Croydon shoppers will have the opportunity to experience how autistic people can feel in busy places when a virtual reality roadshow comes to the town centre this weekend.
The National Autistic Society (NAS) will be bringing the Too Much Information (TMI) Virtual Reality (VR) Experience to the Centrale shopping centre on Saturday 22 and Sunday 23 July. Visitors to the NAS stand will be able to try out the virtual reality headsets and experience how overwhelmed an autistic person can feel in a shopping centre.
The NAS launched the VR experience in the wake of the viral success of its Can you make it to the end? film. This is part of the charity’s ongoing TMI campaign, which aims to improve public understanding of autism. That film was viewed nearly 60 million times and followed 10-year-old Alex becoming overwhelmed and experiencing a meltdown in a shopping centre.
The VR film, which can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DgDR_gYk_a8, allows people to go through that experience from Alex’s point of view in a more immersive way. Made with award-winning creative agency, Don’t Panic, it highlights the details that can feel overwhelming for autistic people but which many people might not even notice, like the flickering of lights or the rustling of bags. The film and VR were put together from people’s real experiences and feedback from the autistic community. Autistic people praised the film, with one person saying it showed ‘what’s in my head’.
More than one in 100 people are on the autism spectrum. This means that someone sees, hears and feels the world in a different, often more intense, way to other people. Autistic people often find social situations difficult and struggle to filter out the sounds, smells, sights and information they experience, which means they feel overwhelmed by ‘too much information’ when out in public.
Councillor Andrew Rendle, Croydon Council’s autism champion, said: “Public awareness of autism is better than ever, but often autistic people and their families feel others don’t understand autism in a meaningful way. Often if you ask someone who is on the autism spectrum what is the most important thing others can do to help, they will tell you it is to try and understand. These virtual reality headsets can help everyone to appreciate how some places can cause a sensory overload for a people on the autism spectrum and why they might become overwhelmed. I would urge everyone to take this opportunity to improve their understanding of autism and visit the NAS stand in Centrale this weekend.”
The NAS stand will be in Centrale on the ground floor, opposite House of Fraser between 9am and 5pm on Saturday and between 11am and 5pm on Sunday.
Anna Nicholson, the NAS’s policy and engagement officer, said: “We’re delighted to be bringing our Too Much Information campaign to Croydon this weekend. Our campaign is all about encouraging people to think about autism and the small things we can all do to make the world more autism-friendly. It’s often the smallest change that can make the biggest difference, like giving someone extra time to reply to a question, using clear language or providing a quiet space at work or a party. We’ve got lots of ideas on our website www.autism.org.uk about the small things people can do to help and would encourage everyone to take a look.
“We’re grateful to Croydon Council and Centrale for taking such an active role in promoting better understanding of autism, and particularly to Councillor Rendle who has been a great autism champion. We hope lots of people will visit our stand, try out our VR and find out more about autism.“