Clarks Shoes in Banbury to set up quiet time for children with autism

Clark's Banbury manager Lizzie Smith with Arun. The store is running autism quiet hour on November 4. NNL-181023-104536001
Clark's Banbury manager Lizzie Smith with Arun. The store is running autism quiet hour on November 4. NNL-181023-104536001

Clarks shoe store in Banbury will be setting aside part of its store on November 4 for Autism Quiet Time.

For autistic children, something as ordinary as being fitted for shoes can be overwhelming with too many sights, lights and sounds.

The store took part in the National Autistic Society’s UK-wide Autism Hour and has now decided to continue the initiative locally.

The idea came about after store manager Lizzie Smith contacted local autism support group Parents Talking Asperger’s (PTA), on the recommendation of one of her employees.

She said: “Taking part in Autism Hour really gave me and my team the desire to do more on a longer-term basis to help children with autism feel calm and comfortable when they buy shoes.

“One of my summer employees, Frankie Dowers, told me about Parents Talking Asperger’s because she knows founder, Karen Irvani very well.

“After meeting Karen and her colleague Lisa, and liaising with my head office, we devised the Autism Quiet Time initiative.

“During these times we will dedicate a part of our store for autism families, and adapt the way that we fit shoes from automated to manual.

“Taking advice from PTA, we will encourage children to help to measure their own feet and explaining things in detail along the way.”

Autism Quiet Time will take place between 2.30pm and 4pm and anyone wanting to take part in the first trial can email karen@parents-talking-aspergers.co.uk or turn up on the day.

PTA founder Karen Irvani, said: “As an autism parent, I really understand the challenges faced around a child being fitted for school shoes, for example.

“My son is now 19, but I still remember how stressful it was to encourage him to be fitted for shoes. I always went to Clarks in Banbury and took my mum with me for support.

“Autism awareness then wasn’t as high as it is now so the need for making reasonable adjustments around anxiety and sensory sensitivities was not as clear. I really admire and appreciate what Clarks Banbury wants to do for autism families in our town.”

Her sentiments have been supported by PTA colleague Lisa Bhanu, who is mother to six-year-old Arun. She said staff at Clarks had been excellent at providing a calm environment for her son.