What does autism feel like?
“It feels awful,” says Lori Sealy, who suffers from the disorder and writes about it. “Sight, sound, smell, taste and touch (the five senses that all of the experiences of life must pass through) can be absolutely harrowing and horrifying to a person with autism. Everything that enters the [Autism Spectrum Disorder] body is often accompanied by some semblance of pain or at least by some extremely uncomfortable sensation.”
But here’s the thing: Even those with autism need clothes and shoes and groceries. Smart business people know this. Like the managers at a Target store in Lancaster, Pa., featured in this American Genius story.
To accommodate its customers who suffer from autism (or are on the spectrum), the retailer opens its doors from 6 a.m.to 8 a.m. every Saturday and provides a peaceful place to shop during the holidays. Store activities are kept to a minimum. Lights are less bright. There is no music. It’s a safe, quiet environment so that customers with autism can relax. And buy. The company isn’t doing this everywhere and leaving the decision up to its local store managers.
It’s not an original thought. Toys-R-Us stores in the U.K. have offered a similar service to their customers for the past few years and the chain plans to do the same in certain U.S. stores too. AMC theaters are providing sensory-friendly screenings. A program at Jet Blue helps autistic kids adjust to flying in advance.
Some 3.5 million Americans are affected by the disability and the rate of diagnosis continues to increase. Catering to this niche, or any other group that has special needs, is not just a nice thing to do. It’s also good business in these competitive times.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to autism as a disease. It is a disorder. The post has been updated.