Autism Sensory Overload at the Grocery Store

I’ll be completely honest, I’ve come really close to tears while shopping before.  First it was just a rough week, second I really dislike shopping (any kind of shopping, if I had a wish, I’d wish for a personal shopper), and third after shopping for about an hour and half and with groceries for home and groceries for my class I had half of my stuff on the conveyor belt and realized I didn’t have my wallet.  AAAAHHHH!!! That’s what I wanted to scream, and I kind of wanted to lay on the ground and scream (until I thought about the floors at the store, and then I really didn’t want to touch them.)

For some kids with autism or other developmental disabilities or really any kid (or adult), shopping is not a pleasant experience.  I’ll focus on ways to help enhance the experience in another post, but for today I want to focus on why grocery stores can cause sensory overload.   Just a list of things to think about, it won’t apply to all kids, but you’ll know if it applies to your kid.

  • Grocery Carts
    • Cold
    • Hard
    • Uncomfortable
    • Child is facing the wrong direction (if child is sensitive to movement, this could cause issues)
  • Visual Stimuli
    • Fluorescent Lights
      • Some kids are very sensitive to the flickering of these kind of lights
    • Stuff everywhere
      • Visual overload can equal chaos
      • Things out of order-for the orderly child = problem
      • Lots of fun stuff…that he/she can NOT have…but he/she WANTS!
      • Depending on the floors, there may be lines that need to be followed, or patterns that should be followed.  You know, the rules they know, but we don’t.
    • People everywhere-and sometimes they come and get in the child’s face to say how cute they are, or they pat them on the head.
  • Smell
    • Think of the mixture of smells in this place
      • Foods
      • Perfumes
      • Odors
  • Auditory
    • Lights buzzing
    • Freezers humming
    • Footsteps from every direction
    • Phones ringing
    • Adults talking on phones
    • Children crying
    • Cash registers beeping
    • Conveyor belts going and stopping
    • The butcher’s machines slicing
    • Squeaky grocery cart wheels
  • Time
    • Sometimes the amount of time required in a grocery store is just too long!  That’s how I feel anyway.
    • Waiting in lines
      • Boring
      • Lots of temptations around that you’re not supposed to touch
      • People standing too close
  • Attention
    • Parents attention is not focused on the child, but on the shopping (so it can get done as quickly as possible.)

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