Life Skills for Special Needs Children: Shopping 101, #2

Now you are ready to take your child to a store with the deliberate intention of teaching the life skill of shopping. Think about the environment that you are going to take your child into and simplify the experience as much as possible. Eliminate as many distractions as you can, so that you can focus just on the process of getting the things you need. Start by picking the right store at the right time.

You will need to find a store with relatively large aisles. Stores like this (Walmart or Target come to mind), also often have the large shopping carts with the kid seats on them. I’d start with that if your child is still small enough for them. Even if those carts are not available, the larger aisles will give you more room to handle sudden movements. It also makes it easier to keep your child from pulling everything off the shelf as you go by. Space helps keep you from too close contact with strangers, who can appear threatening to a child or maybe just very distracting.

You need to find a store that has ordinary items that your child sees everyday. Stores that carry a lot of different kinds of items you don’t usually see, like hobby stores, aren’t a good idea because seeing all those new and unique objects can cause your child to lose all focus. If you have a large grocery store, that might work. In these large stores, stick to the areas that have common items like bread or vegetables. Don’t overwhelm your child with too many new things to look at. A specialty store that only carries one kind of item, like shoes, could also work.

Only go to the store during quiet times. Early mornings at Walmart or the grocery store come to mind. The sensory onslaught of lots of people (talking, moving about, getting close to you, looking different, smelling different) can be more than a child can handle. Waiting in long check-out lines is also a bad idea and that can be avoided at these times. You also don’t want to have to deal with other people’s lack of understanding of your situation any more than you have to.

The point of all these restrictions is to simplify the experience so that you can teach the activities involved in shopping. It’s no different than clearing your work space before starting a new project. The more things your child has to contend with (new people, new sights, new sounds, new spaces, new stuff), the harder this is going to be. Avoid unnecessary complications.

Next step: the shopping list, as Life Skills for Special Needs Children, Shopping 101 continues.

© 2013, Margaret. All rights reserved.