Grocery shopping has been an extraordinarily difficult task for us for a while now. Yes, yes, yes we do online shopping, but when your child consumes yoghurt and strawberries in epic proportions, one needs to go to the shops most days.
Until Dom was identified as having Autism, we had no idea from a sensory processing point of view, how stressful going to the shops was for him. I should however clarify, we were acutely aware of how stressful shopping with Dominic was for us! :)
You see when you have Autism, your senses are heightened to ridiculous levels.
Sensory overload = meltdown, or at best socially undesirable behaviour.
When you and I go to the shops, the glaring fluorescent lights don't bother us too much, nor does the tragic music pumping down isle 2, people talking and laughing, the colour of all the fruits and vegetables, sound of airconditioners, beeping of scanners, hum of refrigerator's, temperature down the frozen food isle - are you getting my drift? All these things and so much more, we can regulate and pretty much 'tune out to'.
When I shop, the noise of music and temperature of the frozen food isle, doesn't cause me enormous distress and make me feel like my head is going to explode! The same can't be said for my little friend, and other people on the spectrum. So with our new found understanding of Autism, I have been determined to create positive feelings and rituals (that's self talk people) when going to the shops - and I am pleased to report, we have come a LONG way - well, on most days.
Our shopping ritual goes something like this. We discuss in much detail prior to leaving the car, the importance of Dom holding my hand AT ALL TIMES. Dom will then take off like a crazed lunatic (once we are in the shops thanks very much) straight to Valentino's to 'high five' the coffee shop owner's, Dom and Rita. Dom loves them and they make a huge fuss of him - 'Ciao bello'. I usually then grab a coffee so as to prevent me from loosing the plot - or tearing my hair out - one of the two.
We then run past two ATM's ( we have reduced this number significantly - two is good!), where Dominic is allowed to press numbers on the proviso that he doesn't bellow out my PIN number (this has happened!). We then watch the escalators, marveling at modern day technology all before we finally get into a trolley and actually attempt to grocery shop. Of course by this stage, I have received the obligatory smile from a stranger and a comment like, 'You got a live one there'.
Starting off in the fruit and vegetable section, I casually show Dom different fruits and vegetables - encouraging him to touch, taste and smell the different produce. I am a miracle mum after all - calm and poised in the face of chaos and unpredictable behaviour from my child - always providing my child educational opportunities. That's just the way we roll (ha!!!). Dom on the other hand is usually too busy yelling out the numbers flashing on the board in the deli section, 'Look mum it's 67. Pop is number 67!'.
On this particular day, I had passed Dom a large, hard, green pear. I encouraged him to touch it. He screwed up his face as he gingerly clasped it in his little paws, staring blankly at me as if to say, 'Lady, you have finally lost the plot. What is it I am meant to do with this thing? It was then that I turned my head but for a millisecond, just in time to see him javelin throw the pear across the fruit and vegetable section of Coles.
It soared in slow motion, glistening in the bright light, heading directly for an immaculately dressed woman.
I gasped in horror, just in time to see the young women narrowly miss having a pear bopp her between the eyes. I received the predictable stares and shaking of the head from an elderly couple (why are they always so critical?), but thankfully the girl who nearly lost her life to the pear (and my child), just laughed.
I turned to Dom hissing quietly, 'That is unacceptable behaviour mister'. The girl then smiled at me and said, 'You have to admit, that was pretty funny'. I apologised profusely.
As we took off I couldn't help but giggle. Dom of course was oblivious to the near miss saying, 'Mummy angry. Oh no. Mummy not happy. Dominic get some yoghurt? I give you a kiss'.
He is so lucky he is outrageously, deliciously cute.
A wise friend reminded me recently of the importance of humour. Some days we find ourselves in the most outrageously stressful situations. On this day however, I chose to laugh.
Dominic and I carried on with our shopping. Dom sucked back on his yoghurt (I bloody hate those things) without a care in the world, I purchased the new 'Inside Out' to read well, who knows when :).