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This article is mommy approved by Miriam Slozberg, mother of two.
Anyone can experience sensory overload. Loud sounds, flashing bright lights, and strong odors can bother anyone. However, when it comes to children with adults that have ADHD, are on the autism spectrum, or have other sensory integration disorders, this can be a major concern.
A regular overhead fluorescent light turned that will not bother someone who does not have autism, moderate to severe ADHD, or any sensory disorders will not be bothered by it unless they have a bad headache. However, that same light will cause someone who has any of those conditions to potentially have a meltdown due to sensory overload.
One of the places that can easily cause a meltdown for this reason in children with a sensory disorder such as autism is a supermarket. There are the bight lights, there are plenty of loud noises due to many people talking at once, carts rolling and crashing into things, and there are so many smells. Especially in the bakery, butcher, and fish areas.
This means a trip to the supermarket while taking an individual who has a sensory disorder must be planned out well in order to minimize the chances of sensory overload happening which would result in a meltdown. Let’s go over the 11 tips right now to do that.
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1. Give The Child A Weighted Vest To Wear Before Going To The Supermarket
A weighted vest is a vest that you place over clothing like a jacket, and the benefit it has is that it gives the child deep touch pressure (DTP) which is very calming in kids that have sensory disorders. These vests have many benefits such as reducing anxiety, reducing the sensory overload frequency, and increases body awareness.
If you have a child that has a sensory disorder and you don’t have a weighted vest, you will want to get one as it can reduce the chances of your child experiencing a meltdown when he or she goes to different settings such as the supermarket that is full of triggers.
2. Give The Child Sensory Toys Before Heading To The Grocery Store
Any toys that your child finds comforting on a sensory level such as plush toys, squeeze balls, or even a blanket to bring along, give to the child before heading out. These toys can help prevent or at least to minimize the chance of a sensory overload related meltdown.
3. Teach The Child Age-Appropriate Or Developmental-Appropriate Meditation Techniques
Kids with sensory disorders would benefit from learning deep-breathing and meditation techniques as it is a great way to manage anxiety and stress. And these techniques are excellent for calming the sympathetic nervous system, as well as helping to keep reactions to external stimuli to a minimum and it helps lower blood pressure as well.
4. Allow The Child To Listen To Music Of His Or Her Choice During The Grocery Shopping Trip
Comforting music can be of great help for those who have sensory disorders. They can take an iPod and listen to the music of their choice while they are at the supermarket which can help reduce sensory overload as it can be a great distraction from triggers.
5. Know The Signs That Your Child Could Have A Meltdown
If you are at the grocery store and you see that your child has a distressed look on his or her face, encourage the child to communicate what is bothering him or her. And in this case, you will want to utilize the next step.
6. Create An Exit Strategy In Case Sensory Overload Does Happen
If your child is about to have a meltdown at the grocery store, you will want to have an exit strategy in place. The techniques given above will help reduce the chances of a meltdown but doesn’t guarantee the prevention of one. Especially when it comes to encountering stimuli that are unexpected and extreme that could even bother anyone without sensory disorders such as a pungent fish odor. Sometimes this will involve leaving the cart behind and taking the child outside to calm down until the child is ready to go back in again.
When the child is ready to go in, then encourage the child to do tips that were listed in point 3.
7. Encourage The Child To Be Active And To Jump On Trampolines
Physical activity can help kids with sensory issues relieve stress and burn off excess energy. Additionally, jumping on trampolines, playing in an outdoor playset or going on swings will give the kids the sensory input they require as it will help then with self-regulation. This way, they will be able to better manage themselves when they are in situations with a lot of external stimuli such as the grocery store.
8. Look Into Sensory Integration Therapy For Your Child
If you have not looked into sensory integration therapy for your child, then this can really help them. This type of therapy involves exposing kids to sensory stimulation repetitively so they can become more desensitized in the end to external stimuli which can help reduce the chances of a meltdown. This can help kids handle trips to grocery stores and to other places where there are plenty of potential triggers.
9. Supermarket Social Stories Are Important
When you are taking a child on the autism spectrum to a supermarket, you will want to prepare the child with a social story about going to the supermarket so that he or she knows what to expect. Prepare the child as well for encountering sensory triggers so your child has time to do tips noted in point 3.
10. Go To The Supermarket At The Least Crowded Times
One of the ways to reduce the chances of a meltdown is to go to the supermarket at a time that it is least busy. This way, if there are fewer crowds at the supermarket, the stimuli will be less intense for the child.
11. Don’t Lose Your Cool With Your Child
It can be very frustrating for caregivers and parents of kids with sensory issues. It is very important to stay calm and cool with the child that is doing his or her best to handle the grocery shopping trip which can be very triggering. If the child has a meltdown, don’t get upset. Calmly take advantage of the exit strategy and utilize tips in point 3 for yourself if you must. If you stay calm, then the child has a much better chance of being calm on the trip as well as calming down after a meltdown if it were to happen.
Parents and caregivers of kids with sensory issues will often dread taking their kids shopping at the grocery store with them, however, with these points and tips, the trip will be manageable. The risk of a sensory overload-related meltdown will be reduced. However, if one does happen, you will have a plan put into place as far as how to manage it and to keep the child and yourself calm.
Miriam Slozberg is a Canadian author, blogger, and mom to 2 kids. One had combined autism and ADHD. After years of trialing different forms of therapy, she learned how to best support her son. She writes on publications such as BabyGaga.com. She also is a mental health advocate as she lives with ADHD and has experienced depression.