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Children affected by autism spectrum disorders find solace at Toys R Us’s “quiet hour”

To kids affected by autism spectrum disorders, bright lights and loud noises can be painfully overwhelming. That’s why multinational chain retailer Toys R Us’s newly introduced “quiet hours” are making a huge difference to these children and their families.

In November, Toys R Us stores across the UK piloted an effort to open one hour earlier as part of a pre-Christmas event. Lights dimmed, music was switched off and announcements were withheld for the event, allowing customers to browse toys in a calm environment.

“Making slight adjustments to stores and creating a ‘quiet’ shopping period allows children and young adults to experience the fun in a toy shop regardless of their disability,” the chain’s marketing director said.

The one-off initiative was well-received by the community and many are calling for this to be done more regularly.

One mother of an autistic child said on Facebook that the event was “brilliant”, and she “had no idea what a difference low-lighting could make”. Another remarked a “complete change in behavior” of her son and thanked the retailer for their inclusivity.

Toys R Us is not the first to head such an event. UK supermarket giant Asda in Manchester Fort began a “quiet hours” initiative for shoppers affected by autism, and inspired eight other outlets to do the same. Toys R Us stores in America, where the retailer is based, is also looking into this.

Launching a “quiet hours” initiative costs little to shops, but simply lowering noise and turning down the lights can make a world of a difference to shoppers affected by autism. Toys R Us’s efforts are a start, and we hope to see more stores around the world doing the same.

Free app ‘Refugeye’ helps refugees break down language barriers and focus on getting the help they need

When refugees arrive in a host country, the language barrier make it difficult for them to articulate their circumstances to NGOs and social service groups. The process of getting the help they need is thus long and hard, coupled with the frustration that they aren’t being understood.

With this in mind, Design & Human created Refugeye, an app to facilitate better communication and understanding between refugees and the people of their host country.

The free app offers over 150 icons, each one unique and simple. General icons include the logo for UNHCR (United Nations High Commisioner for Refugees), a passport and a house. More specific ones, for example a figure holding out his wrists to another indicates arrest and a figure carrying a bindle to represents homelessness, can help refugees get their stories across precisely.

Users can also use the pen tool to draw on the icons themselves, their screen essentially becoming a canvas for them to illustrate what they would otherwise have a hard time trying to get across. Illustrations can be saved as images to be used in future.

Refugeye is indeed a simple and creative solution for refugees; with the app, they can focus on getting the help they need so they can settle down in their host country as quickly as possible instead of worrying about being misunderstood.

Scrooge the Ticket: Residents in Ontario town to donate instead of paying parking fines

Traffic police in the Ontario town of Innisfil are inviting drivers to “scrooge the ticket” this holiday season by donating to a local food bank instead of paying off their parking tickets.

Last year, the first “Scrooge the Ticket” initiative was a huge success, collecting over USD 1,200 worth of toys, food and gift cards. This year, Innisfil is running it again: up till December 9, those who have been slapped with a parking ticket can opt to bring items of an equal or greater value than their fine to the town hall. Donations go to the Innisfil Community Church’s Christmas Outreach Program.

Innisfil isn’t the first to implement such an initiative. In America, cities in Colorado, Virginia and Kentucky have allowed parking violators to pay their fines with a donation to the food pantry.

The inventive idea makes a not-so-fun activity – paying a parking ticket fine – a gentle reminder that we can all do our part to contribute to the lives of those who are less fortunate. Residents who haven’t received a parking ticket are welcome to donate as well.

“No one likes to get a parking ticket, but this is a thoughtful way to have our residents give generously to a great cause leading into the holiday season,” Mayor Gord Wauchope said.

Penny & Roo: a story of an unlikely friendship between a rescued Chihuahua and Chicken

Who can resist these two cute balls of fur? Meet Penny, the chicken and Roo the Chihuahua  - defying any animal kingdom preconceptions us humans might have.

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Abandoned in a ditch and previously rescued from a testing facility respectively, (flashbacks from Legally Blond 2 anyone?) these two have since become the best of friends. Not only do they enjoy each other’s company but a happy mother and new home.

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This story was first highlighted by @DodoImpact, a place in their words, that exists "For animal people who want to make a difference.” For more incredible content on the beautiful animals we share this world with, check out @DodoImpact. Share their stories, enjoy their videos, and next time you see a dog and a chicken - have a second thought before separating them, they might be friends.

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Any readers out there thinking of getting a pet, maybe consider adopting -you could be rewriting the stories of precious animals like Penny and Roo here. Any adopters out there who have stories to share - we’d love to hear them! Tag @givoglobal, PM us, or contact us at our website www.givo.global and we might just feature you.

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Photo credits to @rooandpennychicken

Video credits to @DodoImpact