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Wednesday 22 Nov 2017

Participation in Community Activities: Grocery Shopping

Grocery shopping is one of the most common activities in our lives, and it is one of the activities most commonly reported by parents as something they avoid taking their children with them to do. While avoidance is the easiest solution, it is not the most practical nor the best thing to do with respect to learning. For parents of individuals with autism, it is important to remember that avoidance of these activities will lead to individuals not learning basic life skills which they will need to live independently. That is why early and on-going exposure to these basic life activities is so important. Here are some potential problems and basic tips for parents to help make ventures to the grocery store a success.

“My child runs through the store and just wont stay with me!” – Bring something really reinforcing with you that can easily be delivered repeatedly (i.e. favorite candy, chips, drink, etc.). Clearly deliver the instruction “walk with me” and deliver reinforcement (i.e. give a piece of candy) for doing the right thing. You can practice this skill around the house first to get a lot of positive practice and then work on it in the store.

“My child is okay for about 10 minutes but then starts whining and wants to leave” – Set up clear expectations and make sure there is a reward for successful completion. Timers or schedules are especially useful for setting clear expectations. You can either set the specific amount of time you will spend in the store or make a schedule including all of the activities that need to be completed in the store.

“My child stays with me in the store but touches everything!” – Give them a job! The best way to prevent excessive touching of items is to give them something to do. The more engaged they are the less potential there will be for off-task behavior. Give them their own grocery list or have them help you find items off the main list. Active engagement in this part of the grocery store routine is also teaching important skills.

Here are all the steps in the grocery shopping routine you should consider teaching your child:

  • Walk in the parking lot
  • Get a shopping cart/basket
  • Walk next to or push cart
  • Find all items on list
  • Stand in line at register
  • Put items on belt
  • Pay cashier for groceries
  • Load groceries in car

What other problems do you face in the grocery store?

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