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Volume 109

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Hi, I’m Craig Kendall, the author of The Asperger’s Syndrome Survival Guide. In today’s issue we will discuss…

  10 Success Tips when Shopping with a Child with Autism

Have you tried taking your child to the store and then had a full blown tantrum because he/she could not get that Angry Birds toy or that Barbie DVD? Did your child exhibit a full blow tantrum behavior, falling to the floor, crying and screaming? Did you cringe when all the employees and customers at the store stared at you, mouths and eyes wide opened? Did you want to just purchase that toy or DVD to avoid embarrassment?

If you have answered yes to these questions, then congratulations, you are not alone.

Teaching Your Autism Child – You can’t always get what you want!

Not getting the item of choice for a child can be devastating but for a child with Autism, taking them to a store can be challenging for many parents.  It is important to teach a child with autism what is called “relinquishing a preferred item” or just plain old “you can’t always get what you want!”

Here are four handy tips to consider before arriving at the store:

  1. Preparation: Plan a date in the future for your next store trip. Ideally, the trip would take place during the week where stores are more likely to be less crowded. If your child is currently in school, take a look at their school calendar with any upcoming days off from school. These days are ideal to plan your next trip with your child.
  2. Choose a prize: What does your child like? What would be a reward your child could receive after your trip to the store? Remember, this prize does not have to be big. It could be an ice cream, piece of candy, a sticker, etc. It does need to be accessible though so keep that in mind when deciding what prize/reward would be appropriate for your child.
  3. Draw a picture: Having a visual representation of what will happen will help your child to anticipate the trip to the store. For example, you can draw “First Target (with the target symbol), Then Ice Cream (with an ice cream cone).”  This is just one example. Tailor it to fit the needs to your child.
  4. Have a timer:If you have one of those smart phones, you can access a timer. Pick an alarm that is not too harsh.

Once you are at the store, make sure that you do the following:

  1. Take your time. Walk around the store as much as you can before heading over to the DVD or toy area. This will work on having your child delay access to seeing the item that they want.
  2. Let your child browse. Allow your child to browse the toy section or the DVD section or whatever section is wanted. This is normal for any child to want to see the area where all of their favorite items are held.
  3. Set the timer on your phone. You can start off with anywhere from 5 minutes to 30 seconds. You can start off with a longer amount of time and gradually decrease it down with future store visits.
  4. Leave when the timer rings. Once the alarm goes off, tell your child it’s time to leave the area. At this point, he or she may be kicking or screaming but it is important to remind them “Toys/DVD’s are all done.” “First, let’s go outside/leave the store THEN you get XXX.”
  5. No purchasing once timer rings. It is important that once the alarm goes off, you do not allow your child to purchase the item. Again, the goal is that your child will not always expect to leave the store with a toy/DVD etc.
  6. Shower with praise. Once your child leaves the stores and is calm, verbally praise them for leaving the store and then he/she can receive their prize (which you should have available in your purse or pocket!).

The key to success are the 3 P’s:

Keeping these things in mind will help you as you teach your child with Autism that old adage, “You can’t always get what you want.” And hopefully, future store trips will be less of struggle. And for more information to help your child live a happy and fulfilling life, see The Asperger’s Syndrome Survival Guide.

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