Sounds like scanners beeping, music playing, and paging systems can all be heard on a regular trip to the grocery store.
People without sensory sensitivities may not even notice the bright lights or noises, but these senses can sometimes be overwhelming for someone with autism.
That’s why Willowbrook Safeway decided to launch two months of sensory-friendly shopping nights in order to raise awareness for autism.
The first sensory-friendly shopping night was on Friday, March 29, and will happen again on April 12, 19, and May 3, 17, and 31 from 4 to 5 p.m.
The idea came after deli manager Ashley Baresinkoff read an article about a Nova Scotia store that had done a similar initiative, and suggested it to the local store.
Bareskinoff’s four-year-old son has autism, and she said shopping can be one of the most challenging tasks.
“When I bring him into the store he tends to go a bit overboard. There’s so many different things pulling at him, and at one point, he will lay on the floor screaming because it’s so overwhelming to him,” she explained.
In order to provide sensory-friendly shopping, lights are reduced, music is turned off, the paging system is turned down, and there is no cart collection.
“It was super quiet in here. It was a huge difference,” explained Albert Mutis, Willowbrook Safeway store manager.
Bareskinoff added one of the biggest misconceptions of autism is that there is a “look” to autism.
“Children with autism look just like every other child, so when you see someone at the grocery store and their child is having a tantrum, people think ‘why can’t that parent quiet them down?’ But they really can’t.”
At a future sensory-friendly shopping night, Mutis is planning a fundraiser for AutismBC, but more information is yet to be announced.