STAFF at Tesco supermarket in Greenfield have been trained in spotting and helping customers with autism.
But it is not a case of ushering them out as quickly as possible – patience and understanding is the name of the game.
The store has become one of the first in the north west to have a workshop aimed at making sure people with the condition are embraced rather than treated as an inconvenience.
Delivered by Stacey Gentle, whose mother Christine Pogson works at the store, the hour-long session encourages people to dismiss their preconceptions.
And it is obviously working as stores in Stalybridge and Oldham have asked if she can do similar for them.
Stacey, who works for care agency Right At Home Stockport, said: “It’s basically about how you can be more aware of autism and lose that stigma that comes with it.
“There’s a belief that it means people just have tantrums and throw things about, which are negatives.
“This is about being more patient and understanding.
“It’s a really informal workshop which gives people five main principles to work from, the main one being that everyone with autism is different.
“Autism is also not a learning disability, it is a learning difficulty and it doesn’t stop you from learning.
“Also, sufferers often have ‘social cues’ which others can mistake for them being rude.
“For example, at Greenfield I was told about a customer who comes in and stares at the ceiling.
“That’s not being rude, that’s just them focusing on something plain rather than all the colours from the different labels and products. That’s their way of concentrating, which is called ‘stimming’.
“Some of the staff told me about someone who listens to music when they are at the till – that may be them being rude but it could be another way of stimming.”
Stacey’s workshops are based on the Autism Friends scheme developed by Wigan Council and she has become an Autism Friends Champion.
Tesco nationally devised a system where stores’ lights were dimmed for an hour on a Saturday morning but this involvement is completely separate from that.
And it is not just in supermarkets where she will be delivering workshops – with more in the Saddleworth area expected this year.
“Tesco in Stalybridge and the large store in Oldham town centre contacted me to ask if I could do a workshop there,” Stacey added.
“It originated in Wigan and I became an Autism Friends champion, which meant I can deliver an Autism Friends workshop and as my mother works in Greenfield, she asked me if I could do one.
“In the workshops there is a game of bingo, which has aims and objectives.
“And I’m also working with healthcare professionals, football clubs and even some of the Girl Guide groups. A couple from Saddleworth have asked me if I can deliver a workshop for them.
“Basically, I’m open to deliver a workshop to anyone who wants one.”