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Volume 102

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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…

Asperger’s Syndrome in Children –
8 Tips for Teaching your Child How to Shop

Shopping can be much more complicated when you combine it with Asperger’s Syndrome in children. It may seem like such a simple thing for most of us to do. Yes, it may be a pain to take time out of your day to actually do it, or to drive to the store and deal with the crowds, but we’ve got most of the mechanics of it down. We know how to do it in an effective manner without having to think much about it. So how do you teach shopping skills when you have Asperger’s Syndrome in children?

The answer it to start early. You can teach certain shopping skills at an early age, and gradually build on them so that your child masters this skill in no time.

Here are some concepts you can start to teach your child about

1. Make a list

First, figure out what you need. Keep a running list of things you need in the house, or else teach your child how to figure out what you’re out of. Tell him that it is important to have a list before you go to the store so that you only buy what you need, and aren’t distracted by impulse buys that you don’t need.

2. Coupons and Sales

Show your child the coupons that come in the Sunday paper, and how to use them. When in the store, teach him to be aware of things that are on sale versus things that aren’t. This doesn’t mean you should buy something that you don’t need just because it’s on sale, but if it’s something comparable to what you were going to buy, then it might be a good idea.

Teach your child with Asperger’s syndrome the difference between store brands and name brands. The name brand might get more advertising and might be more familiar, but the store brand is usually just as good and cheaper. Encourage your child to get store brands when possible.

3. What if the store is out of what you want?

When you are dealing with Asperger’s Syndrome in children, they can be very attached to plans made ahead of time. So, say you make a list and you want to get Kraft macaroni and cheese, but they are out of Kraft macaroni and cheese. What do you do? How do you prevent your child from having a meltdown from this change of plans?

The most obvious answer is buy a different brand. But what if there was a mad rush on macaroni and cheese and there is nothing else suitable? Help your child come up with other options. Another kind of pasta, buying it in a few days when it is back in stock, focusing on an item they bought that they like, etc. Perhaps going to another store if one is close enough and it is feasible with time, energy and transportation constraints. 

This scenario is probably more likely with a particular kind of fruit or something more perishable. When shopping with a child with Asperger’s syndrome, missing one thing can throw off your whole day, however, so it is important to be prepared.

4. Teach Budgeting and the Danger of Impulse Buying

We all know how hard it is to avoid buying something that looks good just because it, well, looks good. Very few people are immune to this phenomenon. Teach your child early how to budget. Explain to them that you only have a certain amount of money to spend per shopping trip (this is assuming grocery shopping), and that you have to get everything you need within that amount.

If there is enough left over, he is allowed one impulse buy (within a certain price frame). Allowing one small impulse buy will hopefully curb the desire for more and make your child think hard about what they really want. Tell him to stick to the list first which works well with children with Asperger’s syndrome because they are typically very rules and routine driven.

5. Staying Calm While in Line or Waiting

One of the hardest parts of shopping when you are working with Asperger’s Syndrome in children is their difficulty with waiting. Add the closed, confined space of a check-out line and you can really have a nightmare. It is so stressful for children with Asperger’s Syndrome to have to deal with all the sensory stimuli of a grocery store with nothing to distract them.

Teach them to look through a magazine, bring a MP3 player or headphones to block the noise, play mental games in their head, or other means of distraction in order to get through lines. If they are with another person, making conversation is a good way to pass the time, provided there is not too much distraction.

6. Planning a Balanced Diet

Of course, you don’t want to buy just anything when you’re there, even if you do have a list. Teach your child the basics of planning healthy meals, so that they have some idea of what to put on a grocery list in the first place. Again, recognize that people with Asperger’s syndrome are very rules based and feel safe following routine. Once you establish a routine of healthy eating, your child will likely want to follow this plan.

7. Save receipts

Teach your child to save receipts, so they will be able to return something if they got the wrong item or there is a defect in the item. Make sure they double check the amount before they leave the store.

8. How to get there?

When they get older, you will want to teach your child or young adult about public transportation options, walking or biking to get to stores (assuming they do not yet drive). Make sure they have a cell phone to call you if something goes wrong. Also try to encourage them to go at hours where the store is less likely to be busy. Try to have them choose stores where the prices are more likely to fit their budget, also, if they are able to get to them.

If you teach your child these skills early, they will become a responsible and effective shopper later in life. Things often take longer when you have Asperger’s Syndrome in children, but it is always worth the wait.

And for additional tips and advice on how to raise a happy and successful child with Asperger’s syndrome see The Asperger’s Syndrome Survival Guide. There you can benefit from suggestions gleaned from parents and professionals who have experience raising children on the autism spectrum.

2 Responses to Asperger’s Syndrome in Children – 8 Tips to Teach your Child How to Shop 102

  1. kelly says:

    Hi, My asperger’s daughter is 13 years old.
    I have taught her about coupons, sales, and lists. The problem is that when she makes a
    list, she is very brand specific. She refuses to substitute brands. Nothing tastes up to the product she wants. That is what causes a meltdown.
    Also, clothes shopping. She will want new everything. Once she wears something, the texture changes and she wants a new shirt or pants. Right now, I refuse to buy her new jeans as she has a huge pile she picked out months ago and refuses to wear. So she is wearing shorts to school until I break down
    and buy her more jeans. I am holding firm
    on not buying her anything more. Her poor sister has hand me downs jeans to take her through a long time with no end in sight.
    She also has a problem with the music in stores. It gives her a headache. I need to
    feed her before we go to a grocery store or she will go crazy in the store.
    Hope maybe someone out there is having these problems, too; and now does not feel alone.

    • Marianne Bernaldo says:

      Hi Kelly,

      You are definitely not alone; there a many children on the spectrum who have flexibility/rigidity issues especially with wanting a very specific brand. It sounds like you are doing the best that you can, based on your post especially since you are holding firm in regards to buying her new clothes since she will not wear them. And by feeding her before you go into a loud environment that’s overstimulating, you are being proactive so that she can get through the store outing. Again, you are not alone.

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