It’s all about finding that bargain, the beautiful outfit for you catchup, maybe get your hair done, or on the mundane days the done groceries, and also the screaming? the running?? the stares from
other people when it all grinds to a screeching halt??
I have many different personas when it comes to shopping. So I’ll now go through the different personas that turn up when i go shopping, which many of you readers may be familiar with too.
The fun shopping trip: It’s that new gadget that you’ve been eying for a long time, or an outfit that you have to scour the shops for. you’re not exactly sure what you’re looking for, but when you see it you’ll pounce on it. this is the persona that likes to spend!
The grocery run: A boring but necessary trip if we don’t want to starve.
Shopping one child: Am still feeling pretty reasonable about this, even if it’s just the groceries. With Chook Whisperer, there’s a different feel, but I’ll elaborate soon.
Shopping with two kids: Always lively. usually starts out pretty well, but by the end it all gets quite hectic and I’m happy to be making the trip home
Shopping with three kids: of the least desirable scenarios, and often results in me leaving the shops with tension in the back of my head, and me snarling at kids the whole way home
Shopping with Mr Westie: Pleasant, much like the “fun ” category, nice and uncomplicated, usually involves a chance for a pleasant coffee
Shopping with Mr Westie AND the three kids: In theory, it should be pleasant enough, but tends to be like driving a car with limited steering and brakes, and monkeys at the wheel
Ok, I know I sound like any other stressed out mum out there trying to balance home, work and family life balanced with shopping. What makes my experience so different? One of those three kids is Autistic, and another, we have made an appointment with our Pediatrician to discuss the possibility of Aspergers, on our school’s recommendation.
to the readers out there not familiar with Aspergers or Autism, I will provide a brief run down on what this means
Autism: A disorder of neural development, characterized by limited social interaction and communication, by restricted and repetitive behaviour. this is a lifelong disorder, although it has been argued by some members of the medical community that this disorder is “curable”
Aspergers: His is also a development disorder, and is a form of autism. individuals affected by aspergers are still impaired in their social interactions and communications, but have developed their language skills.much like children with autism, kids with aspergers will exhibit limited interests, and repetitive behaviour. for example, if that child was interested in cyclones, the child is quite likely to have an extensive and detailed knowledge base, in opposition to the child who does not fit into the Autism spectrum. This knowledge is tends to be demonstrated by the child, verbally, in one constant, steady stream of information.
For the first few years of my children’s’ lives, my primary concerns were the typical mum concerns, hope the he/she does not have a messy accident, or cry/throw tantrums while out or take too many things off the shelves. While our eldest child Space cadet was behaving as you would expect for a typical child, Magpie proved to be a handful. We put this down to differences between boys and girls, as my mother in law had always been keen to point out how different boys are to girls. While I agree to a certain extent that there are some general differences, in hindsight there were clues in Magpies behaviour even back then, for example, when we would get into an elevator, he would scream in fear, inconsolably.
But if I thought Magpie was a handful, then Chook Whisperer was a revelation. If I wasn’t preventing him from pulling suck from the shelves, it was tackling the fallout when he became overwhelmed by the crowd, holding his hand, tightly, so that he would not rum off, becoming lost in the crowd. Or running onto the road.
This was a thankless task as he craved the independence he was not ready for yet, and on more than one occasion I would look up ti see the stares from other people. Thankfully most of the time I would see sympathy, but on other occasions, I would see shock. And them there were the people who would intervene, often critiquing without knowing that I was dealing with a meltdown. I saw this as an inevitable fact of life, until my son was able to adjust to going out shopping, I would have to make my trips short. I would have an action plan when taking Chook Whisperer: You to shop get, items go home, hanging on to my son like my life depended on it, and be ready to embrace my son in a controlled, comforting hygiene until he would calm down long enough to go home. This would often happen at any time, but more so at the end o f the trip when the exposure to all the chaos had reached his limits, and there you go, I would be scooping him up from the floor, right there in front of everyone, or holding his head so he couldn’t bash it on the floor. And yes, if you didn’t know any better, it would look like I was doing the wrong thing.
It wasn’t just hard on me. Yes, I would come home from shopping and exhale in the relief that it was over, it was also hard on his siblings who often would be called upon to help me to supervise or calm him. This, they did out of compassion
and lover for him and their mother. They also did this because a stressed out mother is a miserable mother to live with indeed.
Yet for every critical stare or interfering bystander I was met with, I was comforted when I was able to talk to a receptive stranger who was able to accept my explanation behind his uniqueness. Even more encouraging, they were comfortable enough to relate their own personal experiences. Some of them would have a sister with an autistic child, or a family friend, or perhaps knew someone who worked with autistic individuals.
But as we continued working with Chook Whisperer, as he progressed with his therapy and early intervention program at school, I began to see a child who would be more receptive to my strategies to help him cope. This would often include rewards such as getting to go on the ride when good, or getting a snack. His other reward, which he would receive after therapy would be the opportunity to pick out a Thomas the tank engine train, or bob the builder toy(his two favourite choices at the time). I was able to employ this reward strategy when it wad no longer needed, so now like any other child he would get occasional treats. But a lot of the time, the best thong I could do to help him would be to reassure him that I understood that he was anxious, upset or starting to feel overwhelmed,stop. and take him somewhere quiet to calm down. I have learnt that another good approach to shopping is to ensure that would get to have brief stops, to sit on a ride, or have a little drink. Yes it does sound like something we all need, but how many of us actually become so overcome that we cry or scream uncontrollably, or bite our arm to the point of drawing blood? How many normal people do you see walk up to a wall and bang their head or charge down an escalator and hurl them self onto the ground regardless of who’s in their path?
However I am now pleased to say that he actually finds shopping tolerable, and this is due to repeated exposure to shops and the strategies that myself and Mr. Westie have employed. He actually has floored me by asking to go to the shops. Like many other kids there would often be an ulterior motive eg. this Christmas just passed, he desperately wanted an Angry birds space game, so once going into the shopping centre a beeline would be made to where that game would be shelved. I cannot say the same for Santa, however, so we had to give Santa photos a miss.
We still spend a lot less time when shopping with Chook whisperer, but that’s not a bad thing, right?
*It should be noted that what was then diagnosed as Aspergers is now DSMV. This was apparently done so that there would be greater consistency in identifying the needs of the child. This is my understanding of it, I am still getting my head around it I am simply stating my own understanding of it, not saying that this is how it is.
*I also wish to say that without the comments of one particular aquaintance, who felt the need to question why people blog about shopping experiences, I would like to say that an experienced shared, means that we get to communicate our experiences from out own perspective. There are many of us out there who do not experience autism in the same way as we the carer does, and by telling our own story, I am offering some insight into our own lives. Perhaps this will offer some form of connection, to the carer who feels isolated or alienated with their own personal experiences. Thank you to that person who inspired this post