Christmas shopping is a near-universal suckfest. Parking lots are crowded and dangerous, people get rabid bear aggressive (probably because they are hopped up on eggnog), and every store has their own horrible rendition of “Silver Bells” boring into your skull, where it will remain for hours. For people on the autism spectrum, the loud noises, bright lights, and surprising sounds of holiday gift buying can be overwhelming, even fear-inducing. Consequently, a Target in Lancaster, Pennsylvania has followed the lead of stores like an ASDA in Manchester, England and Toys “R” Us and designed a shopping event that caters to people on the autism spectrum.
Target has a record of inclusivity that has included ads that feature people with disabilities and the addition of special carts that enable parents of disabled kids to maneuver smoothly through the retailer. On December 10, the Pennsylvania location will welcome families between 6 and 8 am (before the store officially opens). To limit sensory stimuli, the retailer will turn off the music, reduce the staff on the floor, and lower the lights.
Wellspan Philhaven, an organization that provides healthcare in central Pennsylvania, is a partner in the undertaking. When contacted by The Mighty, a representative of Target commented: “The store leader of our Lancaster East store worked with his team and local community partners to create a welcoming shopping event for his guests on the autism spectrum and we applaud his efforts.”
The quiet shopping hours are currently only being held at this location. Good Housekeeping contacted representatives from Target who said that there are no immediate plans to expand the events nationwide. Ideally, the practice will spread, allowing parents of kids with autism to join in the struggle to buy a gift for the person who already has everything.