As your autistic child matures and develops into an adolescent it is important that you begin to prepare them for adult life. Simple tasks like going grocery shopping can be difficult for many kids with autism because of the sensory overload that accompanies visiting a large supermarket. However, there are steps that you can take to make grocery shopping accessible for your autistic child.
Social Stories for Grocery Shopping
The first step in introducing the activity of grocery shopping to your autistic child is to develop a social story on grocery shopping. A social story is a picture book that explains, step-by-step, what is involved in an activity. For your grocery shopping social story you will need pictures of the store, food items, the people that will be encountered and a picture of how you will be getting to the store. Next you will want to assemble the storybook to show each step required for going to the grocery store, selecting the items you need, paying for the items and leaving the store to come home. After your social story has been constructed you will need to go over the story with your child several times. You will also bring the book with you on your trip.
Make a Visual Shopping List
The first trips that you take with your child to the grocery store will be quick. You will start off with buying just one item and gradually build up to a larger shopping list. For your first trip you will want to print out a picture of the item that you need, such as a picture of a gallon of milk. This is your target item.
Talk With the Store Ahead of Time
Most supermarkets are going to be accommodating when it comes to helping you with acclimating your autistic child to grocery shopping. Before you can take pictures in a store for your social storybook you will need to get permission from the store’s manager. When you talk to them tell them what you are trying to do and see if they have any ideas for when the best time to visit will be, low traffic times. Then let them know when you will be visiting so that they can assist you if you need help.
Make It a Game
Most kids with autism don’t like to do something unless they find it interesting. To make grocery shopping interesting and worth their attention, make it a game. The first part of the game will be identifying the target item, or the item on your shopping list. You will give them their picture and head for the grocery store. Once inside try to keep your child’ focus on finding the item and checking out. You may want to select an item that is found close to the front of the store on your first visits. Have your child pick out the item and head immediately to the check out. Use the social story to walk them through the check out process. Once completed give them a high five and head back to the comfort of your vehicle.
Once your child realizes that going to the grocery store can be fun and lucrative for them, they will be more willing to go.