Dragging a kicking and screaming child out of a grocery store is both embarrassing and traumatizing! Sadly, for parents of children with sensory overload, this is all too common.
Sensory overload occurs when a child's neurological system becomes overwhelmed with sensory messages. Like a traffic jam in the brain, the messages flood the system causing either a fight or flight syndrome.
After pleading with a child to get up off the floor and stop screaming, or restocking the oranges they knocked all over the floor, or leaving your cart to chase down your fleeing child, you may find yourself asking the following questions:
"Will people think I am kidnapping my own child?"
"Will I get charged with child abuse?"
"Will life ever be normal again?"
We understand. We've been there!
Make a Plan
Going to the grocery store can be exceptionally overwhelming for a child struggling with a sensory processing disorder. The sights, sounds and energy can easily overwhelm their system.
Prior to going into the store, make a plan:
Discuss where you are going, what will occur at the store, how long you will be there and what you expect of your child's behavior.
Provide your child with a job such as pushing the cart, helping find grocery items or crossing off the grocery list to keep them focused.
Ditch the iPad or phone (technology will only further exacerbate their anxiety) and give them books, noise-canceling headphones and a soft blanket.
Have a signal or procedure to follow in the event that your child feels they need reminders and support.
Prioritize for efficiency. Have a list of priority items and stay focused on obtaining those items first. Resist the impulse to linger over unplanned items.
Get in and get out!
Life with a child with sensory challenges doesn't have to be limiting! But it does require better planning on your part.
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