Thistles Shopping Centre, Stirling is delighted to announce it has been awarded an Autism Friendly Award.

The prestigious accolade has been accorded to the centre by the National Autistic Society and is in recognition of its Quiet Hour initiative.

Initially trialled once a month just over a year ago, the centre took the decision to create a Quiet Hour as a permanent weekly fixture following a well-received response by customers affected by autism.

Stores in the centre participate every Sunday between 10am and 11am by adjusting their lighting where possible and turning off in-store music. Information on display also encourages the public to find out more about autism and the types of support available.

Daniel Cadey, Autism Friendly Development Manager at the National Autistic Society said;

“We are delighted that Thistles Shopping Centre has achieved our prestigious Autism Friendly Award.

“We hear from autistic people and their families that shops and other public spaces can be challenging because of bright lights, strong smells and crowds or queues that can cause them to feel overwhelmed. Our research shows that 64 per cent of autistic people avoid the shops and 28 per cent have been asked to leave a public place for reasons associated with their autism.

“There are 700,000 autistic people in the UK and their needs are not always immediately obvious. We know a basic understanding and small changes, like the regular quiet hour Thistles hosts, could transform the lives of autistic people and their families. We hope more shopping centres will be inspired by Thistles’ fantastic example and do their bit to help make sure autistic customers have the same opportunities as everyone else.”

Gary Turnbull, Centre Director of Thistles added;

“We are delighted to have won this award. Thistles is committed to providing a welcoming experience for autistic customers, and expanding the centre’s quiet hour to a weekly support has underpinned this commitment.

“We hope through the ongoing collective efforts of our retailers, the autism hour every Sunday will continue to provide a welcome respite for those affected, as well as lead to a greater understanding of the associated difficulties of the condition.”