All parents of autists inwardly fear the unknown when taking an autist shopping. I am no exception. Just when I think the perfect mother-daughter outing is near, the warning signs of danger rear their ugly heads.
Today was a rainy day. We homeschool and had finished all of our classes, except Science. Not only did I need to run to the store to pick up supplies for our experiment, I also needed quite a few groceries for the family. I decided to take my daughter along. Although she is 7, Ashi still rides in the cart and our grocery store has those neat-o ones shaped like a race car. They’re a lot bigger and harder to steer, but great fun for my little autist.
After about 45 minutes of glorious and uneventful shopping, we went through the checkout, also meltdown free. We parked the ‘race car cart’ and headed out the door, groceries in tow. Ashi was now walking beside me.
Outside, the rain had stopped. We were greeted with plenty of city noise and fresh sunrays that glare off metal car parts, and massive rain puddles. All of Ashi’s focus immediately drained from her body and she was now driven by her need to explore all things off our intended path.
The parking lot was full vehicles backing out, unaware of little people. Other cars were searching for a place to land. Large, yawning potholes full of water, waiting to swallow little girls, and strangers of every kind milled about. I was doing the familiar dance of loading our groceries, while trying to protect my daughter. I gently encompassed her body and playfully steered her back while chiding her, “Ashi, you have to be more observant!” Full of wonder she asked, “observant of what?” I pointed out, “you have to watch for all these cars and potholes, people, and all these puddles, silly!”
I safely locked her seatbelt, strapped myself down, and pulled away to head home. While driving I struck up a friendly dialogue. “So, did you have fun at the store?” Ashi sweetly answered, “Yes. Mommy, I observed all the sections.” I questioned her, “the sections?”
And this is what she methodically, yet conversationally recounted to me: “Produce. Italian. Chinese. Kitchen. Delicatessen. Bakery. Seafood. Butchershop. Dairy. Poultry. Fresh Flowers. Digital Photo. Health Market. Pharmacy. Pets. Baby. Customer Service. Thank you for shopping Hyvee. Visit us at Hyvee dot com.” I stared at her wide-eyed and rejoiced, “you’re right! That was very observant. You are observant!” We laughed together, big belly laughs.
Ironically, she repeated her observations to me an hour later when I decided what a great blog it would make and wanted to put them on a list. I double checked against my grocery list – just to see – and my suspicions were confirmed. This was also the exact order we did our shopping. Did I mention I LOVE AUTISTS!!
Like a cumulus cloud, she stored up the meltdown for later that day when I rearranged the living room. She burst, the storm came, and I’m pretty sure she had the longest recorded meltdown to date!