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The holiday shopping season can be quite unnerving for most people. Long lines, loud music, bright lights, and what sometimes feels like 100 screaming children can be annoying at best and overwhelming at worst. For families with children with autism, ADHD, or any sensory-triggered disability, shopping in public can be an uneasy and unpredictable experience.


That’s where shopping chains like Toys “R” Us and Target shine with their inclusivity efforts. In the United Kingdom, toy retailer Toys “R” Us hosted sensory-friendly shopping days, where families with children who have disabilities could enjoy a quieter, relaxed, and calmer shopping experience. With displays of sensory-friendly toys available to try, and the ability to navigate the store easily made for a successful experience.


This caught the attention of an autism advocacy group in Pennsylvania. With a little effort and teamwork, the Toys “R” Us store in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, offered a sensory-friendly day. The event was marked as a success for local families. 


One child, whose only communication ability comes from an application on a tablet, was able to pick out his own bed for the first time. With a generous helping of tears from his mother and associates alike, this child felt comfortable enough to sit, and then lay, on a beautiful red car bed. His mother returned to buy the bed the following Monday.


It is experiences like these that turned the local Target to happily agreeing to a similar shopping experience. Though there are no plans to continue forward with the experience nationally, the local Target did set up a day for sensory-friendly shopping and received similar success and praise from appreciative families.


Bass Pro Shop, located in Foxborough, Massachusetts, had rolled out an initiative called “Sensitive Santa”. This allowed families with children who have disabilities to enjoy a Santa visit before regular store hours bring packs of visitors. They even included a pictograph guide explaining each step of the process so that there will not be any surprises – something that can quickly upset individuals with disabilities.


Initiatives like these show fantastic support for sometimes overwhelmed families, making life just a little easier and happier. Inclusion is necessary, and understanding the needs of the community is essential. Bringing joy to everyone during and after the holiday season is what a good community should strive to do.