Shopping centres across west and north London will reduce their lighting and dropping the volume on music and other background noise for the UK's first ever Autism Hour.

Launched by The National Autistic Society , shopping centre intu has signed up to support the event, which will take place in October.

The autism hour encourages shops and services to take simple steps to create a more autism friendly world, giving people a break from the usual overload of too much information.

On Monday October 2 all of intu's 14 centres nationwide, including those in Uxbridge and Watford, will reduce their lights, music and other background noise at 10am.

All shops and services will be encouraged to follow their lead by taking 60 minutes during the week to provide autistic with a more comfortable shopping environment.

Retailers Clarks and Toys 'R' Us have already signed up and Lloyds Banking Group will educate its colleagues about autism during Autism Hour.

A survey by The National Autistic Society suggests that 64% of autistic people avoid going to the shops, and 28% have been asked to leave a public place for reasons associated with their autism.

Mark Lever, chief executive at the National Autistic Society, said: "We're delighted by the response to the National Autistic Society’s Autism Hour so far, and that shopping centre owner intu, Clarks and Toys ‘R’ Us are involved already.

"We're encouraging other shops and services to follow their lead and take simple steps that will lead to a more autism friendly world.

"We hope that the hour will provide a break for families in the week and in the long term will help spread understanding so that shops and services are more accessible every day of the year."

Staff at intu centres already receive training to provide autism-aware customer service and autistic people also benefit from guides that allow them to plan and prepare a visit to each intu centre.

According to the National Autistic Society, more than 1 in 100 people are on the autism spectrum which means that someone sees, hears and feels the world in a different, often more intense way to other people.

Simple steps

Alexander Nicoll, corporate responsibility director at intu, said: "We are asking every shop, restaurant and leisure brand in our centres to dim their lights and reduce their music for an hour and to raise awareness of autism among their staff and customers.

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"We hope that launching the National Autistic Society’s Autism Hour in our centres will encourage many more organisations across the country to take these simple steps that will make life easier for the millions of people impacted by autism."

Matt Davis, father to Isaac, nine, who is autistic, said the idea would make life "so much easier" for his son, and allow him to prepare effectively for visits.

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