Supermarket has designated hour to help those with autism

Credit: ITV News

Thirty years ago, autism was considered a relatively rare condition affecting around one in 500, but now that figure has increased, to one in every 100.

And it means thousands of people in our region often struggle with the sensory overload of modern life, but now some respite is being offered in perhaps the most unlikely of places - a supermarket.

For most of us, supermarket shopping can be a weekly, even a daily, chore. But for adults and children with autism it can be a nightmare - a bombardment of sights and sounds that's all too much.

Emma Castle, whose son Oliver has autism, said "It's hard because of the noise, the people, the lights. Everything is quite challenging, he'll run off, climb over everything."

Emma Castle and her son Credit: ITV News

Yet some stores are trying to make a difference. One in particular, has started offering a quiet hour - just once a week - in which that 'battle of the senses' is turned down.

Lights are dimmed, music is switched off, maps are handed out and a special checkout opened.

Credit: ITV News

Gary Powis, manager of of the Tesco where the quiet hour is held, said "We really want to do anything within the community where we can. That's part of the job we do and this is a prime example of small changes that make a big difference."

While the benefits may be obvious, people coping with autism also feel less judged in an environment where they once felt shunned.

Emma Holdsworth said "I just don't feel that I'm being stared at, or spoken about, which is quite helpful."

Credit: ITV News

Jo-Ann D'Costa Manuel, from Autism Parent Power, said "We've had thousands of families across the UK contact us to say: can we have this in our store because this is what we need, we've been crying out for it for years, and to see it actually come to life, and actually not be such a strain to Tesco, but make a huge difference to the families is a phenomenal success I think."

75% of parents of children with autism said visiting the supermarket was their most isolating experience. Organisers hope this six-week trial will now usher in a national change.

- Earlier Kylie and Jonty spoke to mother of one one autistic youngster who has struggled on shopping trips.

Caleb Passmore, 3, from Ivybridge had his problems recognised by a checkout operator at the Tesco store in Lee Mill's - who asked him to help out on the till by scanning his mum's shopping.

Watch the full interview below: