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Brown Paper Packages Tied Up with Strings….

December 2, 2011

Those of you with kids can certainly relate to how stressful shopping with children can be. Now, take a minute and consider shopping with an autistic child. Now, take a minute and consider shopping with three autistic children. Now, add Christmas to the equation. It ain’t pretty, my friend.

On the best shopping excursions, I can just about guarantee you at least one total meltdown from at least one child. When you add the hurried, stressed-out shoppers at the mall, plus all the lights, decorations and music, it becomes an unbearable sensory-overloading nightmare. When you next hit the mall, just think about this, while you’re rushing about:

The Nightmare

Troy cannot stand being bumped by other people. It’s a real problem for him at school, and considering there are only 12 kids in his class, you can imagine what a mall full of shoppers must be like. Around Christmas, the malls are filled with more than just the slow moving old ladies and new moms leisurely walking the halls. No, they are filled with college kids home from school, working moms and dads who are cramming their shopping into their lunch hours, and all other sorts of folks who are not there for a leisurely stroll, but are there on some sort of hunting expedition- a mission. These people see a stroller and get that must-pass-that-vehicle mentality (much like a sports car driving mid-life-crisis-man must pass that minivan!). They pour on the steam and squeeze by in a hurry, usually swiping you or your child with some oversized purse or shopping bag, and never so much as mutter an apology. That seems ok to them for some reason.

In our case, I could have been just barely stifling a meltdown from a child suffering from sensory overload (which is physically painful and can cause a fight or flight type of panic response in many autistic people), when along comes super-shopper and their little “nudge” feels much more like a full-forced punch to my little one. At that point we have disaster. Screaming tantrumming child, completely out of control. Most likely someone will comment on how spoiled or overtired that child is.

Here’s where it gets really scary though. While one child in the stroller is shutting down and staring at her fingers, the other is screaming, kicking and punching, where is the third? Overwhelmed by all the pretty lights, loud music and loads of strangers, she could easily, silently slip away. She wanders when she is distracted. She bounces. She flaps. She wanders. Silently. Into the arms of a stranger possibly. This is my nightmare. This is why we won’t be hitting the malls this year.

The Solution

It is simpler than you think. The Internet. I don’t need to subject my babies to the mall this year. Everything I need I can get from my couch. Sitting in my pjs and slippers, coffee in one hand, IPad in the other, I can shop hundreds of stores. The kids never see what I’m buying, and a wonderful man dressed all in brown or blue shows up with my little packages, wrapped secretively in brown paper. My hero. Well, him and the pizza delivery guy. 😉

There is another sort of solution though. This one is almost as simple. Involves a little of the Christmas spirit. Next time you’re out shopping, slow down. No, REALLY- Slow down. The scenario I described above is all too real, for way too many of us. Give yourself some extra time so you don’t need to push people out of your way. You rushing by that family (look, we’ve all done it) could be the tipping point in a real-life tragedy unfolding. 1 out of every 110 children has an autism diagnosis. They all have sensory issues. How many kids do you see at the mall this time of year? You do the math. SLOW. DOWN. NOW. Give kids some space. Smile a little. Remember, this is Christmas, not NASCAR.

Enjoy your shopping. I’ll be here surfing the online malls. 😉

One Comment leave one →
  1. December 3, 2011 7:26 am

    I have 3 kids with one being Autistic and I did my shopping online it took me hours in the middle of the night but I don’t regret the loss of sleep at all. It’s much better than the fits and having to buy extra things when I go to the store.

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