Sheffield Star readers praise Meadowhall over autism event

Meadowhall.
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Sheffield Star readers have praised Meadowhall for hosting an autism friendly weekend - and are calling for more events of this nature to be held in the city.

Dozens of stores at the shopping complex will open earlier this Saturday and Sunday to allow children with autism to familiarise themselves with the centre in what organisers have described as a "less stressful environment."

Families with children who have autism are invited to the shopping complex from 8am to 9am both days when the centre will be virtually empty, allowing the children to feel more comfortable and experience different environments. While they can roam the complex on both days, the shops will only be participating today.

More than 30 messages have been posted to the Sheffield Star's Facebook page praising Meadowhall for taking the step.

Many people believe it is such a good idea that there should be more events of a similar nature to support people with the condition.

Gwen Elizabeth described the move as a "step in the right direction."

Stacie Ann-Marie Smith added: "They ought to do this at least once a month."

Kirsty Rothwell urged Meadowhall bosses to "think about hosting an autism evening like you do the ladies night and students event."

Lyndsey Herdman and Wendy Henshaw described the move as "brilliant" while Adam Muny said: "What a great idea, well done."

As part of the weekend event, lighting and music will be turned down and a new sensory zone will be open in The Lanes across the weekend.

The move is a joint venture between Sparkle Sheffield, a charity supporting families with autistic children, and Meadowhall's customer service team.

Liesje Dusauzay, founder and chief executive officer of Sparkle Sheffield, said: "Shopping centres can be bewildering places for children with autism, that’s why Autism-friendly hours at Meadowhall over this weekend is so important and gives the children and their families time and space to get to know the centre in a calm and controlled manner."

In addition Meadowhall has been trialling a special sensory room in the centre where autistic visitors can go for a bit of 'time out' if they start to feel overwhelmed.

The centre has also invested in staff awareness and training – both delivered by Sparkle Sheffield - and turned its main dome blue for Autism Awareness over the same weekend.