The cool reason some Toys R Us stores will dim their lights and go quiet this weekend.

Here's something you probably don't need me reminding of: Malls are a lot to handle during the holidays.

Long lines, ferocious bargain shoppers, road rage in overcrowded parking lots — you know the drill.

If you have autism, though, a bustling shopping center can be an exhausting experience in an entirely different sense.


Illustration courtesy of The National Autistic Society.

Many people who have autism have varying degrees of sensory input issues. They may be over- or undersensitive to the sights, smells, and noises around them.

As you can imagine, going to the mall on a day like Black Friday is basically out of the question.

"For many autistic people and their families, a simple trip to the shops, which should be an enjoyable experience, can be fraught with difficulty," Daniel Cadey of the U.K.'s National Autistic Society said in a statement. "Autistic children and adults can become overwhelmed with too much information inside a busy store."

That's why, on Nov. 6, 2016, several Toys R Us stores in the U.K. will hold a quiet hour of shopping for kids who have autism and their parents.

Many slight adjustments will go into effect to make the shopping experience more comfy and calm, such as dim lights, a reduction of overhead fluorescents, and no in-store music or announcements over the loud speaker.

Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images.

"We understand toys are more personal to many additional needs individuals," said Mike Coogan, marketing and e-commerce director at Toys R Us, reports The Independent. "So being able to relax and choose something special themselves and enjoy the facilities and content of the store, the same as other children can do without concerns, will help in making their Christmas truly magical."

"Me and my son and daughter will be there," one woman wrote on the Facebook event page. "My son is 20 months old with autism. What a lovely thing to do."

Photo by Yana Paskova/Getty Images.

Shopping can be very taxing for someone with autism and their loved ones — even beyond sensory overload itself.

Autism isn't visible. So when someone is overwhelmed by their environment, it can seem as though they're acting out or misbehaving.

"My son had a meltdown in a shopping center after becoming overloaded by the crowds, bright lights, and smells," explained Jo Wincup, a mom whose son, Ben, has autism.

People stared, as though Ben had been acting naughty. Some even said hurtful things to her.

"I just wanted to cry," Wincup said. "For the ground to swallow us up."

Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images.

If you want to be a helpful ally to moms like Wincup, it's probably smart to learn more about autism and how it may affect others. That way, instead of jumping to conclusions the next time you're out in public, you may be able to lend a helping hand or offer a kind word of support at a stressful moment.

Sure, holiday shopping is a lot, but it's also a big part of the season.

So it's important retailers — and each and every one of us — do our parts in making sure everyone feels loved and included.

Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash
True

This story was originally shared on Capital One.

Inside the walls of her kitchen at her childhood home in Guatemala, Evelyn Klohr, the founder of a Washington, D.C.-area bakery called Kakeshionista, was taught a lesson that remains central to her business operations today.

"Baking cakes gave me the confidence to believe in my own brand and now I put my heart into giving my customers something they'll enjoy eating," Klohr said.

While driven to launch her own baking business, pursuing a dream in the culinary arts was economically challenging for Klohr. In the United States, culinary schools can open doors to future careers, but the cost of entry can be upwards of $36,000 a year.

Through a friend, Klohr learned about La Cocina VA, a nonprofit dedicated to providing job training and entrepreneurship development services at a training facility in the Washington, D.C-area.

La Cocina VA's, which translates to "the kitchen" in Spanish, offers its Bilingual Culinary Training program to prepare low-and moderate-income individuals from diverse backgrounds to launch careers in the food industry.

That program gave Klohr the ability to fully immerse herself in the baking industry within a professional kitchen facility and receive training in an array of subjects including culinary skills, food safety, career development and English language classes.

Keep Reading Show less

Image is a representation of the grandfather, not the anonymous subject of the story.

Eight years a go, a grandfather in Michigan wrote a powerful letter to his daughter after she kicked out her son out of the house for being gay. It's so perfectly written that it crops up on social media every so often.

The letter is beautiful because it's written by a man who may not be with the times, but his heart is in the right place.

It first appeared on the Facebook page FCKH8 and a representative told Gawker that the letter was given to them by Chad, the 16-year-old boy referenced in the letter.

Keep Reading Show less
True

When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."