JC Penney Holds Special Back-To-School Shopping Event For Children With Autism & Special Needs

By Samantha Finch, Parent Herald August 16, 06:33 am

Children with autism and special needs struggle and experience meltdowns in normal shopping scenarios. Kids with sensory sensitivities struggle in back-to-school shopping sprees where both children and parents alike clamor in malls.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 68 American children have autism, with the disorder more common in boys than in girls. Those in the autism spectrum disorder have social, communication, and behavioral challenges.

Bright lights, blaring music, and groups of people milling around are stressful for children with autism and special needs. This is why department store company JC Penney held a special two-hour shopping event in its Timber Creek Crossing store in Dallas, Texas on Sunday, August 14, to accommodate children in the autism spectrum.

General Manager Jay Tollett told CW33 that JC Penney's Timber Creek Crossing store was in "about 50 percent lighting" from 9 AM to 11 AM so as not to overwhelm kids in the autism spectrum. The music was also turned off so the store can be quiet and calm, and store employees wore clothes in neutral colors and no perfume.

The store collaborated with the Dallas Independent School District to be acquainted and better understand the needs of children in the autism spectrum, the Dallas Morning News reported. Workers in the store were also provided with autism-friendly customer service training.

Parents with autistic children commended JC Penney's special shopping event. Lacinetta Coxson, a mother with two autistic daughters aged 14 and 10, said she was usually judged by other shoppers whenever her children experience meltdowns and do autism-associated behaviors in malls.

Coxson said JC Penney's event is a "great idea" and made them feel included after always being "on the outskirts," CW33 added. Thanks to JC Penney, people who have no understanding of autism will not be able to judge Coxson and others like her.

Tollett said the employees had no issue with getting up early to work on Sunday morning and are "more than willing to help." He is hoping that JC Penney's event for children with autism will become an annual tradition and expand to the company's other stores. JC Penney developed this event in an effort to practice corporate inclusion and diversity program, the Dallas Morning News further reported.

The Braehead Shopping Centre in Scotland also introduced an autism-friendly initiative. During that time, retailers will turn off music and flashing lights to create a more peaceful atmosphere, Glasgow Live reported.

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