Cheshire OaksThe McArthur Glen Cheshire Oaks Designer Outlet village is to host a series of autism-friendly shopping evenings, it has been announced.

Cheshire Oaks, which is located near Ellesmere Port, has partnered with Wirral-based charity Autism Together to run these special events where conditions will be tailored to cater for the needs of people with autism. The first will be held on Tuesday, February 9 from 5pm to 8pm.

Many people with autism can experience sensory overload in busy shopping environments, finding the lights, noise and bustle too much to bear, so the team at Cheshire Oaks will make some adjustments to the outlet village for the event.  

Lights will be dimmed, the volume of background music will be turned down low and tannoy announcements will be kept to a minimum. There will also be quiet spaces where people with autism and their carers or families can relax and unwind. A Tuesday night has been chosen for the first event, as this is the quietest night of the shopping week.

All Cheshire Oaks personnel will be trained in autism awareness by Autism Together's specialist trainers, Autism in Practice, and staff in the shops themselves will be encouraged to take part in training.  

On arrival at the outlet village, families can report to the visitor information centre to pick up a map showing the location of the quiet spaces and an 'alert' card which identifies that someone in their party has autism. These cards can be shown to staff or members of the public if there is a need for help or understanding of a situation.

Robin Bush, CEO of Autism Together, said: "Shopping with a family member who has autism can be a pretty traumatic experience. Parents and carers often tell us how humiliating it is to be tutted at by onlookers or ignored by shop staff when their loved one is feeling anxious or having a meltdown. A bit of understanding goes a very long way – and we hope people will begin to understand that most people with autism just want to live normal lives like the rest of us. 

"It's been great getting to know the team at Cheshire Oaks. We're proud that they are one of our first North West Autism Champions under the new Connect to Autism scheme, which is backed by the Department of Health. We hope other retail outlets will follow suit."

Kenny Murray, Centre Manager at Cheshire Oaks, added: “We feel incredibly proud to be holding our first autism-friendly shopping evening. Working with the Autism Together team has been a fantastic experience, and we look forward to welcoming shoppers to the centre as part of our commitment to make every single individual feel welcome.”