Parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder often struggle with taking their children out in the community. With proper planning and some practice, a parent can be more successful with making trips to places like the grocery store. The following are general tips that may help parents manage these outings.
The overall strategy is to get the children involved in the process as much as possible. Not only is it an opportunity to make it a teaching situation for the child, but it is also an opportunity to keep them busy and prevent any possible disruptive behavior. When you go to the grocery store, have a plan not only for what you need but also the best ways to make the trip successful.When you have a child on the Autism Spectrum, grocery store trips can be hard. They don’t have to be. Learn how to make each grocery trip a successful one here! #StepsToProgress Click To Tweet
Consider Using External Rewards
Consider whether you need external rewards for your child. Rewards may need to be immediate for some kids while for other kids they can be delayed. Also, think about the route you want to take while in the grocery store. If your child is likely to get distracted on some aisles that contain preferred snacks, avoid those aisles at the beginning of the trip.
Grocery Shopping Tasks
Think of the skills your child possesses that can be utilized and practiced during the trip. Younger children may be able to help gather produce or other items. They may be able to retrieve the plastic bags for the produce and work on their fine motor skills by opening the bags. They can either assist or work independently in getting certain items like fruits and vegetables. This is also a good opportunity to work on counting. Older children may be able to work on weighing things.
With other items, you may also be able to work on your child’s receptive skills, joint attention, and retrieving skills. For example, you may be able to tell a child with strong receptive language to go and get sugar when you are in the correct aisle. If perhaps they do not have the receptive skills or don’t know which one to get, you can point to the sugar bag and have them get it, then put it in the basket.
Take Pictures of Your Products
For older kids, you can make a grocery list and work on them checking items off as you are gathering them. We all know that items are not generic, and everyone has a special brand that they want to purchase. Parents can take pictures on their phones of the brands they buy prior to leaving for the grocery store. For example, have your child take a picture of the toothpaste, deodorant, cereal boxes, etc. then, when they are in the store, they can match the photo to the item.
If you have a child who is verbal and is working on communication skills with others, have them go up to the deli section and place the order for your deli meat. You can even write it down for them so they have something to reference.
When you get to the check-out lane, which happens to be where most of the tempting items are, have them assist with loading items onto the belt, or better yet, pick a self-checkout lane and have them scan the items. Most kids love scanning the items at checkout.
Finally, consider whether you need an external reinforcer and what the reinforcer might be. Also, determine whether it needs to be an immediate reinforcer or whether it can be delayed. For instance, for some kids, you may take some edible reinforcers to provide to them throughout the trip, while others may earn points to get something afterward. For instance, you can have a child earn a specific number of minutes on electronics based on their performance at the grocery store, or be eligible to go get ice cream after.
We hope that these ideas will help you and your child make your next grocery shopping trip both successful and fun. Contact us for more information on taking your child to the grocery store. Happy shopping!