Creating supportive space for autistic folk


The Calm Pods located in the common areas allow autistic patrons a private area to rest.

IN CONJUNCTION with Autism Awareness Month, Sunway Velocity Mall launched its new facilities and services for the autistic community.

“Autsome”, short for “Autism is Awesome”, is the shopping centre’s latest project to provide inclusive guest experiences for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

At the recent launch, the mall’s senior general manager Phang Sau Lian introduced Calm Pods, a transitory space for those on the spectrum who may need a sanctuary to rest in private, in case of sensory overload.

These are portable and available in front of Haagen-Daz on the ground floor, and next to the AEON travelator on level B2.

“The pods are located in common areas of the mall so that users can reach them easily, as compared to conventional calm rooms that take a longer time to access,” Phang said.

The second feature introduced by Phang is a Sensory Wall made with 100% sustainable materials like fabric remnants, plastic waste, paper pulp tray and branches.

Located near Clarins on the ground floor, the Sensory Wall was sponsored, re-imagined and designed by the mall’s partner 3.8 Art & Creative to imitate Van Gogh’s famous artwork, allowing autistic individuals to touch, feel and adjust better to their surroundings.

Aside from these two facilities, Sunway Velocity Mall has dedicated Tuesdays (except for public holidays) to be “Autism-Friendly Shopping Days” from 10am to 5pm.

“During this period, calming jazz music will be played throughout the mall, while some tenants offer special promotions, and accommodation such as quiet seating areas,” said Phang.

For easier identification of and assistance to autistic patrons, Sunway Velocity Mall also provides Autsome kits including a special wristband for children, and a car sticker for families to park at reserved parking bays.

(from left) Phang posing in front of the Sensory Wall with 3.8 Art & Creative creative director Bay Jih Jye and senior marketing executive Mun Yoke Mei. — Photos: KAMARUL ARIFFIN/The Star(from left) Phang posing in front of the Sensory Wall with 3.8 Art & Creative creative director Bay Jih Jye and senior marketing executive Mun Yoke Mei. — Photos: KAMARUL ARIFFIN/The Star

Phang said the mall’s security, customer care and store employees were given specialised training organised by Autism Behavioral Center (ABC) to ensure all staff members are prepared to give their best service to autistic patrons.

“As a socially responsible organisation, we recognise the importance of creating spaces that are inclusive and accommodating to people of all abilities.

“Autsome represents our unwavering commitment to promoting awareness, acceptance, convenience and understanding for individuals with autism by providing them with comfortable shopping facilities and privileges,” said Phang.

Future collaborations with ABC, she said, would be ASD-centred activities for other shoppers to participate in, as well as gain skills to lend autistic patrons a helping hand, when needed.

To brighten the ceremony, 15 children from The National Autism Society of Malaysia (Nasom) performed a choir for the guests, singing Count on Me by Bruno Mars.

Aside from autism awareness, the mall also organised a hands-on Microgreens Growing Workshop for children facilitated by Sunway XFarms in conjunction with the mall’s Sustainable Development Goals month.

“We believe everyone should have access to fresh and safe food.

“So, it gives us joy to see the smile on their faces as they learn the interactive skills of growing food,” said Sunway XFarms chief operating officer Eleanor Choong.

Families and carers of autistic patrons, or autistic individuals can register at the level one concierge counter where they will receive the Autsome wristband, and parking sticker.

Patrons need only flash the wristband for assistance from mall customer service staff and special services at Autsome participating outlets.

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