This Monday marks an important occasion for the autistic community. On October 2nd 2017 Autism Hour will begin… except it’s not really about to begin, it’s not really an hour and though it aims to help people with autism, it’s not just for people on the spectrum either.
Confused? I know was, and most articles out there only serve to make things worse. So today I wanted to set the record straight and discuss everything you really need to know about Autism Hour.
What is/was Autism Hour?
So for those who have never heard of it, Autism Hour is an event which many stores and businesses are taking part in across the UK next week. It was set up as part of the National Autistic Society’s ‘Too Much Information’ campaign and over the past few months it has kind of grown into its own separate thing.
Originally, Autism Hour was intended as an opportunity to create an experience for shoppers and non-autistic staff to gain a better awareness and understanding of how to help people with autism. After a recent survey found that, though 99% of the population are now aware what Autism is, 84% of people with autism still don’t feel understood (myself included).
However, since Autism Hour was announced it has quickly developed into more of a nationwide event, where people with autism have 60 minutes within the various participating stores to do an essential daily task which many of us take for granted: shopping.
Though this in itself is an incredible opportunity for those on the spectrum who suffers from sensory difficulties, this shouldn’t overshadow the original purpose of the campaign, as improving the average understanding of autism is something which would help autism hour become a more permanent event.
How Autism Hour Works:
Businesses taking part in Autism Hour will aim to follow 4 steps to ensure their operations are as autism friendly as possible, during the allotted time. These are:
- Dimming the Lights
- Reducing the volume/turning off music
- Sharing information on autism with the staff
- Increasing public understanding of autism with customers
Each one of these steps is certainly important in it’s own way, however I personally find the last 2 the most crucial, as sharing information on autism is something which will last a life time, and hopefully not just be forgotten about once the countdown clock strikes.
It’s Not Just For People With Autism:
Over 1 in 100 people have autism, and of these 1%, 9 out of 10 also have issues regarding their senses. I’m not going to bore you with anymore stats on this, but just know that this means this isn’t an event being put on for a small minority.
I also want to take this moment to praise Autism Hour for giving a helping hand to those who would never ask for it (but definitely need it): The parents and guardians of children and adults with autism.
I’m probably underselling this, but most people don’t realise how much work often goes into getting someone with autism to go shopping. With so many variables and so little precautions available, parents/guardians essentially have a job similar to guiding a blind man through a minefield… whilst blindfolded… and riding a unicycle.
Because of this, It’s common practice for family members or guardians to have to travel to a store in advance to check out any potential triggers that may disturb their loved ones. This is rather humorously referred to as ‘casing the joint’ in Atypical and though not exactly a stretch from the truth (though my simile was much more accurate), the reality is a rather tedious and time-consuming activity, which in the end still gives no certainty.
Autism Hour gives these parents/guardians a break from this and it also helps by training staff not to automatically label these modern-day heroes as bad parents. Because, despite their best efforts, things inevitable things can and do go wrong.
The main beneficiaries of Autism Hour are still the staff and non-autistic shoppers who will be taking part (as well as those on the spectrum who will be essentially be experiencing their first shopping spree). However, I thought it was also worth highlighting this added benefit that the National Autistic Society has given parents/guardians. It is an awesome opportunity which could easily be overlooked.
When and Where is Autism Hour?
The name Autism Hour is kind of deceiving as it’s not just one hour that happens and then it’s over. It’s actually many individual hours which are happening all over the week.
From what I can gather, most participants will be starting their events at around 10:00am. However, I highly recommend contacting your local store before you arrive; because:
- It’s better to be safe than sorry.
- It would be nice for me to have someone else to blame if things don’t go to plan.
I would love to give you a full list of those who are taking part in Autism Hour, however, the names of shops and companies that have volunteered is still growing: I will attach an image to the end of this section giving you a good idea of the locations, just be aware that it is subject to change.
This isn’t important though, as the most important volunteer isn’t any of the businesses getting involved, IT’S YOU!! (though you can’t see it, please take this moment to imagine me with a big white beard, a stars/stripes top hat and a finger which it pointed in your direction).
What I mean by this is that, as much as there is to learn during this coming week, nothing will be gained if there is no one there to see it.
This doesn’t mean everyone should attend their local Autism Hour ready to make notes and form a dissertation on how people with autism operate. It does mean, that sharing the information surrounding the event, taking the time to investigate why this has to happen and all around encouraging other businesses to take part, is something which is crucial to the campaign. SO GO DO IT!
Carry on the Conversation:
That’s everything I wanted to say about Autism Hour. Now I want to hear from you: do you plan on attending the coming events? or if you’re reading this a week too late, let me know if you have any ideas on what the next step should be from here.
As always the best way to reach me is in the comments below. However, I can also be found on the Autistic & Unapologetic Facebook page, on Twitter @AutismRevised and through the shiny new newsletter: which is located in the sidebar under the About Me’ box (remember to check your junk for the first email, if you are feeling generous enough to subscribe).
For a more direct way method of getting hold of me email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for reading, and I will see you next Saturday for more thoughts from across the spectrum.