Life Skills for Special Needs Children: Shopping 101, #1

It’s a Friday afternoon, you have a shopping list the length of your arm, but can only go to the store if you take your special needs child with you. What do you do? Don’t go. While shopping seems second nature to most of us, it can be quite difficult to a child with special needs. It is a skill that will need to be taught. In order to teach it successfully, you will need to break the task down into smaller, more manageable pieces and practice each part several times before attempting shopping in crowded, hectic stores after work on a Friday. Let me give you some suggestions for how to begin.

First, back up and realize that you will need to change your expectations and attitudes towards shopping. As a busy adult with a family to care for, I naturally take a very goal-oriented approach to shopping. I want to get in, get my stuff, and get home so I can handle the next task. If getting your shopping list finished is your primary goal, it is likely to be frustrated by your special needs child. You will most likely become totally stressed out, which will then be communicated to your child by your body language even if you do your best to control your temper. The first step to being successful in teaching your child this important life skill, therefore, is to make teaching the priority of the shopping trips you take them on. When you take your child shopping, it is not about the stuff you are getting, but the skills you are teaching your child. Your trip is successful if those skills are improved, regardless of whether there are still items on your list.

“But I don’t have time for this!,” you say. I hear you. Unless you have a great deal of support from others, you will still have to take your child shopping with you on trips when you just have to get things done. Life is not perfect and you have other people to care for as well. So, start by trying to find a few hours each week that can be devoted to these lessons. It may not be possible to make every trip about teaching life skills, but make the conscious decision to do that some of the time. Over the years, these lessons will have a positive effect on your child and the skills will be taught. Just keep at it with the right attitude.

In the next part of the Life Skills for Special Needs Children:  Shopping 101 series, I will lay out the basics of planning for a teaching trip to the store.  Be sure to go to the comments section and share your experiences shopping with your child. We learn best if we learn together.


© 2013, Margaret. All rights reserved.