Shopping trips can be stressful experiences for your child with autism and the rest of your family. Here are 6 tips to help turn shopping with your autistic child, into a more positive experience for everyone:
1. Shop when it is slow
Try shopping during non-peak times, like in the morning or early evening. The store will be quieter and less crowded, which will help you to be able to navigate the store quickly.
2. Save the best for last
Did your child follow your rules during your shopping trip? Swing by their favorite store or go grab an ice cream cone as the final trip of the day to reinforce their good behavior. (Also, reward yourself for a productive day and grab a coffee or a sweet treat!)
3. Create a social story
Write a story that tells your child what they can except while in the store, where they will be going, and how they are expected to behave while in the store. You can also note in the story a certain reward they will attain for having appropriate behavior in the store. There are several apps that make creating a social story quick and easy, like Social Stories Creator or iCreate Social Skills.
4. Turn shopping into a game
Write a shopping list and give it to your child. They can help look for the item and check it off the list when it is found. Including your child in the shopping process can give them something to do that is incompatible with engaging in problem behavior. Plus, who doesn’t like a treasure hunt?!
5. Make a schedule
Visual schedules can be a great tool to help your child see what it coming next. Create a visual schedule that lists the expected progression of their day to make transitions easier. See our past blog post, Handling Difficult Transitions with Visual Schedules, to see how to go about making one!
6. Have a specific shopping toy
Save a highly preferred toy JUST for shopping trips. Give your child access to this toy only when they are behaving appropriately in the store.