QUIET HOUR: Vanessa Renton joined her son Lazarus, 3, and his best friend Sabine at Coles Supermarket Rockhampton which was one of the stores chosen to hold a trial for a special quiet hour.
QUIET HOUR: Vanessa Renton joined her son Lazarus, 3, and his best friend Sabine at Coles Supermarket Rockhampton which was one of the stores chosen to hold a trial for a special quiet hour. Sean Fox

Rocky mum's joy she and son can join 'taken for granted' activity

RAISING three children on the spectrum, Vanessa Renton has come to understand what could trigger them.

Something as simple as fluorescent lighting and the smallest noise may turn her grocery shopping into a parent's nightmare.

But as Vanessa strolled through the dimly-lit, silent Coles Supermarket she was heartened her fourth and youngest child, Lazerus, wouldn't have to "fend for himself" like her now adult children did.

Lazarus, aged three, has not been offiicially diagnosed with autism, but can access to a lot more resources than Vanessa's now-adult children.

The City Centre Plaza supermarket was chosen as one of 70 stores across Australia to implement the Quiet Hour program, following a successful trial in Melbourne.

Between 10:30-11:30am yesterday, the supermarket reduced lighting, noise and any other distractions for people with Autism and other conditions to have a comfortable shopping experience.

Vanessa hoped the community would get behind the new initiative.

The silence and dim lighting are immediately obvious as you walk into the usually bustling supermarket.

No employee's voices were heard over the intercom, and scanner volumes were turned down to the lowest level.

Trolley collection stopped and roll cages removed from the shop floor.

Vanessa said the aim was to not only help people with autism, but also those who suffer from anxiety and other mental health issues.

She explained what could trigger her children at a supermarket.

"If I took them into the shops, it would set off certain behaviours whether it was the fluorescent lighting or the noise," Vanessa said.

"As you can see today, it is a really calm atmosphere... it is like dusk almost."

Vanessa said autistic people already face a lot of challenges in everyday life.

"It gives them a chance to participate in activities that a lot of people take for granted," she said.

Vanessa believes television shows which highlight autism has helped society better understand the condition.

As an older parent, Vanessa said she has a lot more understanding of autism.

"These initiatives will help new and younger parents that aren't experienced with autism," she said.



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