My Small World is a toy shop in Bath that is doing big things for their customers with autism as well as the parents of children with autism by creating a friendly play space. The process starts outside the shop, with an “A-board” that lets guests know that they understand that certain kinds of stimulation can be overwhelming for those with autism, and so the space can be customized to suit their needs.
It reads: “We are proudly ASD friendly. We can turn down the music, turn down the lights, and give you space to be you.” Underneath, it continues to assure guests that at My Small World, they “never, ever worry about: exciting play, noise, outbursts, or meltdowns.”
The resident expert is a shop worker named Romilly, who is also autistic. She uses her insight to continue making My Small World an autism-friendly space. According to Romilly, having the A-board “takes the anxiety away,” as well as “all the what-ifs” that come with navigating autism in common public areas.
Shop owner Dawn Burden says that, as a parent of an autistic child, “you worry all the time what people are thinking of your child because you know that they’re not naughty. You know they’re just being themselves, and sometimes they can be really overwhelmed.”
Romilly says that she can see the positive impact that the shop has on autistic children who come in. She recalls meeting a young girl who “had never, ever met an adult woman in a workplace who was autistic.” Romilly says that to meet “someone [autistic] who is grown-up, and is working, and is out amongst other people,” gave the girl so much joy that she “automatically ran up to [her] and gave [her] a high five.”
Romilly hopes that more public spaces will be inspired by My Small World to take steps to consider their autistic clientele, too. She certainly wishes that there had been a store that catered to her needs, “and [she doesn’t] see why more places like this can’t be around now.”