Shopping is a normal “everyday” activity; we think nothing of hopping on a bus or in the car and going to the shop.
However, this normal everyday activity can be a complete nightmare to children with autism and autistic parents.
Autism spectrum disorder is a disorder affecting the brain and social development of the individual on the autism spectrum disorder scale.
If your child is on the autism spectrum disorder scale taking them shopping can be stressful and will need careful planning.
Children with autism are very sensitive to stimuli affecting, touch, smell, light and sound; making shopping an anxious and often painful experience.
Things we do not even notice like the strip lights in the shop, or spotlights above some displays can hurt their eyes. The bright lights in the fridges or flashing signs can all be autism anxiety triggers.
The smell of the shop, the fresh food display, aromas from perfumes, soaps, deodorant and the smell from a flower stand. Smell of the stale air in the shopping mall, the smell of the perfume the lady at the checkout is wearing; the aftershave of the man behind you, the smell of the gum the little girl in front of you is chewing. The smell from the bakers shop to us tempting and yummy to an autistic child can all be autism anxiety triggers.
The sound of the checkout, the loud speakers, people chatting, a shrill laugh, the drone of the escalator, the ping of the lift, children laughing, giggling a baby crying, a mobile phone ring all normal noises we shut out and put into the background.
But to an autistic child these noises can be overwhelming and frightening.
Children with autism don’t process sensations in the same way we do and although to us these normal everyday sounds are ok to them they can be dreadful.
Touch is a big issue also with children with autism, some autistic children do not like being touched, and in a busy bustling shop sometimes this can not be avoided!
As a parent your child’s safety is always your first thought; in a busy supermarket, what do you do when that child won’t let you hold their hand? How do you keep that child safe?
Autistic children are sensitive to touch; they may dislike rough material, silky material, and bubbly feeling fabric. They may dislike the feel of the chair in the cafe or the cold metal table.
The journey to the shop on the bus the uncomfortable fabric of the seat the sound of the engine the lights the buzzer the chatter the laughter, a mum telling of her child, a cry a mobile phone ring all can cause autistic anxiety triggers.
So how are you going to make this normal everyday activity less stressful and painful for your child?
A good starting point is to have these autistic anxiety triggers in mind before setting out on a shopping trip, choose a less busy day, and prepare your child for the trip.
A good place to begin is with social stories for children with autism. Social stories are an excellent autism resource for teaching social skills like “I can go shopping” to an autistic child-giving clear focus to the key points the autism social skills story will focus on the main points and give clear instruction on how, why, where and when we shop.
Helping the child make sense and feel more comfortable with the shopping trip, a good social skills story will prepare the autistic child for the shopping trip and find coping strategies and methods of dealing with the anxious moments and fears the autistic child will have.
Autistic parents use social stories for children with autism going shopping as well as other stories to help their child cope with social skills, personal care, events and all of life’s normal and not so normal happenings and situations.
Download this autism resource social stories for children with autism going shopping and other autism social skills stories from
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