Grocery Store Success

Let’s face it mamas (and dads too)! Going to the grocery store is so much easier when you can go alone. It’s amazing what you can get done with 30 minutes of uninterrupted time. However, going to the grocery store is a life-skill that can truly benefit your child. So here are some quick and easy tips you can try to make this excursion a bit more bearable.

  1. Make a grocery list before you go. Have your child contribute to this list. S/he can draw pictures to accompany the words, or together you can find images that represent the food items.
  2. Encourage your child to check off the items on the grocery list as you find each food in the store. When he can contribute to this excursion, he will better understand the purpose of the activity.
  3. Let your child pay for the groceries. You can either have cash available ahead of time, or let him put the card in the card reader. Again, when your child feels included, it can make things much easier for everyone.
  4. Let your child know how long you will be shopping for and stick to that time limit. You can set a timer so that your child knows what to expect. When he has a clear vision of expectations, stressful situations can be eliminated.
  5. Have a sensory tool kit with you in your purse. Include: headphones (if the sounds are overwhelming), edible treats, sunglasses (if the lights bother him), squeeze balls, and other sensory tangible items.
  6. Use a visual schedule and show your child what will be happening after the grocery store. If this outing is challenging, be sure to place an image of something rewarding after the grocery store. This can be a food reward, watching a show on the iPad, or even going to the park.
  7. Create visual rules so he knows what to expect. Different places have different rules. If you expect your child to hold onto the cart, then write that down. If you want your child to stay close instead of taking off down the aisle, then write that down too. Review these rules in the car on the way to the store, and then again inside the store.
  8. Provide positive reinforcement throughout the adventure. Let your child know that he is doing a great job. Give him lots of praise and high-fives.
  9. Have a plan in place in the event that your child melts down. If you have a clear exit strategy, you can stay calmer and more collected. If you know that your child may fall to the floor screaming, then plan for this ahead of time. What do you usually use to redirect him? Perhaps you can immediately guide him to the car for some cool-down time.

Going to the grocery store may not be easy, but think about all of the skills you are teaching him. He is learning how to: be part of his local community, find items on a list, contribute to his family, complete an important task and so much more.

While it’s essential to respect your child’s sensory needs, try not to let a meltdown stop you in your tracks. Take a deep breath, honor both of your efforts, and try again another day. The only way your child is going to learn how to handle an overwhelming challenge is to provide him with the experience and the chance to be successful. As long as you have tools in place to help him succeed, you both can persevere.

You’ve got this!

P.S. Social skills can be tricky, but getting out in the community is a great starting point. For more guidance and suggestions on social skills, check out our Awesome Autism Activities group for parents.

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