18 September 2017

Supporting members affected by autism

Around 700,000 people in the UK are on the autism spectrum. Together with their families, this means autism is a part of daily lives of 2.8 million people. 

With 15 million members in the UK it is highly likely that some of these people have a banking relationship with us. Autism is a spectrum condition which affects people in many different ways, but some of the more common traits which people on the autism spectrum may display include:

  • Difficulty with social communication – taking things literally and struggling to read facial expressions and tone of voice
  • Problems with social interaction – finding it hard to read other people’s emotions and potentially appearing insensitive or appearing to behave in a socially inappropriate way
  • Repetitive behaviour and routines – following daily routines to help cope with a confusing world and feeling uncomfortable with change
  • Sensory Sensitivity – being overly or under-sensitive to things like sound, touch and light and being affected by things other people may not notice.

Many of our branches are in shopping centres or on busy high streets. The following video from the National Autistic Society demonstrates how things you may not even notice can be overwhelming for an autistic person.

Can you make it to the end?

Play video - Can you make it to the end? Boy and lady walking

This can mean a visit to a branch is a daunting prospect for someone with autism. If you don’t have the condition you may welcome someone approaching you asking how they can help, but if you struggle with social interaction you may feel overwhelmed.

Equally, if you don’t have autism you probably don’t even notice the sound of the cashier till or ATMs machines let alone the noise from the door to the branch opening and closing, but someone with autism could notice all these sounds and may find the experience too much.

Some autistic people may avoid eye contact and ignore people speaking to them. As autism is a non-visible condition, people may assume that this behaviour is suspicious or aggressive. If you’re a parent of a child with autism you may avoid taking them to certain places for fear of how they may react and you may worry that others are judging you for not controlling your child.

How can Nationwide help?

The Society is currently piloting autism friendly hours in its Worcester and Redditch branches. At these times the branches will not be as busy, meaning there is less need to queue, something that can be an issue for someone on the autism spectrum.

Room will be made available so that if a customer or their child does find the experience overwhelming, they can conduct their banking needs away from the banking hall. We will also be reducing the noise in branches as much as possible to help those who suffer from over stimulation.

We recognise these hours may not always be suitable for autistic customers and their family, so we also aim to provide information for these customers on how each branch looks and what to expect when you visit. For those branches that are particularly busy, we will also let people know when another branch is close by that may be a bit quieter.

More importantly, we will be training our staff about autism and how they can support autistic customers and their families. If successful we will look to roll the pilot out across our branch network.

Our autism friendly hours will be:

Redditch Branch

Wednesdays, between 4-5pm

Worcester Branch 

Thursdays, between 4-5pm

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