Family is coming over…expectations are high. This time of year places a tremendous amount of stress on everyone, and people with autism are no different. But beyond the stress of gift giving, and interacting with family that may or may not know or understand an autistic person’s struggles, is the stress of preparation for the holidays and all the shopping that it entails. In particular the grocery shopping for that holiday dinner everyone is expecting. Here are some helpful hints which may help you navigate this time of year a little bit better.
Lists, Lists and More Lists!
Running into a grocery store can be daunting, even when you only wish to buy a gallon of milk. Going to buy food for a large meal complete with desserts can be overwhelming for anyone. To combat this, it helps to plan your meal and what you will need to complete it. Even if you are throwing something together last minute (a stress filled occasion to be sure), making a final decision about what you will cook and making a list of ingredients you will need can be a tremendous help to you. Having a list, will keep you focused, and gives a point of reference and an ability to see when you are done by checking off the items as you find them. Having a referenced start and stopping point during this task brings tremendous order to confusion. Having To-Do lists prepared of each task which needs to be accomplished may seem like over-kill to you, but to for those with autism, it can be extremely beneficial.
Get a Babysitter When Possible
Dealing with the crowds, the noise, the fluorescent lights, and the constant temperature change from one part of the store to the other can create a mass confusion. Adding the stress of having to keep tabs on your children, telling them no constantly as they try to sneak items into the cart every few minutes and having to keep them quiet will rapidly tear down any mental/emotional preparedness you or your autistic child may have been able to build up to face this already difficult task. Leaving the kids home with a baby sitter or a relative or neighbor for a few hours can significantly reduce the chaos and help them keep it together long enough to accomplish their goal.
Shop During Off Hours
Find out which stores near you are open all night or even late at night and find out how early they open. Most people do their shopping during the day time hours or right when they get home from work. Shopping very early or very late eliminates the madness of fighting through hundreds of people all trying to accomplish the same task as you. It also allows you to go at a slower pace reducing stress levels significantly. If you absolutely have to bring children with you, having them there at an earlier/later hour than the crowds can make an incredible difference.
Some grocery stores are implementing programs where you can shop online, place the order, pay online with a credit/debit card and go pick up the order at a pre-determined time. This can be of invaluable assistance to people with autism or Asperger’s Syndrome. This completely eliminates the need to go fight the crowds, deal with children, and allows you the ability to complete a major task from the sanctuary of your own home. You can even have a partner, spouse, or friend pick up the order for you. One of the draw backs of this however, is if something is missing or wrong, it can be slightly more difficult having to take it back to exchange or refund. Read each store’s online policies carefully before utilizing this step.
The holidays are happy time filled with joy and love, but they can pose significant stress to a person with autism or Asperger’s Syndrome. Taking the steps listed above can go a long way in reducing obstacles and help them accomplish the tasks they need to prepare with a minimum amount of chaos and stressful agitators. Reducing these agitators can help them stay focused and enable them to enjoy their holidays more fully. Navigating the Holidays with Autism: Part I: Thanksgiving with Picky EatersNavigating the Holidays with Autism: Part II: Family GatheringsNavigating the Holidays with Autism: Part III: Gift Giving and SurprisesNavigating the Holidays with Autism: Part IV: Holiday Shopping TipsNavigating the Holidays with Autism: Part VI: Grocery Shopping Online