Quiet hour tones down shopping’s sensory overload in Adelaide

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Some people will shop til they drop. Others are bored rigid by the evil necessity of the chore. But for Andrew and Mia Lester, taking their daughter, Juno, to the local supermarket is near to impossible.

“It never ends well,” Ms Lester said.

“We only attempt it if we are really desperate, and then it’s in and it’s out and it’s meltdowns and a disaster.”

That’s because Juno has sensory processing disorder.

Mr Lester said the sights, sounds and smells that are just daily life for most people can, for his daughter, be overwhelming.

“We generally avoid anywhere where there are lots of people because there’s going to be lots of noise,” Mr Lester said.

“The noise of the cashiers, the beeping from the machine, and coffees, the noise of coffee grinders is a big thing for her.”

It makes it all the more extraordinary that when the ABC met the Lester family, it was inside a supermarket.

The Lesters were able to venture there thanks to a special program being trialled by the supermarket and disability services provider, Cara.

It’s called the quiet hour.

Overloading the senses

Cara’s Amy Noonan said the program aimed to target people who suffer from sensory overload.

“Sensory overload is a symptom, it’s not the cause,” Ms Noonan said.

“So people on the autism spectrum often suffer sensory overload, but other people in their daily lives can experience it too.

“If you’ve been caught in a crowd and felt a bit panicked, then that’s a bit like how sensory overload feels.”

During the quiet hour all of the things that might possibly overload the senses are taken down a notch, or turned off completely.

There is no music or strident demands for a price check in aisle five.

Read the full article here


August 10, 2016

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