Quiet hour in Crawley supermarket

Jo-Ann D’Costa-Manuel discovered a passion to offer struggling families much needed support after experiencing firsthand how difficult it was to just ‘pop to the shops’. The sensory overload and lack of public awareness created a very stressful experience.
The National Autistic Society carried out a recent survey revealing a staggering 75% of parents feel most isolated at supermarkets due to the lack of public understanding and general support. Families are faced with no choice but to either arrange a babysitter or ONLY shop online. In a society where we are working hard on inclusion this sadly only promotes exclusion. Through early intervention strategies Jo-Ann and her husband were able to slowly introduce their son to supermarket shopping. At first it would take a lot of preparation, he would be strapped into a trolley and could stay no longer than 5 minutes. On days he couldn’t cope he would cry, scream and have a public meltdown. “The looks and tuts we got from shoppers were horrific…I wanted to run out and never return but I knew if I did I would never be able to teach my child how to cope and integrate into everyday life” “Today he has no anxiety, picks up a basket, no time restrictions, no planning and no meltdowns…he even attempts writing his own shopping list. I want to make this opportunity available to more families across the UK.” “For some ‘Quiet Hours’ will be the only time they can shop, for other they can use this time to famialise with the environment and almost desensitize so they can eventually transition into mainstream shopping. Hopefully some will grow to become independent to pop in and buy their own milk and bread” Autism Parent Empower’s aim is to eventually roll ’Quiet Hours’ across all retailers nationwide aswell as facilitating Autism Awareness training for supermarket staff. Jo-Ann has partnered with the Tesco Extra in Crawley to trial the first Quiet Hour on Saturday 21st January between 9am-10am continuing every Saturday thereafter. If you are planning a visit you can download a Social Story and Visual Map below. Click to download social story Click to download visual map During a quiet hour instore music and escalators are turned off, packing shelves and tannoy use is kept to a minimum, lights are dimmed and all staff are fully briefed on Autism Awareness. Jo-Ann has founded and created Autism Parent Empower which launched its Flagship programme in Parliament in March 2016. She has had a busy year supporting families through training programs, awareness videos, Flashmobs and events. She states “My goal is to empower parents to be the best advocate for their child, family and themselves…. however this is not any easy task and we need the community to pull together… this is Autism Awareness at its very best and it’s amazing how the smallest changes can make the biggest difference… “I have worked closely with Tesco Extra Three Bridges and they have been a great support This project is extremely close to my heart and I truly value the staff at Tesco’ who have supported me all the way. Maria Luff, Crawley Tesco Extra Community Champion, adds: “Everyone is welcome at Crawley Extra and we are delighted to help Autism Parent Empower trial their quiet hour in our store” Daniel Cadey, Autism Access Development Manager, at The National Autistic Society, said: “We’re delighted to hear about Jo-Ann’s work with Tesco, including the upcoming quiet hour at the Crawley store. “Like anyone, people on the autism spectrum and families want the opportunity to go to the shops. But many find the often busy, loud and unpredictable environment of supermarkets overwhelming and avoid them altogether. “We hope that more shops will be inspired by Jo-Ann’s work with Tesco and do their bit to help make sure autistic people and their families have the same opportunities as everyone else.” Jo-Ann is determined to fly the flag for Autism She adds: “We need to proactively look forward and start creating change. Tomorrow’s generation need our support today.
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