Eastbourne Mayor Pat Hearn has launched a new initiative to make shops more autism friendly in the town’s Arndale Centre.

Although the idea was introduced to stores at the end of last year, the Mayor placed stickers on the entrance doors to the Centre, so that anyone with autism, or parents and families, who look after autistic children, are aware they can get help should they need it.

Those affected by autism can carry a Stress Alert card that they can show to staff. One side of the card is red, which means that person is under stress and needs help to leave the shop as quickly as possible, while the other side is amber, meaning the person is trying to cope.

The initiative has been introduced by Alice Parker, who lives in Eastbourne and has a nine-year-old autistic son. The aim is to roll out the scheme to other shopping centres, airports, doctors’ surgeries, hospitalsand any other public places to increase the awareness of autism and how it can affect behaviour.

Alice said: “I’m really pleased that the Arndale Centre is the first shopping centre in East Sussex to do this and we’ve had very good feedback from the shops since we have been involved.”

Last year staff from many of the Arndale stores took part in training to make them aware of the sensory issues in autism and explain how they could help.Two awareness days were held in the Centre to spread the word to those who could be helped by the initiative. In addition members of the Centre’s security and cleaning teams have also had training.

The idea is to assist someone with a card if they are in distress; this can be a quick checkout, assistance with their shopping, or even just by approaching to offer help.

Eastbourne Mayor Pat Hearn said: “It’s a fantastic initiative and I really hope it takes off everywhere. By talking about autism, it becomes an accepted part of life.”

Eastbourne Arndale Centre Manager Bill Plumridge said: “We thought it was a fantastic idea when Alice got in touch with us and the response from stores in the Centre has been really enthusiastic. We hope by extending the scheme and putting stickers on the entrance doors to the Centre, that it will alert even more people to the fact that we are here to help.”

The scheme also has the support of the Eastbourne Chamber of Commerce, 3VA and Edeal.

Stress Alert launch 16.9.16