Life Skills for Special Needs Children: Shopping 101, #3

Now that you know where and when to take your special needs child shopping, the next big question is what to buy.  The main concern is to keep it simple and not try to do too much.  Do not head off to the store with a list the length of your arm and expect your child to wander patiently through the store for an hour or more.  Now is not the time for lengthy comparison shopping either.  The trip needs to be short and sweet.  Get ‘er Done.

You should also only shop for things that your child can appreciate and look forward to.  You want them to get the idea that shopping leads to good things.  It is a purpose-driven activity that is meaningful in their lives.  That does not mean you should shop for over-stimulating things like toys or candy.  While toys and candy are meaningful to a child, they can also be very distracting and lead to power struggles.  You need to have a goal that is interesting without being overwhelming.

Cooking With the Autistic Child by Margaret Ott & Suchita MujumdarI suggest that you find a craft, cooking, gardening or other similar activity that your child has chosen and wants to do. This website and our book, Cooking with the Autistic Child, have several suggestions or you can come up with your own.  Then use your shopping trip to get the supplies for that activity and only for that activity.  Make the list together if you can.  Have your child cross things off the list if they are able to do that.  The point is to get them involved in planning the trip in whatever way is appropriate for their age and abilities so that they take ownership of it.

A word of caution:  Think carefully about what activities you are willing to have them do for this trip based on the shopping it will involve.  If a very fun craft would require you to go to a busy, crowded specialty store or one with breakables everywhere, that is not a good choice.  Remember what we talked about in part 2 of “Life Skills for Special Needs Children:  Shopping 101”.  Only offer them choices of activities that you can get the supplies for at a time and place that won’t make your trip miserable.  Above all, don’t get them excited about a project and then change your mind because you can’t follow through.  It’s best to stick with projects where the supplies are readily available at a number of different stores so that you can manage it all without undue stress.  A quick phone call to the store might be a good idea if you aren’t sure.  While life isn’t perfect and we all need to learn to deal with disappointments, it’s better if these shopping trips are successful.

© 2013, Margaret. All rights reserved.