Autism is a broad-reaching term referring to a collection of complex disorders affecting brain development. Characterised by the identifiers exhibited by an individual, be that impaired social interaction, or restricted and repetitive behaviour (among others), people living with autism can often experience social exclusion as people struggle to understand their needs, and indeed their talents and abilities – often due to stigma or misinformation.
Zoey Miller, editor-in-chief of The Babble Out, shares her personal story and research here, after her daughter, Daisy, was diagnosed with autism. It’s an important read if you’re looking to learn more about the disorder.
The following companies, ranging from multi-national tech powerhouse Microsoft to smaller initiatives, have developed programs that foster and support individuals living with autism and other disabilities, in order to realise more inclusive and enriched communities.
A shopping experience free from chaos
British supermarket retailer ASDA recently hosted its first ‘quiet hour’; a morning dedicated to shopping in peace. All TV’s, escalators and in-store music was silenced and the doors opened early for patrons.
Store-manager, Simon Lea made the suggestion to friends and family on Facebook. As an anxiety sufferer himself, Simon was looking to appease the stress of shopping for individuals and families dealing with differing disabilities, including autism.
The event will now occur weekly, with customers welcomed in to the store to enjoy a shopping experience free from the stress often caused by the ‘noises and disturbances’ of a bustling grocery store.
Quiet zones for national toy retailer
Toy’s R Us UK hosted a nationwide event for families and carers with autistic children on November 6. With lights dimmed, music silenced and dedicated quiet-zones in place, the nationwide initiative is intended to provide an opportunity for children with disabilities to enjoy the festive shopping experience in the lead up to Christmas.
Autism access manager for the National Autistic Society Daniel Cadey commended the toy giant on the move, saying: “Simple changes like this can make a huge difference to the 700,000 autistic people in the UK and to their families. We hope that many more major retailers will follow the great example set by Toys R Us.”
Expanding the talent pool
Last year Microsoft announced a collaborative project with Danish specialised employment agency, Specilisterne; to expand its efforts in hiring people who have conditions which place them on the autism spectrum.
Seeing great potential in the expansion of their workforce to include people of diverse backgrounds, and with a full view to providing equal opportunity; Microsoft are proud to employ people who they believe bring a unique skillset; including an increased capability to retain information, the ability to see with a greater level of detail or to speed through technical or mathematical work at a increased speeds.
Fashion with a message
In China, clothing manufacturer – Paclantic Fashion, proudly sent their new season designs down the runway at Beijing Fashion Week. Featuring artwork created by autistic children; teenagers like Kang Rui are able to tell their personal stories and at the same time witness their hard work come to life as commercial fashion and accessories.
A company dedicated to producing high quality cashmere – since 1965, manager, Chen Xiaoqing remains dedicated to ensuring his products are created using environmentally friendly resources and sustainable manufacturing processes – a product created by the community, for the community.
Bringing the fun back into family dining
Family restaurants should be a place for fun, food and festivities, but often times it can be a noisy, messy and stressful experience. Any parent with young children knows the feeling that at times, a crying baby or a moody toddler can be the least of your worries, but your neighbour might think differently.
Autism Eats is a US initiative, started by the families of children with autism, with a view to create a dining out experience free from embarrassment, worry and stress.
Regular events are hosted across various states, inviting families to share a dining space and enjoy buffet style meals with a common understanding: kids cry, they fight and sometimes they are just kids.