and its tenants will be taking simple steps to make their centre and shops more autism friendly - dimming the lights, turning down music and sharing information about autism with employees.

More than one in 100 people are on the autism spectrum which means that someone sees, hears and feels the world in a different, often more intense way to other people.

Autistic people often find social situations difficult and struggle to filter out the sounds, smells, sights and information they experience,

This means they can feel overwhelmed by “too much information” when out in public, particularly in a somewhere like a busy shopping centre.

Margaret Foy, the Howgate Centre’s marketing manager, said: “We already offer Sensory Shopping on the first Sunday of every month and have worked closely with local parents and the Forth Valley Sensory Centre over the last year to understand our customer’s needs.

“It is important that shopping centres are accessible for all and we are delighted to support this campaign with additional hours on Thursday.

Mark Lever, CEO at the National Autistic Society said: “It is really encouraging to see shops and services such as The Howgate getting involved in the National Autistic Society’s Autism Hour.

“Like anyone, people on the autism spectrum and their families want the opportunity to go to the shops, but many find the often busy, loud and unpredictable environment of public places overwhelming and avoid them altogether.

“Our Too Much Information campaign has highlighted that the smallest changes can make the biggest difference for autistic people.”

To find our more information about attending a National Autistic Society’s Autism Hour, visit www.autism.org.uk/get-involved/tmi/autism- hour.aspx