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10 Ways to Prevent a Shopping Meltdown

The crowds, sounds, and sights of a shopping mall or center can easily cause a sensory stimulus overload for a child with autism. This can make the task incredibly challenging for a parent. These ten tips are aimed to prevent shopping meltdowns and create a calmer experience.

  1. Let your child know ahead of time

This can help your child cope with the idea of the stressful situation and allow them to know what is expected.

  1. Take a Virtual Tour

Virtually tour the store online or if possible, take photos of the store on your cell phone to share with your child. This will allow your child to become familiar with the new environment before entering it.

  1. Build Tolerance

Start with shorter, less extensive trips to the store that will allow your child to become comfortable with the store. Make these trips happen frequently and always praise good behavior.

  1. Plan a Schedule

Go over the schedule of the day with your child the night before. Tell them a specific time that the shopping will take place and plan one of your child’s favorite activities afterwards.

  1. Be energized

Make sure your child is well rested and energized before the shopping trip. Being tired shortens everyone’s tolerance.

  1. Identify Triggers

Visiting stores ahead of time to search for stimuli that could trigger your child is beneficial.

  1. Prepare for Triggers

If you know the store has particular stimuli that trigger your child, prepare for it. If your child is sensitive to loud sounds, bring along some headphones.

  1. Get ready to shop

Prepare your child with a list, whether verbal or visual, of what you want to accomplish for the day. Make this list as detailed as possible, including finding a parking spot and shopping for specific items. This will help your child mentally prepare.

  1. Establish a signal

Whether this is a verbal signal or a gesture, discuss a signal beforehand that your child can use when they are feeling overwhelmed.

  1. Bring a soothing object

Try to bring a toy, blanket, or object that calms your child down just in case a meltdown begins.


What is ABA?

Applied Behavior Analysis, commonly referred to as ABA, is scientifically supported to be the most effective treatment for children with autism. ABA interventions focus on using behavioral reinforcement. Behavioral reinforcement teaches your child appropriate behavior for different circumstances that they may encounter.

Remember to keep in mind that every child is unique and there is not one specific ABA treatment that will work well for every child. That is why Behavior Therapists use a variety of interventions to figure out the technique that works effectively for each child. Once the effective technique has been identified, therapists can cater the treatment to suit the child.

What are some examples of ABA Techniques?

  • Discrete Trial Training
    • Aims to train your child on skills they may not otherwise pick up. This is used to increase motivation, attention span, social skills, and verbal behavior.
  • Differential Reinforcement
    • Teaches your child appropriate behaviors for various social environments such as school, home, or recess. This works to help your child realize a behavior might be acceptable in one environment (home) but not in another (school).
  • Extinction
    • This technique encourages parents, therapists, or teachers to avoid reacting to a child who is demonstrating challenging or negative behaviors, such as a tantrum. This technique was discussed in the previous blog and is essential for parents to remember that if you show your child attention when they are illustrating bad behavior, you are giving them the attention they want.
  • Foundational Communication
    • Communication is key to understanding your child’s needs and wants. Some children may have trouble communicating verbally and some may not be able to read body language. It is important to figure out a method, whether verbal or non-verbal, to communicate with your child.

Tips on Communicating with a Child with ASD

We thought these communication tips could be beneficial for parents, teachers, and peers interacting with a child or young adult with ASD.

  • Be Clear and Concise

Use literal language and avoid figurative language because individuals with ASD usually have a difficult time acknowledge idioms, metaphors, etc. Make sure to explain yourself without excessive word use. Limiting the amount of words is helpful during early learning to help get ideas across.

  • Encourage Tasks with Positivity

We do not want our to children associate our voice only with commands and demands. Encouraging your child with positive words and suggestions will allow your child to associate a task with positivity.

  • Give Suggestions, Not Demands

Encourage your child to preform a certain task by making suggestions. “Let’s try putting away your toys,” as opposed to, “Put away your toys!”

  • Use Name with Praise

Use of a child’s name in association with praise will likely encourage more positive behavior. Avoid only using your child’s name when placing demands.

  • Refrain from Verbal Communication during Challenging Behavior

When undesirable behavior is taking place, refrain from engaging by limiting your words. Using verbal communication while your child is partaking in a negative behavior will only encourage them because you are giving them the attention they are seeking. Also, avoid seeking a verbal response from a child when they are expressing a challenging behavior.