Sensory friendly shopping hour offered at some P.E.I. grocery stores

If you or someone in your family is sensitive to loud sounds or bright lights, a trip to the grocery store can be difficult. But the Autism Society of P.E.I. and some grocery stores are hoping to make things easier for those shoppers and their families.

Autism society hopes it will become a regular thing

Both the Autism Society of P.E.I. and Sobeys management said they received positive feedback from customers who experienced the sensory friendly shopping hour. (TZIDO SUN/Shutterstock)

If you or someone in your family is sensitive to loud sounds or bright lights, a trip to the grocery store can be difficult. 

But the Autism Society of P.E.I. and some grocery stores are hoping to make things easier for those shoppers and their families. 

Nathalie Walsh-Annand, executive director of the autism society, says it has partnered with two local grocery stores to offer a sensory-friendly shopping hour. 

"You don't realize how much your sensories are overloaded until you have that calming experience."

During the scheduled hour, the Sobeys stores in Summerside, P.E.I., and Stratford, P.E.I., reduce the lighting and noise levels to make the store more sensory-friendly. 

In addition to the lights being dimmed, no shopping carts are retrieved and the public address system and music is shut off. 

"It was just a very peaceful shopping hour," said Tammy MacPhee, who oversees operations for all Sobeys, Foodland and Co-Op stores across the Island.

Positive feedback

"We're all about inclusion at Sobeys. From what the feedback has been from the autism society, from the customers — there's been lots of feedback on Facebook — it was a huge success."

MacPhee added the company has received feedback from other shoppers who appreciated the dim lights and noise reduction. 

The Autism Society of P.E.I. is hoping the sensory-friendly shopping hour becomes a regular thing in Island stores. (Facebook/Autism Society of P.E.I. )
​"It's not just for individuals on the autism spectrum. Sensory sensitivity, sensory processing, like Tammy mentioned, issues with hearing, these are all things that can be affected by sensories," said Walsh-Annand.

Walsh-Annand said the autism society hopes to make shopping a more socially accepting environment for families and individuals who need to get out to do the day to day of real life to get the things that they need.

"This is just one of those steps and it's fantastic to hear that Sobeys is considering making it a more regular event." 

MacPhee said she will be speaking with other stores to see if they will be interested in taking part.

"It's such an easy thing to do." 

Other grocery stores on board so far include the Sobeys in Stratford, P.E.I., and the Superstore in West Royalty in Charlottetown. 

Walsh-Annand said the best way to find out when a sensory-friendly shopping hour is happening is to get in touch with the autism society, or check their Facebook page.

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With files from Island Morning