Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Stress of the Supermarket

I should know better by now than to visit a supermarket with my kids in the holidays – tantrums will start in the shop followed by meltdowns at home.  I do the weekly shop of an evening in the holidays, but sometimes I need to pop in for the odd item when I have the kids with me. 

All children want to buy something when they go into a shop and as parents we expect it to be a stressful time.  I generally warn mine that I’m not buying them anything before we enter the shop, but they still whine and badger me the whole trip.  Then there’s fighting over who will push the trolley or carry the basket.  It’s impossible to go in a shop with kids and just hold items – they have a need to push/carry them around.  Some shops now have baskets that you can push like trolleys and I can guarantee my kids will ram it into the back of one another or someone else if I’m really unlucky.

Supermarkets can be overwhelming for anyone, with so much choice available.  If you have ASD, going into a supermarket can cause sensory overload.  The fluorescent lighting can be too stimulating, shelves packed with colourful packages may be too much of a distraction and they are generally crowded and noisy places to be in.  Queuing is a hard concept to understand if you struggle with social expectations.  Automatic doors at the entrance can be captivating for some as they like to watch the repetitive action, whilst others find them a source of distress.  Our youngest son used to spend the whole time screaming at them as he didn’t like them opening and closing all the time.  This has improved as he has got older.

I tend to stick to the same supermarkets now, so that our children know where the aisles are and if I take them with me, I only go in for a few items so that we can do a quick in and out of the shop.  I attempt to use self service tills to save queuing but this can cause extra hassle as our youngest son will insist on sitting on the place where the bags are supposed to go.  It ends up taking twice as long as we continually need assistance to get rid of the error messages on the screen.   Even though we go through this process each time and he gets frustrated, he still insists on sitting down and causing the same problem on every visit.  I prefer to use the self service tills though, as our son doesn’t like people talking to him and will go mute if we go to a normal till. 

Trips to the supermarket have improved though, as in the past our youngest son has pulled items of shelves, yanked my ear-rings out of my ears, sat on the floor screaming and refused to move.   Then when I got him back to the car, he would make his body go rigid, so that he couldn’t be put in his car seat.  I’ve stood out in a car park before for 45 minutes waiting for him to calm down, so that I can put him into his car seat.  He still gets anxious if we are in there too long, so we try and make the trips short. 

Going to a supermarket though is a skill he needs to learn for the future, so it’s something we will persevere with and as he gets older, hopefully he will develop more coping strategies.  His sister has certainly got better as she has got older, although I could do without her shouting out of my pin number when I’m paying! 

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