What’s new News Being autism friendly is top of the shopping list Being autism friendly is top of the shopping list for Teesside Park where owners British Land have been working with stores and Daisy Chain to raise awareness. As part of World Autism Awareness Week (1 – 7 April) charity Daisy Chain is keen to raise awareness of how difficult some everyday activities can prove to be but how with training and understanding many businesses and services can make a huge difference to the lives of families affected by autism. Teesside Park has already introduced an Autism Hour every week (Saturday mornings 9am – 10am) and Daisy Chain has delivered training sessions to the staff at the Management Centre as well as stores on the site. Laura Knott, customer service adviser, at Teesside Park’s Management Centre, said: ‘We are very passionate about our customer service at Teesside Park. We introduced the weekly Autism Hour back in November 2017. We wanted to train in autism awareness with Daisy Chain because they are the local experts. We felt that Daisy Chain knows Teesside Park and our stores and so would be best placed to help us improve the shopping experience for people on the autistic spectrum and their families ‘Also included in the training has been a cohort of our Bright Lights scheme which is a six week programme for young people aiming to start a career in retail. It gives them the opportunity to get hands-on work experience which helps them find employment.’ Brandon Hill, sales advisor at Moss Bros attended the training and said: ‘It’s good to have the training and gain the understanding we need to make people feel comfortable in our store. It can be difficult with autism being hidden and not easily recognisable so understanding more about it really helps.’ Dean Parker, Schuh store manager, believes having training by experts will help them understand their customers better. He added: ‘Autism is such a wide spectrum, you do need to have an understanding of how it may affect different people and children especially when they are having shoes fitted and it may be a sensory experience they find hard to cope with.’ Pauline Wright, Daisy Chain training manager, said: 'Undertaking our Autism Awareness Training gives people a better understanding of the condition and how people and families can struggle with the whole shopping experience. It's about more than simply turning down the music or dimming the lights. Being properly prepared can make a huge difference to people on the autistic spectrum and their families. It’s excellent that Teesside Park and the stores on the site want to commit to training to ensure they can provide the most comfortable and best shopping experience for their customers.’ Other stores at Teesside Park which have undergone the training include Costa, Next and O2 as well as Charles Clinkard which is this year sponsoring the annual special World Autism Awareness activities day for families affected by autism at Daisy Chain. Businesses and organisations can contact Daisy Chain for information on autism awareness and training on 01642 531248. For more information about Teesside Park’s autism hour you can visit their website at www.teessideshopping.co.uk.