Mental Health Minister Clare Haughey visited Asda’s Blantyre store to see how Happy Little Helpers lists are making shopping easier for children with learning and communication difficulties.
The minister heard from Asda colleagues about the customers’ experience of the free Makaton shopping aids, which are now available across Asda’s store estate.
Customers have found that the brightly-coloured boards capture children’s interest and help to give them a purpose and responsibility during a shopping trip, making the experience more fun and less stressful for both parent and child.
Makaton is a unique language programme, using symbols and signs for objects to help children ask for items they want, but might struggle to communicate verbally. It helps develop a range of communication skills including, understanding, attention, listening, recall and organisation of language.
Created by Asda colleague Jenny Barnett, whose son has non-verbal autism, the Happy Little Helper shopping lists feature a whole range of products from milk and eggs to bread and bananas that can be added to the list then ticked off when they go in the trolley.
Mental Health Minister Clare Haughey, said:
“It was great to visit the Blantyre store to hear about the Happy Little Helpers boards which are helping to make a real difference for families. It is so important that children with learning and communication difficulties are able to have a voice, express their feelings and not feel overwhelmed by the shopping experience.”
Asda Blantyre store manager, Gillian Dillon, said: “The aim of the new boards and symbols is to make shopping that little bit easier for Makaton users, so I was delighted with the positive feedback from the Minister. Asda is proud to be the first major UK supermarket chain to offer Makaton nationwide.
“Any shoppers who would like to try out the shopping lists should visit the customer services desk in store on arrival, and a colleague will be able to advise on how to borrow a board and symbols for use throughout their shop.”
Though originally designed for children with autism, the Happy Little Helpers lists are available to all children and adults. The board also has a clip so it can be easily fastened to a trolley during a shop.
There are now further moves to help shoppers with learning and communication difficulties in the works. Building on the success of Happy Little Helpers lists, Asda has begun working with The Makaton Charity to make stores even more accessible.
Stephen Hall, chief executive of The Makaton Charity, said: “We are thrilled that Asda are incorporating Makaton into their stores. The Makaton Friendly scheme, which recognises establishments of all kinds where Makaton users will feel comfortable, is going from strength to strength.
“We are working with schools, emergency services, attractions, retail and hospitality outlets including many well-known brands. This ensures that the excellent work done by organisations such as Asda continues within the community so that all customers feel welcome.”