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Some tips to make shopping fun & stress-free for kids with autism

October 10, 2018

The festive season is upon us and clothes shopping is on the top of the list for many of us. However, malls and shops will be more crowded than usual, and this is a great stress trigger for children with autism.

There are many ways to make the experience less stressful and following those steps can make it fun for everyone.

Ritwik R studies at the Sankalp Special School in Chennai. His mother Suba Rajesh always makes sure that Ritwik joins her while shopping.

Firstly, parents must accept their child's disability and never hesitate to take them out. Many parents are worried about their child misbehaving in public. Try telling your child that they will be rewarded if they behave themselves, maybe with a chocolate or an icecream. Secondly, parents must apologize to a person if their child misbehaves or annoys them. Thirdly, your child must be given an opportunity to visualise things before going for shopping. It will only give them more chance to explore with their creativity.- Suba Rajesh

Here are some tips to make the experience enjoyable for everyone.

  • Plan ahead and stay organised - You must always ensure that your shopping is well planned. You can ask your child to prepare a list of things that are needed. Let them make their own list. This season, shops have a lot of sale going on. Do some research and visit shops accordingly. Stick to your plan so it is easy on your child as well.
  • Praise them for good behaviour - Children with autism have poor social skills. But they are very intelligent and creative. Some of them might get irritated, angry or moody while shopping. This can affect your schedule. A simple thank you can do wonder. Appreciate them.
  • Try shorter trips - A whole day out shopping will tire anyone. The endless walking, flashy lights and crowded places can be exhausting. Instead, opt for multiple trips on different days.
  • Look for quieter areas - Quiet areas are always best to shop than loud and busy ones. Plan your shopping when the malls just open as they tend to be less crowded then.
  • Begin with smaller stores - Malls are usually lit up during festivals and this can be irritating for a child with autism. Stick to smaller shops.

Jolly Johnson, Founder, NGO Helping Hands says many parents have shared the hardships they face while they are out shopping or dining with their kids.

"Parents must understand that we live in a society that has no awareness about disabilities. Children with autism are usually very creative. They connect a lot with colours. So it is always best give them an introduction about the shop that they are going to visit. It can be done through photos and paintings. This will help in the development of the child. Communicate to them in the way they would love", she says.

Gayathri Sridhar's son has autism. She is the Trustee of Trustee, Special Child Assistance Network (SCAN).

"Including children with autism on a shopping has multiple dimensions. Preparation matters a lot. You have to sort out behavioral issues to ensure that it is a smootful walk. You must help preventing anxiety about going to a place. For this talk about and show pictures of the place. You must also fix a timing and set a reward for good card behaviours. If they are crowd sensitive, give them something like like a toy to hold on and make sure that you are helping him moving through with physical prompts. If they are sound sensitiv be sure that they are coming with noise cancellation head phones. Above all, please dont be anxious and prepare yourselves to face things as and when it happens. But do not give up on the child", says Gayathri.

ALSO READ: October is ADHD awareness month. Find out more!

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