autismThe number of negative incidents reported by shoppers with autism at the intu Trafford Centre has reduced by 75% in the past year thanks to an initiative to train staff in autism awareness.

The initiative between intu Trafford Centre and Cheadle-based charity the Together Trust has seen 195 members of centre staff trained in autism awareness since it was launched in 2015’s World Autism Awareness Week. In addition, autism-friendly guides and specially designed alert cards have been produced.

Richard Paxton, general manager of intu Trafford Centre, said: “The bright lights, crowds and sounds of a busy shopping centre have been identified as a potentially difficult and scary experience for people with autism. We’ve been incredibly proud to be the first shopping centre in the UK to partner with a local charity to provide support and guidance to those shoppers. Our staff have truly embraced the opportunity to learn more and we’re delighted to announce that just one year into our campaign, over half of our staff are now fully trained.”

Together Trust provides specialist education, residential and community care and fostering to young people and adults with learning disabilities, physical disabilities and complex needs in the Northwest.

intu Trafford Centre  has created two autism-friendly guides to the centre. The guides are designed to cater for individuals of all ages and abilities, and support visitors through all stages of their visit, starting before arriving at the centre, through to what they will see, what they can do and what to do in an emergency. 

Specially designed alert cards have also been developed for individuals with autism and for their parents and carers, which visitors can use at their discretion to communicate with intu staff or the public to quickly explain that they have autism.

Sue Whitehead, head of therapy services at the Together Trust said: “We are thrilled to be celebrating a year since the rollout of the autism friendly guides. Having access to these resources can transform the experience of families affected by autism when they visit a busy shopping area like the Trafford Centre.”

A customer recently wrote in to intu Trafford Centre to say: “Please can I pass on a huge thank you to the team for the effort and preparation gone into these guides. My son has recently been diagnosed as having an ASD [autism spectrum disorder] and having access to resources like this is amazing. We often get looks and stares from the way we have to manage my son's ASD, but things like this help more than can ever be told.”

The guide and alert card are available for download from the intu Trafford Centre website or can be collected from the Customer Services Desk located in the Main Dome.