SuperValu, the leading retailer actively supporting the autism community the length and breadth of Ireland, is marking World Autism Awareness Day with its further a commitment to raising understanding and awareness of autism among its customers and staff. With over 50,000 families in Ireland living with autism, those affected face barriers to inclusion because of the attitudes of people who may not have first-hand experience of autism.

SuperValu is hoping to break down those barriers and bring about a change through an in-store awareness campaign and series of videos that have been captured highlighting different in-store scenarios that may be triggers for an autistic person. Developed in partnership with Adam Harris, founder of AsIAm, these videos shine a light on how an autistic person and their families have to manage non-inclusive and judgemental attitudes during the day-to-day task of grocery shopping.

All this month SuperValu is informing their customers and staff of the need to USE PLAIN LANGUAGE, BE PATIENT and BE ACCEPTING. These three simple steps can make a massive difference to an autistic person’s in-store experience.

Speaking about the awareness campaign, Adam Harris, Founder of AsIAm said, ‘We are constantly striving to increase awareness of autism and helping people understand ways in which they can be more inclusive for our community. It is low understanding and the resulting lack of empathy which can lead to many members of the autism community opting out of participation through fear or embarrassment. SuperValu is playing a vital role through this campaign in mainstreaming understanding of autism in store by speaking directly to their customer base and their staff.’

SuperValu is already leading the charge when it comes to initiatives that support families with Autism through their Autism friendly shopping evenings happening in stores around the country. SuperValu has enhanced the shopping experience through a roadmap for change which is currently being rolled out in stores around the country. This will be rolled out across the next 12 months.

SuperValu Marketing Director, Des O’Mahony said, “While we continue to roll out the Autism Friendly shopping times to our store network, we recognised that there was a greater role we could play in creating change. Through our regular meetings with AsIAm and The Middletown Centre for Autism, we identified this awareness campaign as a way we could help. The supermarket is a big trigger zone for the autism community and while we are already making sensory changes we realised how important it was to make attitudinal ones among our customers and staff. By supporting deeper awareness campaigns we can do our part in making the autistic community feel more included.’

Heralded as ‘world-class’, the initiatives already in place in store have been designed in conjunction with the Middletown Centre for Autism and include;

 

  • Autism Friendly shopping times – a commitment to rolling sensory friendly times in more stores across the next year.
  • Development of Store Maps- to pre-plan the store visit indicating the main areas and quiet areas in store.
  • De-sensitisation of store sounds at designated shopping times: with downloadable store sounds to assist in de-stressing the store visit;
  • Reduce & standardise beep sounds on tills in stores nationwide;
  • Staff awareness: E-learning modules available to all staff to tackle a general lack of awareness around autism and educate on how the steps taken in store will make a difference; 
  • Autism friendly trolleys Support the use of the ALF (Autism Lifeskill Friend) trolley – developed by a SuperValu employee;
  • An expert panel established to meet three times a year to ensure that all initiatives are impactful, and relevant for families with autism

To find out more about the Autism friendly initiatives and to download specific maps for your area, visit www.supervalu.ie/autismfriendly.

 

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