Karen Fratti
October 27, 2016 4:42 pm
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Going to Toys “R” Us is a treat for most kids, but it can be anxiety inducing for parents. For families with an autistic child, it can be even more difficult. The noise, the flashing lights, and distractions down every aisle can be triggering for autistic children and their families. That’s exactly why the announcement that Toys “R” Us is creating a “quiet hour” for autistic children and their families is very, very good news. Sit tight, though, American families: Right now the toy chain is launching the quiet time (oh, sweet, sweet, quiet play time) for one day only in their U.K. stores, but it’s a good start.

On Nov. 6, the stores will dim those harsh fluorescent lights just a bit, turn off the in-store music and announcements, place “autism friendly” signage around the stores, and even designate totally quiet areas for kids to thumb through books and play make-believe with sample toys. Couldn’t this just be an everyday thing? Taking kids out to pick a toy is stressful enough. Fluorescent lights and “kid friendly” (read: soul crushing) music doesn’t make choosing the perfect bake-set or remote controlled car any easier. Even the most cynical business person has to admit that the stores will be saving on their electric bills.

It’s a win-win all around.

Toys “R” Us marketing director Mike Coogan told The Telegraph, “Holding such events has given our teams extreme pride in reaching out to autism groups within the community.” He added, “Making slight adjustments to stores and creating a quiet shopping period allows children and young adults to experience the fun in a toy shop, regardless of their disability.”

The minor tweaks make a world of difference for families and caretakers of autistic children. And it gives the autistic child time to really slow down and take in the glory that is every aisle of the big box retailer. To be completely honest, even shopping as grown up with some anxiety issues can be tough — think of how nice it would be if some retailers just turned the volume down on a bit on the loudspeaker and dimmed the lights? (Can you hear me now, H&M?) I’m an old, boring woman, but I would definitely spend more money if I could focus on that rack of $12.99 cardigans. Imagine being an autistic child trying to pick a new action figure with all of that nonsense going on.

Comedy Central / giphy.com

Of course, it’s more than just anxiety for autistic children. Loud noises and lights can actually hurt autistic children. Daniel Cadey, autism access manager for the National Autistic Society, said in a statement that, “Things like artificial lighting and loud Tannoy announcements can increase their anxiety and be completely overwhelming, even causing them physical pain.” Toys “R” Us is making a big statement to families all over the world with its “quiet day” on Nov. 6, proving that they’re totally dedicated to serving all families (and still understand how much fun it is to run around the aisles of a toy store instead of just asking their parents to click through Amazon for their holiday wishlist). The toy giant has also released a toy guide for autistic and other disabled children and their families.

Hopefully, it will be a huge success and American stores will get on the bandwagon with creating a safe, fun place for autistic children and their families to hang out.

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