Count­down tones down su­per­mar­kets

Whanganui Chronicle - - News - Sue Dud­man sue.dud­[email protected]­i­cle.co.nz

Two Whanganui su­per­mar­kets may in­tro­duce a “quiet hour” for peo­ple with autism and sen­sory is­sues. Count­down Mar­ton be­gan a weekly quiet hour in April and, on the back of a huge pos­i­tive re­sponse, other Count­down stores are con­sid­er­ing do­ing the same.

The quiet hour idea came from staff mem­ber Lara Hogg, whose son Hunter is se­verely autis­tic. Kirsten Din­nan, who man­aged the Mar­ton store at the time, backed it and got ap­proval from Count­down to go ahead. They worked closely with Autism New Zealand to im­ple­ment the con­cept.

The first sen­sory hour at Count­down Mar­ton took place on April 4 dur­ing Autism Aware­ness Week.

Din­nan is now the man­ager of Count­down Wan­ganui in Trafal­gar Square and says a quiet hour is on the cards for that store and Count­down Vic­to­ria Ave.

“I’m very keen to get

Whanganui,” she said.

“Trafal­gar Square and Vic­to­ria Av­enue are look­ing to do it.

it go­ing

in

“I’m in a new store so I’ve been finding my feet and the Vic­to­ria Av­enue store is fin­ish­ing a ma­jor re­fur­bish­ment but hope­fully next year.”

The quiet hour ini­tia­tive won a Geneva Health­care Award in Septem­ber.

“We were recog­nised at the Geneva Spring Ball [for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties] and won the main award,” Din­nan said.

“That was huge. It was an amaz­ing achieve­ment.”

Most peo­ple with autism have a sen­sory pro­cess­ing is­sue and the sim­ple act of shop­ping can of­ten cause phys­i­cal pain.

“We flick off ev­ery sec­ond light in the shop, we turn off the lights in all our chillers and freezer units, which makes the fans lighter,” Din­nan told the Chron­i­cle in April.

The PA sys­tem and mu­sic is switched off and there are no staff work­ing stock or rat­tling cages or trol­leys.

In­dus­try

“We’ve also gone to our lo­cal $2 shop and bought some sen­sory-friendly toys for the kids.”

When the Chron­i­cle vis­ited Count­down Mar­ton in April, we met the Brown fam­ily.

An­nette Brown, whose son Nathanael is on the spec­trum, said her whole fam­ily ben­e­fited from do­ing their shop­ping dur­ing the quiet hour.

“Three of us have Irlen Syn­drome [a vis­ual dis­or­der that af­fects the brain’s abil­ity to process vis­ual in­for­ma­tion] so it’s good for all of us,” she said.

“Be­cause the lights are not so bright, it’s a lot calmer.”

Autism New Zealand posted about the quiet hour on Face­book, at­tract­ing hun­dreds of com­ments from peo­ple who wished they had a sim­i­lar ini­tia­tive in their com­mu­nity.

Count­down spokes­woman Kate Porter said the com­pany was “im­mensely proud of the Count­down Mar­ton team for mak­ing such as dif­fer­ence to their cus­tomers” and was con­sid­er­ing im­ple­ment­ing it in other ar­eas.

Fol­low­ing the Chron­i­cle story in April, Din­nan re­ceived “amaz­ing feed­back”.

“I got calls from peo­ple all over the coun­try. Some of them didn’t even know any­one with autism. So many peo­ple thought it was amaz­ing to see.”

Cur­rent Mar­ton store man­ager Lisa Brown is con­tin­u­ing the quiet hour ev­ery Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon and Count­down’s Three Kings store in Auck­land has also in­tro­duced a quiet hour.

En­joy­ing the calm in Count­down Mar­ton are Lara, Hunter and Rhys Hogg, with then-man­ager Kirsten Din­nan (sec­ond from left).

PHO­TOS / STU­ART MUNRO

Rhys Hogg takes son Hunter shop­ping dur­ing the quiet hour.

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