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New shop in Wood Street, Stratford, will use profits to help support those with autism and their families

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A NEW shop and community hub opening in Stratford this weekend aims to help autistic people and their carers.

The Autism Shop in Wood Street will sell nearly new adults and children’s clothes, shoes, handbags, household items, ornaments and books.

It also has a room upstairs to host support groups and activity sessions.

Lisa Mace was gearing up for the opening of the new Austism Shop in Wood Street, Stratford. Photo: Mark Williamson A72/11/21/8740. (53454346)
Lisa Mace was gearing up for the opening of the new Austism Shop in Wood Street, Stratford. Photo: Mark Williamson A72/11/21/8740. (53454346)

Money raised from the shop sales will be ploughed back into activity days, coach trips, family fun days, chat sessions and talks from autism experts.

Husband and wife Lisa and Peter Mace, who are behind the idea, have been running not-for-profit venture The Autism Shop in Birmingham for eight years.

The pair have a background working in NHS mental health secure units and have two adult sons with Asperger’s, a form of autism.

They planned to open a shop in Stratford when they moved here two years ago but after the pandemic hit, they decided to hold off.

Now the shop, where Thomas Cook used to be, has been given a fresh coat of paint and new floor tiles donated by a Birmingham company and fitted by a friend.

Lisa, 45, said: “We have a really good community going in Birmingham and are hoping to do the same here.

“Carers are so isolated, particularly during the past 18 months, when many of the respite and other support services they rely on have been suspended.”

The couple welcome donations of clothing, shoes and other household items for the new shop.

And if something is torn or has a button missing, people can still take it in, as it can be sold on for recycling.

According to the National Autistic Society, one in 100 people are on the autism spectrum and there are around 700,000 autistic adults and children in the UK.

One third of these have a learning disability but many more have difficulty understanding others’ feelings and intentions and expressing their own emotions.

Because of this, they may seem insensitive or to act ‘strangely’.

Lisa, whose sons are now aged 18 and 22, said: “When someone with autism doesn’t make eye contact during a conversation and is looking around the room instead, neuro-typical people might think they’re not interested in what’s being said to them, or they’re just being rude.”

She added: “And if a six-foot-tall 15-year-old has a meltdown in a supermarket and is flapping his arms or making noises, that can start people tutting or making cruel comments.”

Support groups are vital for parents and carers of people with autism, Lisa explained.

“It’s massively important because it can impact on carers in terms of their physical and mental health. Some people I know are too scared to go shopping or out anywhere with their autistic child,” she said.

“To come and speak to like-minded people and know you’re not the only one in that position is a huge relief. Often, people just want to chat to others who understand. And if your child starts rolling around on the floor or doing something, nobody is going to be making comments.”

She added: “The Autism Shop will be a safe place for autistic people of all ages and their parents and carers. Our message is: ‘We’re here for people like you and we want you to feel comfortable in our shop’.”

Lisa and Peter are keen to hear suggestions from Stratford residents about what services and support are most needed.

Anyone wanting to donate to the shop, or find out more about the support groups, can email Lisa and Peter at: autismshop2021@gmail.com.

What are the symptoms of autism?

According to the NHS, autistic people quite often have difficulties communicating and interacting with others. This might include:

Finding it hard to interpret verbal and non-verbal language such as gestures or tone of voice.

Some autistic people are unable to speak or have limited speech, while others have very good language skills but struggle to understand sarcasm or tone of voice.

Other challenges include taking things literally and not understanding abstract concepts, needing extra time to process information or answer questions, or repeating what others say to them.

Famous people with autism include wildlife presenter Chris Packham, Apple founder Steve Jobs and model and Housewives of Cheshire star Christine McGuinness.

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