Malaysian mall takes on landmark autism-friendly effort
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Malaysian mall takes on landmark autism-friendly effort

MANY parents of special needs children with the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) would find shopping with their families a challenging experience, but now a mall in Malaysia is undertaking a landmark effort to dampen the burdens that keep this group from going out in public.

From January 2019, Sunway Putra Mall in Kuala Lumpur will be altering certain aspects of the building that normal shoppers take for granted but are a major hurdle for people with autism such as bright lights and the type or volume of background music, Cyber-RT reported.

“Tenants will also be part of our autism-friendly Tuesdays,” the mall’s general manager Phang Sau Lian was quoted as saying.

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“These will include priority queues at payment counters for families with autistic members to make their visit to outlets in our mall far more pleasant.”

The move would make Sunway Putra the first shopping mall in the country to introduce the autism-friendly measure and quite possibly the first in Southeast Asia to do so.

The initiative also follows after some international retailers such as Toys “R” Us and Target, which have hosted special shopping days and events intended to reduce the stress involved.

Those diagnosed with autism are extra sensitive to bright lights, loud noises and crowds, which are sensory triggers.

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People visit Sunway Putra Shopping Mall located in the central business district of Kuala Lumpur. Source: Shutterstock

Phang said the adjustments involved the reduction of lighting brightness and ambient music between 10am and 5pm on Tuesdays starting January to reduce the stresses faced by the families involved.

By registering at the mall’s concierge counter, Phang said autistic people could gain a wide range of benefits from the mall’s initiative, including priority parking.

“We’re still working out how best to be autism-friendly and this is just the first phase of our mall-wide effort. We welcome feedback from the public and those caring for autistic people so that we can improve.”

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The effort came after the mall teamed up with the privately-run Autism Behavioral Center which helps families with members diagnosed with autism.

The centre’s director Charlene Marie Samuel said the partnership with Sunway Putra Mall opens up new avenues for autistic people to enjoy what other people take for granted in venturing out of their homes.

“Even a haircut can be a stressful experience, due to sensory overload. While our tried-and-tested therapy methods help autistic people cope with the demands of today’s lifestyles, every little bit to help reduce hurdles they need to otherwise overcome goes a long way.”