Friday, February 27, 2015

Autism in the Grocery Store

So a combo of things today contributed to this post. I'm following a page on Facebook that gives long posts about certain aspects of ASD. A post today talked about punishing during meltdowns or because of meltdowns. 
And, today we were in the grocery store, and my son was running all over the place, just out of control tearing around the store. He appeared to be playing with his sister, who proceeded to call out his name over and over (and I can't even tell you how adorable she sounded doing it! I have to get this on video!).

Anyway, I just took it in stride. (It's okay, it is a VERY small town, and a very small grocery store and it was not busy today. And the people in the store know where he belongs. ;) ) 

Anyway, when we got in the car, and he was calmed down a bit and quiet I asked him sweetly, "So, when you're running around the store like that, what is going on? Why do you do that?" 
His simple answer: "It's just so darn loud in there."

I could have punished his running around behavior. It was his "meltdown", but it was slightly annoying. In fact, I have yelled at him for this behavior. I get very stressed and distracted when I am worried about him tearing all over the place. This makes shopping take longer, and I hate that. Every time I get interrupted I have to start over again, look back at the list, or recount what I'm picking up or whatever.

 This is only the millionth time that this has happened (which is probably why I take it in stride, especially after he got really lost in a larger grocery store not long ago!). He knows what to do when he gets lost, and like I said, this was our more local store, so it was very small and very slow at the time we were there. So I wasn't concerned for his safety, because I knew he was safe there.

If I had punished him, he would have only become more anxious. He was being driven crazy by all the sounds, the lights (he hears lights), the running coolers and freezers, the people stocking and talking and the music playing and everything. He got crazy and harmlessly ran all around. No one got hurt, and I got to hear his little sister repeatedly say his name so cutely... it was adorable.

When I punished him for these things that are really out of his control (for the most part), then the next time he encountered those sensory nightmares, he would no doubt have some stress about feeling safe releasing his tension about all the sensory input he was receiving. Maybe he wouldn't tear all over the store, but he would argue, or constantly talk and interrupt me trying to shop, or try to ride on or push the cart, or start putting random food in the cart. I think when given the choice, the running around was the least distracting of the options I have.

Often he does sit in the car when I go in. Again, we live in a very small town, and I do leave my phone with him just in case. And I do lock him in most of the time, because why not. 

But that isn't always possible. (And to be honest today he said he was staying in the car, then changed his mind as I was getting his sister out so I actually forgot the keys in the car, thank goodness I didn't lock the doors!)

However, next time he has to go in? He needs to wear his sound blocking headphones. He might not be able to hear me well, but at least he can be calm when he wears them.

I have tried other things like trying to get him to hold the list while we shop so that he can tell me what we need next and stuff. I have tried giving him the job of getting the goods into the cart. Sometimes he gets one of those kid carts, but most of the time that is a whole other nightmare in itself. Either way, those things don't help him stay calm, and I usually end up just saying forget it and he's off wandering or something.

It isn't a walk in the park. But from what I have experienced, it is better to assume the best instead of the worst. It is better to assume he is having a problem dealing with being in town or whatever, than to think he is purposely going out of his way to distract me, make me mad, or be a jerk (can you believe some parents actually say that about their children!?!).

It is always better to love than to correct. When you love first, then people want to please you. When you love first, then people want to make you happy with them. If it weren't for the love of people in my life, I probably would have been one messed up kid. Even if sometimes it felt as if there was only one person in my life, pleasing them was such a good feeling that it kept me going. 

So. What kind of grocery store tips do YOU have for ASD? 

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