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'Autsome' shopping experience for the autistic

  • Children tend to feel the texture of the different materials on the sensory wall set up for the autistic at Sunway Putra Mall. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily
  • Mainly in soothing blue, the quiet room set up for the autistic at Sunway Putra Mall. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily
  • An “Autsome” advertisement on a wall inside the mall. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily
  • The “CAT playground” open for autistic children on Tuesdays. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily

PETALING JAYA, Sept 24 (Sin Chew Daily) -- Shopping malls worldwide are known for loud music and ultra-bright lights in creating a joyous shopping experience for the consumers.

However, a shopping mall in downtown Kuala Lumpur goes the other way, dimming the lights within the mall and shutting out blasting music from ten to five every Tuesday for the benefit of a specific group of disadvantaged people -- autistic children.

Stepping into the foyer of Sunway Putra Mall on this particular day of the week, one will be greeted by an eye-catching “Autism Friendly Shopping Day” sign and dimmed corridors in the absence of boisterous music as if to transport the shoppers from the hustle and bustle of the city outside to a world of serenity.

The objective of the mall's “Autsome” (for “Autism is Awesome”) campaign is to enhance the public's awareness of autism in hope of reversing their prejudices against the autistic community to become more accommodating and tolerant towards them.

According to the National Autism Society of Malaysia (NASOM), one out of 68 newborn babies is autistic, meaning there are about 9,000 children born with autism every year in Malaysia, and the number is increasing by the year!

Creating a soothing environment

Ng Huay Pin, Head of Marketing, Sunway Putrra Mall, told Sin Chew Daily autistic children will suffer from nervous breakdown in crowded and noisy places due to the unpleasant external stimulus. As such, Sunway Putra Mall strives to create a comfortable environment so that these people can have a relaxing shopping experience.

Autsome advertisements are placed on many of the pillars or walls inside the mall to educate the public what they can do or should not do to an autistic patient.

The advertisements also provide hotline number for members of the public to seek assistance when they come across an autistic person suffering a nervous breakdown.

Ng said movies such as Guang (Light) and Redha have enhanced the public's awareness towards the autistic community, and it is now time for us to learn to accept people suffering from autism.

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