Tag Archives | awareness

The scariest part of going grocery shopping with our son

Today my wife took my boys shopping for groceries and as always, it can be tiring keeping an eye on them, answering all their questions, stopping them from running around, from grabbing/touching everything and so on and so forth.

But what proved to be, and continues to be the most difficult aspect is the parking lot. It’s also the scariest.

parking lot

Danger everywhere

The parking lot is scary enough just because children are children… they don’t recognize the dangers as well, they aren’t as aware of their surroundings as well, they simply aren’t in control of themselves as well.

What makes it so much worse for a child with #Autism is that they lack the ability to focus and to maintain disciplined motor skills.

A parking lot presents a lot of stimulation to overwhelm a young child’s mind, with people everywhere, cars either moving or sitting still, lights, the weather, not knowing where to go, the smells… plus, many children see it as a big area to play in.

For a child with Autism, it can overwhelm them just as much as any area inside the store except that a parking lot has a lot more dangers.

While walking towards the store, my wife had both of my boys holding onto the cart that she had grabbed, this way they’re always close. However, as a truck slowly crawled up along side them, Cameron still did what he often does when excited and overwhelmed… he walked with his arms flailing wildly at his sides and took steps as if the ground was wavering beneath him.

As the truck was nearly beyond them, he took one step wider to the side than normal, as if falling over.. my wife yanked him back quickly because if she hadn’t, his foot would have been run over by the truck’s back tire.

Imagine, you’re doing everything right with keeping your children close, they have a hand on the cart, you’re watching everything and in less than a second, a single wild step could mean a trip to the hospital, or worse.

Often when people talk about grocery shopping with child that has Autism, the discussion focuses around meltdowns, over stimulation and other parents being judgmental. Really though, we need to recognize and remember that getting in and out of the store is the most dangerous part and needs to be handled with care.

Here are some tips, that we’ve learned through trial and error, on getting through the parking lot safely.

  1. Grab a cart as soon as you can after leaving your vehicle. Then:
    a. Put your child(ren) in the cart for a fun bumpy ride.
    b. Put your child(ren) between you and the handle, so that your arms are around them. Let them push the cart to help out, but keep your hands on theirs or at least on the handle
    c. Make sure your children are making contact with the cart at all times so that, even if something unexpected does happen, you’re at least close enough to make a quick reaction.
  2. If you have no cart, keep your child between you and the parked cars so that the cars in motion are along side you, not them.
  3. Don’t take no for an answer. Children with Autism will be very reluctant to hold your hand but that’s just too bad. Do it anyway. Better a meltdown in the store than an accident in the parking lot.

My son was almost hurt today and my wife did everything right… in fact, it’s a good thing she did or else he very likely would have been injured.

The less your child is capable of focusing, the more you have to! Be aware at all times, do the things you need to do at all times. The consequences of a single moment in time that you let it slide could be too unbearable to think about.

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The dangers in trying to define the “face of Autism”

I’ve found over the years that the real trick in raising Autism awareness is in describing what it is to people. It’s such a diverse and complicated subject that we can find that we end up contradicting ourselves, confusing our listeners or worse, simplifying it (dumbing it down) so much that it really doesn’t do it any justice.

In my opinion, ‘spectrum’ isn’t nearly vast enough to explain all of what Autism can encompass… perhaps Autism Universe Disorder would have been more accurate. I actually read one time where some doctors said that “cloud” is more accurate than “spectrum” since it suggests a 3 dimensional range of possibilities.

Anyway, I digress…

The real problem with it being so varied is that for most of us, our own loved ones (usually children) are our point of reference. We watch the movies, read the books and do the research but the one we care about, right in front of us, is the true face of Autism in our world.

From there, we branch out to become supportive of each other, to share stories and advice and prove to be quite successful in that endeavour but ultimately we all eventually find that one person that sees Autism in a very different light than we do.

Whether we find our children to be amazing people with limitless potential or we see our children as being extremely low functioning victims of a life long paralysing disorder… we’ll find others out there that see Autism quite differently.

The real danger in this is that one will feel pity for the other, or resentment, or jealousy, or… well, you get the idea. A conflicting opinion of something of such epic importance in our lives can make for a very heated discussion if not handled with care.

To illustrate this point, I bring up a well known video that Autism Speaks once produced, where it tried to paint a picture of what Autism is.. giving it not just a face, but a rather eery voice:


Now, if you have a child that is doing well with Autism/Aspergers, or you have Autism/Aspergers yourself, you will likely be quite angered and even offended by that video. However, if you have a child that is severely low functioning due to Autism, there’s a good chance that it strikes an all too familiar chord with you.

The real tragedy in this video is that it ever tried to put a face on Autism in the first place.

The good news is that for some of us, myself included, hard work can actually help you go from agreeing with that video to not agreeing with that video as your child progresses… my son, Cameron, went from non-verbal at 2 years old to being one of the brightest and most social in his class at school.

You see, 3 years ago, I would have watched that video and understood quite well what they were attempting to do… but today, for me, this is the face of Autism that I see:


I do my utmost best to not offend people as I understand how hard it can be if your child is unable to talk to you or show that they love you but I can also understand if your child is memorizing Pi to 20,000+ places. It’s a very wide spectrum… a universe wide!

The next time someone asks you what Autism is, do your very best to explain it clearly, concisely and without bias. Not for my sake, but for your own as well as the people that might hear/read what you say.

Our children are not a victim of a scary voiced predator nor are they endowed with super powers making them superior to the rest of us. But they are somewhere in between… and it’s a pretty big space in there.

The face of Autism is as unique as the face of the person that you see it in.

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