It’s Girl Scout swarming season here in Texas and the shopping centers are filled with booths staked out directly in the path to your favorite restaurant or store. For most girls, cookie time is lots of fun. People are very kind to them and will often buy something or at least donate to the soldiers through Operation Cookie. They learn manners and how to make a sale. They get lots of positive reinforcement because people actually want what they are selling. They learn to count money and keep track of inventory. There is no question about the value of selling girl scout cookies for the majority of girls. They learn so many important life skills.
If you have a special needs girl, however, the situation can be very stressful and unproductive. My daughter can hardly speak, so asking for a sale is hard. She’s also autistic, so dealing with lots of strangers at a cookie booth was a major trial. I would often team her up with one of her sisters and we’d all go door to door. At least we were only dealing with one or two people at a time. She would go get the cookies while they handled the sale and the customer. It was alright up to a point, but she wasn’t getting as much out of it as they were. The long walks and constant change of scenery with all the sensory data that involved often led to meltdowns as well. It’s no fun dealing with a screaming child on a sidewalk a half mile from home with a wagon full of cookies to boot.
Deborah’s teachers in middle school, Jackie Slaughter and Tammy Burckhardt, knew a better way to teach a special needs child to sell. Here’s what they did. You can modify it to fit your situation with whatever your child happens to be selling (popcorn, candy, whatever) and with whatever network of friends you have available.
At the beginning of the sale, Ms. Jackie would send an e-mail out to the teachers at school asking who wanted to buy cookies from one of her special students. If they wanted to get any cookies, they e-mailed back with their order. Then Deborah would knock on their classroom door with her aide beside her and ask them if they wanted to buy any girl scout cookies. Since it had all been pre-arranged, the answer was always yes and Deborah always had the right cookies and change with her. It was very quiet in the hallways during class time and Deborah was comfortable in the school since she was there every day. It didn’t take but a few minutes of the teacher’s time and it fit with the Consumer Math class that Deborah was taking as well as her communication goals. Deborah got all the benefits of learning to sell cookies in a way that worked for her. And I didn’t have to do anything but deliver the cookies to school. What a blessing for me!
Her middle school teachers truly went above and beyond in helping her meet her girl Scout goals. Most teachers wouldn’t be able to do that, but perhaps you have other friends who could help. The children’s ministry at church comes to mind. It’s worth trying.
I’ll have more ideas in later articles about life skills for special needs children.
© 2013, Margaret. All rights reserved.