Target and Others Move Toward Autism-Friendly Holiday Shopping

Photo by Mike Mozart (CC BY 2.0)

Photo by Mike Mozart (CC BY 2.0)


Christmas shopping at the mall isn’t always the best experience. Traffic, lines, crowds, awful music and pushy people would probably fill out the Family Feud list of reasons for shopping online during the holidays, but they can also be showstoppers for some of us — particularly folks who are coping with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Over the past few years, malls and retailers have been making an effort to make one holiday tradition more available to kids and parents with ASD. Silent Santa programs give families a sensory-friendly environment for Santa photos. That’s a great start, but Christmas shopping has remained a noisy, crowded, chaotic affair. This year, that’s starting to change.

One Target location in Lancaster, Pennsylvania is opening early tomorrow morning so that autistic people and their families can shop in quiet environment, with dimmed lights, no music, and even reduced staff. The Mighty contacted Target about the event, which was organized by the East Lancaster Target store leader and Wellspan Philhaven, a local non-profit that offers mental and behavioral health care. Target has no current plans to take it national, but the positive attention the company has received in response must be encouraging.

Target isn’t the only company exploring sensory-friendly options this year. On Sunday, Ontario, Canada’s Lambton Mall will be offering a quiet shopping hour after closing for guests who need it. In November, British Toys ‘R Us locations offered similar events.

Christmas shopping is never going to be perfect for all of us — not so long as most of us want to cram three weeks of frantic shopping into spaces designed for the crowds of the rest of the year — but it’s great to see malls and retailers trying to make it more pleasant for the people who might otherwise be frozen out by the status quo. Here’s hoping this year’s examples are just the start of a much larger trend.

[h/t The Mighty]