Time to shop

Ben has great difficulty coping with going shopping - the noise, the crowds, the fluorescent lights are all too much for my sensitive little chap. Joe also has great difficulties, finding it all too exciting and stimulating. I have great difficulty coping with going shopping with them! I therefore reserve shopping trips for 'desensitizing exercises' rather than as a necessity.

For those of you with an autistic child who has difficulties with shopping for whatever reason, I would say don't give up. Your first job is to don your detective hat and try to figure out exactly why your child is having problems going shopping. It took many, many trips (and many black eyes and bleeding lips!) to discover that Ben was reacting to the chillers in certain shops. Some children react to the smells, maybe ofa fish stall or an in-house bakery, some children react to the fluorescent lights or the crowds of people. Ben loves certain pieces ofmusic and ifa shop is playing something that isn't flavour of the month to him, then we all suffer. The secret is to find out what is causing your child a problem and gradually desensitize him or her whilst only shopping online or without your child. Although I buy most of my food online, part of Ben's home/school education is to go shopping and experience a gradual desensitizing process. We take headphones with his favourite music (heavy rock) in order for him to blot out the noise of the chillers. These are only used however when going near the chillers as he is learning to interact in his own way with other shoppers and the permanent presence of headphones is then counterproductive. I restrict shopping trips to the small supermarket nearby and the staff are now quite familiar with Ben and Joe and the fact that they dance to a rather different tune to the rest of us. One worker even intervenes when Ben is on the verge of a meltdown and takes him to line up the cornflake boxes.

The fact that taking the children shopping is a task akin to a military operation means that I therefore order it all online. When the shopping arrives it is a sight to behold. One by one like nocturnal animals slowly awakening as night time arrives, each of the children emerges from his or her usual place. Rachel in her usual bouncy fashion leaps downstairs from her beauty parlour, Sarah slowly removes herself from her position in front of the television, Luke extracts himself from the computer chair, Anna removes the telephone from her ear, Matthew puts down his snooker cue, Joe whizzes past.. .and all descend on the shopping like a swarm of locusts! There then follows a tremendous show of ingenuity and cunning as I endeavour to find new hiding places to lock away treats and 'off limit' foods whilst the children fill their pockets with goodies. and disappear back from whence they came!

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