Grocery shopping with a child can be tough at the best of times, however, when your child has Asperger’s or Autism, it adds a whole other level of challenges!
ASD children can be particularly sensitive to stimuli including sight, sound and smell. The bright lights and noises of shopping centres can lead to meltdowns, and the smells can be overbearing.
If possible, take your child shopping during less busy times of the day. Also keep yourself well prepared, bringing along items you know will keep them calm, or help to calm them should they not cope well.
Constantly talk to your child to reassure them and have them hold weighty objects, or place shopping items on their lap as you go around the store. This helps them to feel grounded and aids the stimulation of necessary touch sensors, providing a “weights” workout.
Choosing food can be difficult, particularly in fresh food markets, where smells can be extremely powerful to your child. Having them in charge of the list, if they are up to it, helps, as does the holding and carrying of items. Allowing them to explore different food textures with their hands stimulates the touch sensors. This is particularly applicable with fruits and vegetables, for example, as they have unusual or highly textured skins.
Let them be as involved as they need to be, whilst also monitoring their handling of items and how well they are coping with the environment. Introducing them to the shopping experience by taking them on short trips can lay strong foundations for the bigger trips, so taking the time to do this can make a significant difference to their experience and yours.
Little things, like simply allowing them to push the trolley, with its weight and vibrations, can be enough to keep them calm. Remember, work with your child and their needs.
Mostly – enjoy!