THOUSANDS of retailers across the country will dim their lights and turn down the music for an autism-friendly hour of shopping.

High street favourites like Superdrug and Marks & Spencer, which have branches in Colchester, will take part in Autism Hour on Monday.

Between 10am and 11am, staff will be sharing information about autism and helping customers understand the condition which, under normal circumstances, makes shopping a generally unpleasant experience.

Shops in Freeport, Braintree, including Clarks outlet store, will join the initiative as well as Smiggle, in Culver Square, Colchester.

A spokesperson for Freeport said: “The centre is turning off the mall music everyday next week as well.

“Clarks also have a system whereby any customer can contact the store directly and enquire about special in-store services they provide for people with autism.”

Mark Lever, chief executive at the National Autistic Society, said: “We’re proud to be launching the first ever UK-wide Autism Hour event and thrilled it’s involving such a vast number of shops and businesses.

“A National Autistic Society survey found 64 per cent of autistic people avoid going to the shops and 28 per cent have been asked to leave a public place for reasons associated with their autism. 

"We're confident Autism Hour will provide an opportunity for autistic people and their families to use shops and services that the general public take for granted."

For an interactive map of the events, click here.

  • The Gazette also approached Lion Walk, Tollgate shopping centre, and Fenwick, to find out if they are taking part.