Find out about Autism Awareness Week and how Postmaster Lisa Kear started an initiative to help support customers.
What is autism?
Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how people perceive the world and interact with others. This can mean they see, hear and feel the world differently to others.
In the week of 1-7 April, the National Autistic Society encourage the public to take part in World Autism Awareness Week – a full seven days where people across the UK take part in activities to raise money and awareness for the National Autistic Society.
Lisa Kear runs Belmont Post Office in Sutton, near to a local school.
“One day I got talking to one of the teachers once about how my son is autistic and the struggles I had when he was younger going in and out of shops. She said she was the head of the SEN (special educational needs) school.
When autism awareness week came around she asked if she could possibly bring a group of children with their parents. We set aside one hour on that day where the lights will be turned down the music will be turned off any air fresheners will be turned off etc. as a lot of the children have sensory issues.
We put signs up a week before to let customers know."
“We’ve now gained all these extra families as customers”
“The great thing about it is they get to know us, know that we are not going to judge them and that we’ll do everything within our power to help their experience at the post office a positive one.
We have now gained all these extra families as customers. As my son is also autistic it’s great that they have an ear to listen when they’ve had a bad day.
I believe I’m not just a postmaster – I’m here for the community and will listen and help in any way I can. Spreading awareness of autism in fact any disability is a great thing, I found it very hard with my son growing up with people thinking he was just a naughty child.”
Make autistic customers feel more comfortable in your branch
- Turn any bright, fluorescent lights down
- Turn off any noisy displays or those with flickering or flashing lights
- Turn off music or radio – or turn it down
- Turn off air fresheners if on a timer
- Provide a quiet space if possible
Employment and Autism at Post Office
Only 16% of autistic adults are in paid full-time work, so in early 2018 Post Office colleagues started an initiative called Open Doors to support young people with autism. They invited students from Phoenix Autism Tower Hamlets to attend the Model Office in Finsbury Dials to take part in ‘Life Skills’ workshops. Students were able to build their confidence through interacting with someone at the counter and independently using Self-Service Kiosks.
The team are now working with different business areas to identify potential placements to help young people with autism gain valuable work experience.
If you’re interested in finding out more about how you could do something similar in your branch, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org