The Valley Launches Autism Awareness initiative

Employees at The Valley, Evesham have undergone training to help make visiting the shopping centre as stress-free as possible for people with living with autism and their families.

All staff from the leisure and retail destination, including the centre manager, site team and administrators completed the training, which was carried out through The National Autistic Society. The course covered topics such as the sensory issues that may affect people living with autism when shopping and why this can be a trigger for stress and anxiety, or “meltdowns”. Because of the training, employees now understand how small steps they can take – such as lowering music or offering support to someone who may be in difficulties – can have a big impact.

Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how people perceive the world and interact with others – meaning that people with autism often see, hear and feel the world differently to others. There are around 700,000 living with autism in the UK, equating to around 1 in 100 of the population.

Paul James, The Valley Facilities Manager, said: “Many people with autism, or those caring for people with autism, feel isolated, and that is in part because there is still relatively little understanding of the condition among the general public. We want absolutely everyone to enjoy shopping at The Valley, and that’s why we decided to ensure all our employees had sufficient training about this condition. In particular, we wanted to make life easier for parents caring for disabled children to come to visit The Valley. Doing this training is a small thing for us, but we hope it makes a big difference”. He continues, “The next step is to encourage some of our retail partners and restaurateurs at The Valley to undergo similar training”.

Rachel Evans, Lead Teacher of Outreach at the Vale of Evesham school, added: “Shopping can be a hugely stressful for people with autism, with unfamiliar sounds, sights, smells and a busy atmosphere that can be overwhelming. We’re so pleased that The Valley chose to take part in this training to find out more about how they can make shopping easier for people with autism. If more businesses took the time to take part in initiatives like this, life with autism really would be a little easier for so many people.”

phil maclean