Wearside store give special needs students their own checkout

Jas Hayer and her son, Aaron.
Jas Hayer and her son, Aaron.

A Wearside shop turned down the noise to celebrate youngsters with special needs.

Sainsburys at the Galleries in Washington, held a ‘quiet day’ so children with autism could shop in comfort.

Jas Hayer (blue t-shirt) welcomes students and pupils to Washington's Sainsbury store.

Jas Hayer (blue t-shirt) welcomes students and pupils to Washington's Sainsbury store.

The idea of having a whole day dedicated to raising awareness of autism, came from a member of the staff, Jas Hayer, whose own son, Aaron, 13, is autistic.

The store had already signed up to a national campaign - Autism Hour - but after being approached by Jas, store manager, Gary Pearson, agreed to have a whole day dedicated to supporting autism awareness.

The shop put on a special blue checkout for people with autism and Aaron and his friends from Hill Top Specialist Arts College, were among those invited along to shop with less anxiety.

Jas, said Aaron was diagnosed with autism and has never spoken a word, but communicates using high pitched squeals.

I was incredibly nervous and afraid to take Aaron out to public places and shops, due to the looks and stares we would get

Jas Hayer

She said: “I was incredibly nervous and afraid to take Aaron out to public places and shops, due to the looks and stares we would get from passers-by, as people jump to conclusions and judge.

“Nowadays, I am not afraid. When we get looks and stares, I approach people and tell them ‘no my son isn’t naughty, he has autism and is non-verbal.”

Carolyn Irving, lead teacher in autism at Hill Top, based in Leam Lane, said, the Washington store even gave the children a £5 voucher each to spend in store on cookery items for the school.

She said: “Individuals with autism frequently find shopping a highly anxiety-inducing experience and suffer from sensory overload. This can make some parents and carers reluctant to take their children shopping.

Let's go shopping.

Let's go shopping.

“Sainsburys and their wonderful staff enabled our children to shop in a calm, supportive environment and having their own checkout where they didn’t have to wait in noisey queues

did an awful lot to reduce their anxieties.

“In the words of one of our pupils, ‘It was awesome’.

“We would like to wish a huge thank you to Jas for arranging our wonderful day and Gary for having the understanding to allow this to happen and the generous donation to our Autism Centre cookery department.

Raising awareness of autism at Sainsburys in Washington.

Raising awareness of autism at Sainsburys in Washington.

“We found this experience highly beneficial to our pupils and hope Sainsburys will continue to promote this worthy cause.”

Hill Top School students using the blue autism-friendly checkout.

Hill Top School students using the blue autism-friendly checkout.