In our focus groups we found six themes that appear to influence how easily accessible public spaces such as supermarkets are for people with sensory processing difficulties. You can read more about each theme and how we used these to create our ‘sensory web’ on our page about principles of sensory environments.
We also found that several of these themes reflected the views of autistic children from a discussion group held at Queensmill school. We wanted to learn whether these were also found in the answers to the eleven questions we asked on social media.
Did people identify the same places as being enabling/disabling in our social media posts and focus groups?
Yes! While there were differences in the order that different locations appeared and the exact places people discussed, we saw the same places being mentioned over and over again.
Both the focus groups and social media posts found that supermarkets and eateries (such as pubs, cafes, and restaurants) were the two most challenging public spaces to be in. They also both identified outdoor spaces such as public parks, gardens and forests/woodland are the most easily accessible location. Read more about which locations were identified on our page comparing the locations reported on social media and in our focus groups.
Did we find the same themes in our focus groups and social media posts?
While we didn’t find evidence of every subtheme from the focus groups, we found that every theme we identified resonated with the experiences and views of people who answered questions on our social media pages.
Both groups identified that the sensory landscape (or sensoryscape) of a location can impact on how easy a space is to be in. Places with multiple overlapping inputs such as different smells and sounds are often particularly difficult to cope with. Locations can often be unpredictable and may change layout or products without warning, and this disruption to people’s routines can also make these spaces harder to cope with.
People reported in both groups that they worry about being judged by other people and that there is a lack of understanding about autism and sensory processing. Learn more about each theme at our page comparing the social media and focus groups themes.
Across our discussion group, focus groups and social media posts people highlighted a lack of understanding about autism/sensory processing difficulties in the general public. They also identified that adaptations and adjustments can often feel tokenistic rather than helpful. It shows that changes to support autistic people need to take into consideration what autistic people really want and to ensure that these changes reflect people’s diverse experiences and perspectives.
Want to learn more about what we found? Check out our page on our social media analysis for more information.