Six Tips To Deal With ASD Related Shopping Meltdowns
Have you experienced sudden meltdowns from your child at a mall? Your child, who seems perfectly charming and balanced at home seems to get extremely overwhelmed in crowded places. How can you, as a parent, ameliorate a stressful situation for your child?
For any child, heading to the mall and suddenly being surrounded by a cacophony of sights, sounds, people, and various other sensory stimuli can easily wreak havoc on their minds. This response is further exacerbated in children diagnosed with ASD, and understandably so.
But, this poses a challenge for parents, who want to ensure that their children are comfortable with going to public places. In this blog, we will discuss a few meltdown-prevention strategies that we believe will be extremely helpful in ensuring that your child and you can both have a pleasant shopping experience.
It must be noted, of course, that these strategies don’t simply work overnight. They require diligence, patience, and practice. We also highly recommend that you simultaneously enlist the guidance of a behavioral consultant in designing a plan to make your child more comfortable with going to public places.
But meanwhile, here are six tips to help your child have an enjoyable shopping experience, rather than an overwhelming one:
Provide prior intimation or a subtle warning: Knowing what to expect saves everybody’s time. Inform your child that you plan to take them to a specific mall and ask if they like that place. After they choose where they want to go, tell them about the crowd he can expect to see and how to deal with any inconveniences that might be caused. Invest time in a virtual tour of the place, which will help your child get familiarized ahead of time.
Be extremely patient: When you are sure that your child is ready to go out, take him/her out on short trips and reward him/her for good behavior. Allow him/her to choose which shop or area of the mall he/she wants to go to first. Do not force your child to take a complete tour of the shopping mall in one day. Helping your child become comfortable with being in crowded places requires immense patience. Take it one step at a time and take them as often as required, in order to help them feel at ease.
Plan schedule with your child: Ensure that your child knows what to expect next. This means you need to plan the schedule ahead of time and make them aware of it, so that they are not faced with sudden surprises. Establishing a visual schedule is especially helpful. In the morning, go over activities you have planned together for the day so your child knows where he’s going and what he will be doing that day.
Energize before shopping: Before you take your child out for shopping, it is suggested that he gets the required amount of rest so that he is completely energized before heading out. Rest is important for parents too - so they are better equipped to handle any unforeseen meltdowns.
Learn the difference between a tantrum and a sensory meltdown: Children sometimes throw a tantrum when you take them for shopping, which is completely normal. This is usually caused by parents not easily giving into the demands of the child to buy them a new toy, or anything else that they desire. But, it is important to be aware of the difference between a tantrum and a sensory meltdown. Tantrums are sudden outbursts of emotions from a child when they are unable to get what they want. They express their helplessness in the form of a tantrum and typically continue it till they get what they want. A tantrum can range from simple to serious. A sensory meltdown, on the other hand occurs when there is a lot of sensory information for the child to process. They are related to how much load a child’s senses can endure, which is typically very little.
Establish a signal: Despite your best intentions, meltdowns may occur. Hence, it is important that you anticipate various anxiety inducing scenarios and prepare your child accordingly. Depending on how your child communicates, whether through a sign or by verbally alerting you that she requires a break, set up a signal between the both of you. If your child hasn’t yet attained proficiency in communication, you can gauge various behavioral cues to understand if he/she needs a break. Whether it means leaving the store, or simply providing support, reassure them that you will be there in case anything bothers them.
Parents, what methods have worked for you to ensure a smooth shopping experience with your child? Have you used any of the ones we have mentioned in this blog post? If yes, we’d love to hear how it has worked for you. Do write to us in the comments section below.