Shoppers experience what it is like living with autism

A high street in St Helier, Jersey, has launched a new initiative aimed at helping shoppers experience what it’s like living with autism.

Charity Autism Jersey is using a Virtual Reality (VR) headset to raise awareness of how the sights and sounds of a busy shopping district can disorientate and confuse people living with autism.

A common symptom of the condition is hypersensitivity, where loud noises and lots of things happening at once can overwhelm and cause a ‘sensory overload’.

Shoppers wearing the headset will see a loud ticking clock and moving wallpaper to emulate what it may feel like for someone with visual or auditory hypersensitivity.

“People who have autism see, hear and feel the world differently. They often find the world around them overwhelming,” said Paul Sullivan, Autism Jersey Chief Operations Officer.

“By immersing yourself into a virtual perspective of what it’s like to be sensitive to things going on around you, you will get a glimpse into what it can be like to have autism.”

The outside world is often a daunting place for someone with autism, and it is important that public places are able to accommodate and adapt for them by making small changes. This could be launching an “autism hour”, where music and noise is kept to a minimum during certain periods of the day, or by using plain wallpaper and flooring.

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