Loud noises. Tight spaces. Angry mobs. Early start times on little rest. These are all things that are associated with the anti-holiday now known as Black Friday. They are also triggers that can send a child on the autism spectrum into a meltdown and create a very difficult environment for them. It’s not exactly a perfect scenario for success for your child, but sometimes you can’t help it. Your holiday budget needs the deals, so off to the store you go.
Whether you are headed to an upscale shop in Legacy Village or going to the dollar store at the end of the street, you are potentially entering a hostile environment. Thanksgiving dinner was rough enough, and now you want to take your child into the retail battlefields of American shopping establishments? It’s not ideal! So how do you brighten up Black Friday for your child on the autism spectrum? Here are 4 tips that might just offer some light at the end of your shopping cart:
1. Bring your survival kit and plan ahead.
You know your child better than anyone. You know what some of the more common triggers are for him, and you know how to counteract the oncoming meltdowns. Bring snacks. Have some bottled water ready. Bring some headphones and a pillow in case they need some quiet time. The more prep you do, the less likely it is that you will be caught off-guard!
2. Pour on the praise!
Black Friday is the proverbial “lion’s den,” but it’s also a great opportunity to reinforce good behaviors. Be patient. Catch your child in those times when they are behaving properly and reinforce that with a specific praise. Don’t just say “you’re being so good” – say “I love the way that you are keeping your hands to yourself when we walk down the aisles.” Reinforce the specific behavior that you want the child to repeat or continue to perform.
3. Set your child up for success as much as possible.
If you can avoid the 6 a.m. start, do it. If you can choose a less-crowded store, that’s a great idea. If you can limit your time in the store to a shorter visit, give it your best shot. It might be tough for you, especially if you are a marathon Black-Friday shopper every year, but if you want the day to go smoothly and you want your child to find enjoyment and a positive learning environment on that day, it makes sense to put him in an environment that is conducive for success!
4. Give an immediate reward when things go well!
Yes, they had some extra pie on Thanksgiving and ate too much stuffing, but if the shopping trip goes well, reward them with that trip to the ice cream shop that they’ve been hoping for! Maybe they want a little extra “screen time” or a special activity with just you in exchange for the shopping excursion you just took them on. Now is the time. Immediate reward for a positive trip will show your child on the spectrum how important it was to behave well and also show them that positive behaviors yield positive results.
Looking for some more advice for helping your child on the spectrum? Would you benefit from someone going with you to the store a few times to help you understand ways that you can help your child find positive behaviors to deal with what they are feeling? Peak Potential Therapy can help. We can work with your child in our facility or in the real world, and we always work on the behaviors they need to succeed. Contact us today, and we’ll help you and your child on the spectrum reach their Peak Potential!