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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 courtesy of Girls at Work

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via Pixabay

The show must go on… and more power to her.

There are few things that feel more awful than being stranded at the altar by your spouse-to-be. That’s why people are cheering on Kayley Stead, 27, from the U.K. for turning a day of extreme disappointment into a party for her friends, family and most importantly, herself.

According to a report in The Metro, on Thursday, September 15, Stead woke up in an Airbnb with her bridemaids, having no idea that her fiance, Kallum Norton, 24, had run off early that morning. The word got to Stead’s bridesmaids at around 7 a.m. the day of the wedding.

“[A groomsman] called one of the maids of honor to explain that the groom had ‘gone.’ We were told he had left the caravan they were staying at in Oxwich Bay (the venue) at 12:30 a.m. to visit his family, who were staying in another caravan nearby and hadn’t returned. When they woke in the morning, he was not there and his car had gone,” Jordie Cullen wrote on a GoFundMe page.

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All images provided by Bombas

We can all be part of the giving movement

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We all know that small acts of kindness can turn into something big, but does that apply to something as small as a pair of socks?

Yes, it turns out. More than you might think.

A fresh pair of socks is a simple comfort easily taken for granted for most, but for individuals experiencing homelessness—they are a rare commodity. Currently, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. are experiencing homelessness on any given night. Being unstably housed—whether that’s couch surfing, living on the streets, or somewhere in between—often means rarely taking your shoes off, walking for most if not all of the day, and having little access to laundry facilities. And since shelters are not able to provide pre-worn socks due to hygienic reasons, that very basic need is still not met, even if some help is provided. That’s why socks are the #1 most requested clothing item in shelters.

homelessness, bombasSocks are a simple comfort not everyone has access to

When the founders of Bombas, Dave Heath and Randy Goldberg, discovered this problem, they decided to be part of the solution. Using a One Purchased = One Donated business model, Bombas helps provide not only durable, high-quality socks, but also t-shirts and underwear (the top three most requested clothing items in shelters) to those in need nationwide. These meticulously designed donation products include added features intended to offer comfort, quality, and dignity to those experiencing homelessness.

Over the years, Bombas' mission has grown into an enormous movement, with more than 75 million items donated to date and a focus on providing support and visibility to the organizations and people that empower these donations. These are the incredible individuals who are doing the hard work to support those experiencing —or at risk of—homelessness in their communities every day.

Folks like Shirley Raines, creator of Beauty 2 The Streetz. Every Saturday, Raines and her team help those experiencing homelessness on Skid Row in Los Angeles “feel human” with free makeovers, haircuts, food, gift bags and (thanks to Bombas) fresh socks. 500 pairs, every week.

beauty 2 the streetz, skid row laRaines is out there helping people feel their beautiful best

Or Director of Step Forward David Pinson in Cincinnati, Ohio, who offers Bombas donations to those trying to recover from addiction. Launched in 2009, the Step Forward program encourages participation in community walking/running events in order to build confidence and discipline—two major keys to successful rehabilitation. For each marathon, runners are outfitted with special shirts, shoes—and yes, socks—to help make their goals more achievable.

step forward, helping homelessness, homeless non profitsRunning helps instill a sense of confidence and discipline—two key components of successful recovery

Help even reaches the Front Street Clinic of Juneau, Alaska, where Casey Ploof, APRN, and David Norris, RN give out free healthcare to those experiencing homelessness. Because it rains nearly 200 days a year there, it can be very common for people to get trench foot—a very serious condition that, when left untreated, can require amputation. Casey and Dave can help treat trench foot, but without fresh, clean socks, the condition returns. Luckily, their supply is abundant thanks to Bombas. As Casey shared, “people will walk across town and then walk from the valley just to come here to get more socks.”

step forward clinic, step forward alaska, homelessness alaskaWelcome to wild, beautiful and wet Alaska!

The Bombas Impact Report provides details on Bombas’s mission and is full of similar inspiring stories that show how the biggest acts of kindness can come from even the smallest packages. Since its inception in 2013, the company has built a network of over 3,500 Giving Partners in all 50 states, including shelters, nonprofits and community organizations dedicated to supporting our neighbors who are experiencing- or at risk- of homelessness.

Their success has proven that, yes, a simple pair of socks can be a helping hand, an important conversation starter and a link to humanity.

You can also be a part of the solution. Learn more and find the complete Bombas Impact Report by clicking here.

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