Sensory shopping makes a grand return
FAMILIES with children living with Autism or other sensory issues can do their Christmas shopping in peace, with Gympie's Target store running another sensory shopping event this weekend.
After a successful debut run last year, store manager Kelli Lodder is looking to spread the word around the community.
"We did have people coming in, people enquiring to see if we're doing it this year,” she said.
"We've been getting the staff trained up and prepared for the morning.”
The purpose of these events is to reduce any unnecessary stimuli from the standard shopping experience.
That means lights are dimmed, music is turned off and fabrics and materials are placed along the shelves - to give children a physical, textured object to feel.
Instrumental in organising last year's event was Annette Nugent, mother to both Cory and Georgia, who have sensory issues.
"I think the positives from last year were we've seen a number of children come through and one in particular sticks in my mind,” she said.
"He was about nine or 10-years-old, he'd never come shopping before, and it was like watching a kid in a candy store.
"His mum said to me, 'This is the first time I've ever been able to take him shopping'.”
The benefits of the event, she continued, couldn't be understated.
"We've only been here for about 15 minutes and you can see the effect it's having on her,” Ms Nugent said, noting the visible distress the lights and noise were causing her daughter.
"Last year, we were able to stay in the centre for about three hours, which is just remarkable.”
There are a growing number of events for children with sensory issues in both Gympie and across Australia.
Coles has recently introduced 'Quiet Shopping' in nearly 70 stores and this month will also see the introduction of 'Sensitive Santa' at Gympie Central on December 17, allowing families to get Christmas photos without a heightened risk of over-stimulation.
Ms Nugent said it's an opportunity for education for families or individuals who haven't experienced the realities of a very different kind of family life.
"People simply have no idea, of just all the things that we need to be aware of, all the considerations we have to make,” she said.
"And part of the reason for this is a lot of it happens behind closed doors, because taking them out normally just isn't an option - you can't do it.
"There's still a lot of ignorance and misunderstanding surrounding this, people telling me 'just let them get used to it', it doesn't work like that.”
Gympie Target's Sensory Shopping event will take place this Sunday from 8-10am at Goldfields Plaza.
A jungle gym will also be provided in the centre itself for children to stay and play longer.