Toys “R” Us toys are flying off the shelves this holiday season, as they usually do this time of year, but one Toys “R” Us toy store in Pennsylvania sets a precedent for all to emulate by holding “quiet hours” for children on the autism spectrum (something that has been long-sought-for families associated with autism).
Scientists do not yet fully understand autism, but they do know a few things. People with autism live with a heightened sense. Sounds, smells, touches, and lights can prove incredibly overwhelming at times. Children suffering from these conditions can get overstimulated very quickly in a bustling holiday environment and exhibit tantrums and outbursts that seem odd to other uninformed shoppers.
Toys “R” Us toys are among the most coveted of possessions for most children, and one store in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, was the first to observe and test “quiet hours.” Patti Erickson, president of the Greater Philadelphia Autism Society, discovered that toy stores in the U.K. had offered a “sensory-friendly shopping day” since 2012. She quickly began a campaign to onboard local stores and challenged them to parallel the event.
Target, Toys R US And Other Retailers Are Offering Autism-Friendly Quiet Shopping Hours… https://t.co/OE9hTnA8wa
— POWER 96.1 (@POWERATL) December 8, 2016
The King of Prussia location hosted the official “quiet hours” event Saturday, working with local organizations to collaborate a well-suited experience for children and their parents. For two hours, the store turned off their holiday music, set up calming sensory stations, and reserved a “quiet area” for children who needed a place to decompress from sensory overload.
Toys “R” Us has provided children around the world with the hottest and most sought after toys for nearly 70 years. The company’s aim is to accommodate all children and sustain a welcoming environment for families worldwide. Toys “R” Us officials told a local news source that the company is “working on a plan to test these types of opportunities (locally)…and will assess opportunities to scale it nationally.”
There is currently an alternative online option in place for parents seeking a sensory-friendly environment, but the children are not afforded the opportunity to play with the toys first. Toys “R” Us has worked in conjunction with the National Lekotek Center for over 20 years to assist parents of children with developmental issues. The “Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids” is an online source that allows parents to search through accurately categorized toy selections to fit several needs commonly found in children with developmental disabilities.
Toys “R” Us is not the only retail establishment looking to pay it forward this holiday season. Holyoke Mall at Ingleside, Massachusetts, will be turning off all holiday music on December 18 to accommodate autistic needs. They will even have a local fireman on duty to silence any unnecessary alarms immediately. AMC Theaters will also offer “sensory friendly” movie showings, where the lights stay on, and the volume is lowered. For a while, Jet Blue Airlines offered a preflight training session for children with autism to familiarize themselves with a plane before flying.
— Camilo Parra Palacio (@cparrapa) December 8, 2016
Parents of children with autism face many challenges in life, and these retailers have taken the time to allay a minuscule portion of their struggle. Though the world is working towards a deeper understanding of many developmental disabilities, we have not yet become experts. Ignorance still poses many obstacles that only education and time will ever have a chance to conquer.
[Featured Image by Stephen Chernin/AP Images]