Bisnet urges Exeter businesses not to lag behind with autism awareness

Exeter has made some great strides in meeting the needs of people with physical disabilities, but may be lagging behind in making adjustments for autistic people. We all realise that a wheelchair user need a ramp, rather than steps, to get into a building. It can be harder to know what changes to make to welcome someone with Autistic Spectrum Disorder. Understanding can be limited by stereotype and myth. Back in the 1950’s, child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim thought that Autism was caused by Refrigerator Mothers, and this was widely believed. Research using brain scans now shows that the autistic brain is wired differently to the neurotypical (usual) brain; this explains the particular strengths that some autistic people have, as well as the particular difficulties they can encounter, and why sometimes their behaviour may be challenging for others.

Many businesses around the UK have embraced the challenge to understand the needs of people with ASD, and have made changes to welcome them. Glasgow has autism-friendly opticians and dentists – their Specsavers have achieved a National Autistic Society autism-friendly award, and there is a specialist dental service designed to support children with autism at Bridgeton Health Centre. A Manchester Asda has introduced a “quiet hour” for autistic people, and in Briton Ferry in Wales last year, pictures of the barber at Jim the Trim, cutting the hair of a little boy with autism while lying on the floor, went viral on social media and touched the hearts of many.

CEDA BIsnet in Exeter is delighted to have found a positive attitude generally in Exeter. Sainsbury’s in Alphington,The Bikeshed Theatre, Exeter’s Ambassadors and Exeter’s City Councillors are just some of the people who have engaged with their training and guidance to help make Exeter a city which welcomes everyone. Exeter’s Picture House regularly has

autism-friendly screenings, and Toys R Us offer special Christmas shopping evenings for families with children with autism. It’s not just customers who benefit – the Business Disabilities Forum estimates the combined annual spending of Britain’s disabled people to be £212billion.

CEDA BIs-net urges all businesses in Exeter to get on board with their vision of an Exeter where everyone is welcome.They are keen to hear from parents in Exeter, who enjoy going into particular shops or restaurants in Exeter with their autistic son or daughter, and they will share this information through social media, their database, and at their parent workshops. Shops, restaurants, or other businesses who would like guidance and training are also welcome to get in touch to arrange this. Please email

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