Inside Australia’s first ever shopping centre ‘quiet room’ for people with autism

Inside Australia's first ever shopping centre 'quiet room' for people with autismBy Sarah Michael

Amaze spokeswoman Fran Ludgate said the room would allow parents of children with autism, and also adults on the spectrum, to spend longer in the shopping centre without being forced to leave.

‘A lot of people on the spectrum are hyper-sensitive to light or sound – if you’re in a shopping centre you probably don’t notice how noisy background the noise is,’ Ms Ludgate said.

‘If you have a child you want to take shopping with you they might have a meltdown, which is a bit like a tantrum but not the same because they can’t control it.

‘If that’s the case you’re not going to force them to stay in that environment.’

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Ms Ludgate said instead of parents having to ‘bolt for home’ to get away from shopping crowds, the Quiet Room provided a suitable place where they could take their kids to relax and calm down. 

One in 100 schoolchildren have autism and an estimated 250,000 Australians are on the spectrum, including those who are undiagnosed, Ms Ludgate said.

Autism Spectrum Disorder is a developmental condition which affects individuals in two main areas: impaired communication and social interaction.

Ms Ludgate said that some schools had quiet rooms for children with autism but adding one to a shopping centre was an Australian first, and possibly a global first.

Northland Shopping Centre retail manager Simone Dirckze, whose seven-year-old son Keenan is on the spectrum, said the building’s contractors had donated materials and labour to set up the room free of charge.

Ms Dirckze, 37, said special care was taken to make sure the room doesn’t evoke any kind of emotion.

‘We put in some booths in the room for extra privacy,’ she said.

‘It’s not even just for kids on the spectrum it is a place for adults and teenagers as well.’

She said her son has specific things that calm him down, like his iPad.

‘He has specific sensory games that he plays so this room will give kids the ability to charge their games to play it for a little bit to regroup,’ she said.  Continue reading

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