This is a post I added on AutismSpot in February, 2011 - however, at that time, I didn't have a picture to accompany it (which I thought was very important)! However, now I do, which is why I've decided to post it again! Should you decide to give this strategy a try, I'd love to know how it went! -Craig
Food shopping with a child who has autism can prove to be very difficult - even impossible - on some days. The reasons for this vary, of course, but many children with autism have difficulty filtering out sounds in their environment (e.g., people talking, clatter, sudden noises, the intercom, etc.), which may cause them to feel overloaded or overwhelmed at times. Other children may be hypersensitive to certain smells, odors, fragrances, etc., causing the child to become upset. And let us not forget about the overall lack of structure this experience offers children. Many children with autism, as we know, thrive on structure and predictability, which allows them to feel safe and secure. When venturing out in the community, there is an excellent chance that something, or someone, will throw off that structured routine, causing the child to react in a negative way.
While there are many things that are out of our control when out in the community, here is a strategy you can implement to add some structure for your child that won’t change! By doing so, the food shopping experience may not only be more tolerable, but even enjoyable for your child. And that benefits everyone!
Okay, here it is! This is a pretty basic strategy, so there's probably no need to go into too much detail. Basically, all you need is an empty bottle (or can), some pictures, and some Velcro. On the one side of the bottle, you would put a red strip of Velcro. The items on the red strip tell the child what you will be buying. The items on the other side of the bottle are what your child might want to ask for. As you get each item, the child would simply take that item off of the Velcro and place it into the bottle. You keep doing this until all of the pictures are off the Velcro and into the bottle.
Again, when there are so many other things not within the child’s control, this is something that IS within his control. And the best part is that you can adapt this strategy to any community outing!
As for pictures, you can either print them off the internet or simply take pictures with your camera. For this purpose, either one would work. To print pictures, here are a couple of suggested websites:
1. Boardmaker (www.mayer-johnson.com): Has about 3,000 picture communication symbols (this software runs around $400.00)
2. Free Printable Pictures: www.Do2Learn.com (This website may not have all the pictures you need, however.)
3. Free PECS Downloads (Children with Special Needs) http://www.childrenwithspecialneeds.com/index.php/downloads.html
Many thanks to Autism Specialist, Kathy Fox at The Arc of Chester County, for another terrific strategy! If you'd like to learn more about The Arc of Chester County, click on the following link: http://www.arcofchestercounty.org.
Craig Gibson is the Editor of SensorySpot.com, sister site of the internationally acclaimed AutismSpot.com. He is also a Feature Writer for AutismSpot.com. Craig was diagnosed with a learning disability at the age of six, and spent the next twelve years in special education. He has since earned two degrees and has published on the local and national levels.