Purple Tuesday Blog Post – Quiet Hour

30th October 2020

We all love a little bit of retail therapy.

From browsing around the shops, popping into our favourite café for a treat or just simply having a coffee and a natter with friends our shopping centres are a hub of constant joy and activity.

However, for someone like me it can simply feel like a military operation to go to the shops.

My name is Sophie and I am an Autistic blogger.

I created The Asperger’s Girl Guide in 2011 whilst at University and set up the Facebook Page back in the 2015 to help Autistic people, their carers, parents and partners to deal with everyday challenges with handy tips and tricks to aid in combatting anxiety and stress as well as creating a unique and safe space and as a part of that a confidential messaging service that helps with any questions they might have surrounding autism and everyday life.

I’m going to share with you why Quiet Hours are so important for someone like me and how they help me enjoy all the things I love about visiting Charter Walk.

As I mentioned earlier, it can feel like a military operation just to go and have some well-deserved retail therapy!  

It might seem a little dramatic to even think that something so simple as going for a nice day out or popping down to the shops for some essentials can feel like that but to someone like me it is as I have to think about several things beforehand to ensure that I get what I need before I can step outside my front door.

The first thing I have to think about is making sure I have all the things I need to combat any additional sensory information, that are called Coping Strategies.

Coping strategies help autistic people to have the confidence to go out and do the things we all enjoy whilst helping them manage their anxiety and stress that is tailored to them as everyone on the spectrum are unique and individual, just like everyone else.

It is important to develop these strategies as the Autistic population are five times more likely* to suffer from Anxiety and Depression than the rest of the General Population.

Coping strategies include a bag with things such as:

  • Headphones
  • My Phone
  • My Purse
  • My Sunflower Lanyard
  • Sunglasses or a Cap to help with lights are a little too bright
  • Extra clothing like a jumper or a coat just in case I haven’t judged the temperature outside correctly
  • My own little pocket-sized hand sanitiser or gloves on hand to make sure I have clean hands
  • Tissues or baby wipes because you never know when you’ll need them and they are incredibly handy to have knocking around in your bag
  • Anything else I need or can think of, sometimes this might be a book because I like to read whilst having a coffee and a piece of cake

As an autistic person I struggle with being in loud, crowded spaces and at peak times I avoid going to the shops unless I desperately need to as it causes anxiety and stress.

I will avoid certain shops when they get too busy or shops that have loud music blaring out of the shop as it can be too loud to process and I struggle to concentrate and process what I need to do and it can lead to things such as an Autistic Shutdown where I literally need to lie down in a quiet, dark room for a while to decompress and relax, in some cases I fall asleep as I’m exhausted from the bombardment of sensory information I’ve experienced during the day.

I’ll also always go for what I need rather than what I want due to this, I won’t allow myself the time to browse or look at things in shops due to dealing with my brain literally screaming at me that it’s too much and I need to leave immediately!

Why do I feel like this?

Imagine your senses like a mixing desk, you have several sliding controls that control the volume of how you experience and process sensory information.

This is kind of what it like inside your brain, you can regulate how you process and receive sensory information, unfortunately my brain struggles with that input and how it processes the sensory information.

The sliders are completely all over the place!

Every little sound, change in light, smell, taste, texture and even things like temperature and pain are either turned up to max and amplified, so low that I can barely register them at all or they are mixed together in a chaotic mess.

This is what is called Sensory Processing Disorder or SPD for short, it is common amongst Autistic people but anyone can experience SPD, it is not just exclusive to being autistic.

This is my brain on a daily basis, I see and experience things in a different way and sometimes it can become a bit of an issue due to becoming overwhelmed and overloaded with sensory information.

This is why Quiet Hours are so important!

Quiet Hours are a way of allowing people with additional needs to shop comfortably without the excess sensory information and take away the discomfort or distress that might happen if they were shopping at a ‘peak time’ of the day and week.

Quiet hours are where people can do their shopping without worrying about the excess information or access problems, the shops are usually quieter as they are on at ‘off peak’ hours which means less people in general either early in the morning or before closing time.

Charter Walk are amazing because they have two Quiet Hours rather than one, they are flexible with their quiet hours which means that you have a choice to come early in the morning or late in the afternoon.

Quiet hours are amazing for so many reasons, instead of doing what looks like a live action version of crazy ‘Supermarket Sweep’ minus Rylan (or Dale Winton) and the all-important shopping trolly, I can potter and browse rather than running around Charter Walk for things I need.

It gives my carer a break, it allows them the time to browse shops they want to go in at their own pace and shop for things they want without the constant worry that we need to leave because it’s all becoming too much for me.

We can actually do something that we enjoy together and that is the most important thing.

For example, having a little treat from Little Barista and actually sitting down with a cup of coffee or tea plus the slice of delicious Banana Bread or toastie rather than just popping in for a take-out can be liberating!

Having a potter around New Look, Boots, Superdrug, JD Sports, Primark and other shops we want to visit is great as for a change, the shops are quieter, there are less people and bonus the loud music that is usually playing has fallen silent.

Quiet Hours are accessible to everyone, they aren’t just for people like myself but provide the extra support and adjustments required for me to do the things that I enjoy whilst visiting Charter Walk.

It is a great way of making a Shopping Centre feel like a space for everyone to feel welcome especially in recent times where we’ve all felt a little bit isolated and alone, bringing the community back together.

Why not see how a Quiet Hour makes a difference to your shopping experience?