Abilities First

Autism Tip: Enjoy Grocery Shopping

How to Enjoy a Grocery Trip With Your Child with Autism

grocery shopping with autistic childGrocery shopping can be a challenge with small children.  It is especially challenging if your child has Autism.  These children often have difficulties with transitioning, new surroundings, high stimulation and strangers…all of which can be found at the grocery store.  Often, the child has found that acting out in the grocery gets their needs met.  That is another way of saying that the child has been inadvertently trained to act out in the store. The professionals at Abilities First Autism Learning Center and the 4Plus1 Preschool for Children with Autism have developed a set of strategies and rules that you can use to bring back the joy of going to the grocery with your child. 

STRATEGIES for a Successful Grocery Shopping Experience
1. Advanced Preparation
Create a social story picture book for going to the grocery. Make First-Then statements - for example “First we’ll go to grandma’s house and then to the grocery store.” Be sure to follow through on your statements. Create a visual grocery list so your child can actively participate – they can find items and cross them off of the list. 

Establish the RULES
1. Stick to the RULES.
2. Start with small grocery lists - the longer the list, the more challenging the experience.
3. Be Prepared at the store– make sure you have snacks, special toy.
4. Shop during slow times – the busier the store is, the more challenging it will be.
5. Shop when your child is rested – if your child is tired, stressed or feeling ill, your trip may be doomed before you start.
6. Select a U-Scan check out – there are less items on display to be a distraction or grab that could trigger a tantrum.

RULES for a Successful Grocery Shopping Experience
1. Most important rule – The parent sets the rules.  Make sure the rules are specific and that you stick to them.
2. Give your child a special play toy that is only available for shopping trips.
3. Keep routine in-store behavior – if you want your child to sit in the cart, then keep them in the cart no matter how short or long the shopping trip.
4. Reinforce good behavior – Tell your child “I love how calm you’re being.”
5. Do NOT buy items they ask for, no matter what – instead, make a special day on the calendar for buying something they want, then cross off the days so they can see it coming.
6. If the child throws a tantrum because he wants something, then leave the store immediately – provide only one warning and then leave.  

Abilities First Development Department offers a number of ways you can support local children and adults with disabilities.

Please contact Development Department at 513-423-9496 if you have any questions.
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From birth through life, Abilities First of Middletown and Franklin, Ohio provides a broad array of individual and group programs for children and adults with disabilities.  

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