An Australian shopping centre has recognised the needs of kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
In an Australian first, a Melbourne shopping centre has installed a “a sensory soothing space” intended to give shoppers with children affected by ASD a positive shopping experience.
The Quiet Room, as it’s been named, was unveiled this week at Northland Shopping Centre as part of a community partnership between the centre and not-for-profit organisation Amaze (formerly Autism Victoria).
Amaze CEO Fiona Sharkie said the room was constructed to “reduce the anxiety” of those with ASD during shopping.
“It can be very difficult for parents with children on the spectrum to be able to come out to public places, such as shopping centres, for fear of their child having a ‘meltdown’ due to too much sensory stimulation,” Ms Sharkie said.
“And not just children – adolescents and adults with ASD are often overwhelmed by the sensory experience that is shopping,” she said.
The specially-designed room features two curtained cubicles ensuring privacy, as well as some toys specifically made for children on the spectrum.
The room has been intentionally decorated plainly, and features pastel colours, soft lighting and limited noise.
Beanbags and other materials to reduce over-stimulation were also provided, Ms Sharkie said.
Northland Shopping Centre manager Michael Bickers said he was thrilled his centre had become more accessible to its ASD-affected customers and centre staff.
“We hope this revolutionary idea will help individuals and their carers feel more comfortable in this and other public spaces and perhaps further engage with the community,” he said.
Around 250,000 Australians — or about one in every 100 people — have the developmental condition.
ASD impairs communication and social interaction, and is also associated with restricted and repetitive behaviour patterns and interests.
Where else do we need Quiet Rooms – or what other developments or features could shopping centres include?