SHOPS in Carlisle and west Cumbria will turn down the decibels and dim their lights as they join hundreds of others across the UK participating in Autism Hour this week.

As well as more subtle sound and lighting staff in the stores will also be provided with information on autism to help them understand the issues faced by autistic customers.

Some of the stores taking part in this year's special week - which started on Saturday and runs until October 12 include: Schuh, Superdrug, Halifax, Home Bargains, Clarks, CeX, Sainsbury's, Coop, The Entertainer, Tesco, Lloyds Bank, Asda and Shoe Zone.

Some of these stores will switch off their music between 9am and 10am. Some already do this each Saturday as a matter of course.

Supermarket chain Morrisons, which has a branch in north Carlisle, does this every week. Staff there also avoid using the tannoy during the hour on Saturday mornings and reduce the amount of movement with trolleys and baskets.

Home Bargains - which has a shop in Earls Lane by the bus station in Carlisle - is holding additional quiet sessions this week.

The store will be quiet between 4pm and 5pm Monday to Friday as well as its usual quiet hour on Saturday morning between 9am and 10am.

A store spokeswoman said: "From October 5 to 12 our stores will be making adjustments to make shopping easier for our autistic customers and their families.

"The times are in addition to our regular Saturday 9am-10am weekly quiet hour."

Stores can help by reducing volume levels, background noises and tannoy announcements; adjusting lighting; and educating staff and customers about autism.

Shopping can be an overwhelming experience for people with autism who see, hear and feel environments differently from others.

Their experiences can be much more intense, and they often find social situations difficult and struggle to filter sounds, sights and smells.

Autistic people can find both noise and lighting in shops overwhelming, particularly fluorescent strip lighting.

The National Autistic Society hopes that participating in Autism Hour will lead to more shops and businesses introducing regular autism-friendly sessions.

A spokesman for the National Autistic Society said: "Our amazing friends at The Entertainer are sponsoring it for a second year and hold Autism Hours every Saturday throughout the year."