Quick jaunt to the specialized box store to locate a proper container for M’s school project…. like ya do…. Or, you know, not. Firstly, I was so irritated he even needed a fancy $5.00 box for a school project. Students in his class were able to purchase their boxes for 15 “student points” (for good in-school behavior). This would have been nigh impossible for M given the time constraints and because he is a special needs student with a modified behavioral education plan. Really? He has to EARN the supplies for a school project based on behavior when he has a modified education plan for behavior? What? Other students, I am guessing, just didn’t get a box at all. We didn’t, so off we went to the store. My children just don’t “do” stores well. I’m not sure what it is. Maybe its me. Maybe we’re not disciplined enough, maybe we don’t go to enough stores, I don’t really know. After 15 minutes in the store, 2 potty stops and constant “don’t touch, don’t touch, don’t touch”, followed by my middle child launching the shopping cart down the aisle of the store twice, DH and I were done. After getting back into the car and recovering from the stress while heading home we went over how we just weren’t sure why our children still didn’t behave in stores. As I’m trying to figure out how to make yet another behavior learning chart for the boys, DH asks, “do they actually need to know how to do that?”. That just hangs in the air doesn’t it? Do you need the skill of being able to navigate a department store? Let’s keep in mind: 1) senses – bright lighting, muzak over speakers, carts and other cart movement around the floor, chatter among people, the echoes. Oh, the echoes. 2) social behaviors involved when scooting past someone in an aisle or while standing in lines, checking out with kind words and pleasantries or asking any questions with regard to purchases and 3) the arduous task of getting to the store – everyone in the car, strapped in with tight seat belts, driving through traffic to a particular location keeping in mind car behaviors of keeping hands to self, quiet voices, safe behaviors. While most of us may not need to filter through all the nuances of every behavior involved in a simple department store run, to an autistic child, this is a skill. It can be exhausting and hard. Even for our other children, its kind of torturous really, going through the grocery store, but they do make it. Sort of. For M, we have so many of these life skills we have to teach him literally with charts (going to church comes to mind), that if he doesn’t actually need the skill, we don’t have the time to mess with it. I’m not trying to make excuses for difficult parenting moments, goodness knows we have those in spades, I’m simply trying to pick my battles. DH mentioned hearing on NPR the other day about a mattress store that has zero employees. Zero. Not one. The HassleLess Mattress Store. The store is unlocked via remote and there are kiosks to answer questions or place orders. There are large signs with a phone number on it where you can call someone to ask them a question or you can just place your order and ask any queries from your computer at home. Amazon is now testing drones to deliver packages. That’s right flying drones with Amazon Prime Air. There are many grocery delivery services of which probably the biggest is Peapod. Another local one that we have used before is Irv and Shelly’s (its lovely – organic, locally grown when available, etc). I digress.
We’ve always known that M’s path would probably lead him to an unconventional (which is actually becoming conventional) workplace where he will most likely work from home or virtually from where ever he happens to be, much like DH. We’re actually putting M in coding/tech camp this summer. If he is going to be hyper-focused about technology, he might as well get paid for it eventually. So, does he really need the skills of going into a cavernous-type of busy, loud department store?
I have a friend whose children have never been to a grocery store. They’ve just simply never had to go. They have been to other types of department stores etc, but just not grocery stores. It would definitely be taking it to the next level to just write out all big box type of stores period, but I really think it could be done. Maybe the 70’s and 80’s era of dragging screaming children through stores for ages on end until the behavior sinks in is finally unnecessary. Similar to riding in a car for lengthy periods (think road trips), navigating a store is a skill. Maybe this is one that can be put by the wayside. No behavior chart needed.