My children hate the grocery store. This is not uncommon for kids with sensory issues. The sheer amount of stuff, the smells, the bright lights, the noise from the customers and registers. It’s enough to drive even the best of us crazy. Hugh has a harder time than AJ, and I have found myself going shopping when Hugh is in school just to make things easier for all of us.
We’ve been working on it, though, using exposure therapy. On the whole, I am not a big fan of exposure therapy. For the most part, I try to respect the things that my kids will tolerate and what they won’t. If they’ll eat pancakes but not waffles, or don’t ever want to play with playdoh, I figure that’s fine. However, we can’t avoid the grocery store for the rest of their lives. I don’t like going either, but it is a life skill. Life skills are non-negotiable in this house. The first day, we just drove there and sat in the parking lot. The next day, we went in and stood in between the two sets of doors for a few minutes. The next time we went, we actually went into the store. And so on and so forth. It has been incredibly tedious and frustrating.
Of course, though, the boys had a few days off for whatever reason—it certainly wasn’t a holiday—and AJ dumped all the milk down the sink because he thought it “might” taste funny. It was all I had left. Hugh started screaming because he wanted milk with his breakfast and so I had no choice but to take them with me to get more. We hadn’t actually been shopping yet on these exposure therapy trips, so it was going to be a real test.
I explained everything to both boys and got them loaded in the car. Hugh was still screaming due to his lack of breakfast but he got into the car willingly. AJ already knew there were consequences coming for wasting all the milk so he was trying his best to behave despite being nervous about where we were going.
We got there without incident and I was able to get them the police car cart, which allowed them to sit together. Even though there were other things I needed, I went past all of it and grabbed the milk. Then AJ asked very politely if we could get some more of his favorite toothpaste because we were almost out. I asked Hugh if he minded, but he had his head down and didn’t answer. I went to the toothpaste aisle and got what we needed. Not a complaint out of either of them. I decided to try and push my luck. I grabbed three more things that we needed. Still nothing from them. I could not believe it.
I decided that was enough for the day and we went up to the register. The cashier tried to talk to Hugh and he covered his face, but that was really all. We got in and out without a single fit! I could hear choirs of angels singing as I put our bags in the car. This is life-changing stuff, people. Life changing!
I gave both boys a reward when we got home, but Hugh was really only interested in his breakfast.