Were you one of the determined deal-seekers on Black Friday? I am always amazed at the either brave or crazy people who are willing to charge out with the masses on that day. I am one who hates shopping, and after a recent venture with my “sensory kid,” I am reminded why. The difficulties and exhaustion facing typical adults in a retail setting are only magnified in a child like her.
My youngest child has sensory processing disorder. According to researcher and professor Dr. Lucy Miller, 5% of all children struggle with this issue affecting any of the five senses. A child can be sensory-seeking, sensory-avoidant, or if you’re lucky like our family, both. In practicality this exhibits itself in behavior. Since the central nervous system malfunctions in the way it processes sensory input, sights, sounds, smells, and motion can all have an impact. SPD is very commonly diagnosed in children with ADHD or on the autism spectrum.
Now imagine shopping with a child who has such issues. It can be a nightmare. Harkening back to my own shopping experience with my sensory kid, it was challenging to say the least. Everything in me wanted to lose my temper. She seemed much like a human pinball, bouncing from place to place in stores as we shopped. Her ability to exert any self-control was completely gone. While I would have liked to leave her at home, she needed to try clothing on, so going without her was not an option.
All of that being said, here are my best recommendations for surviving such an outing without being arrested for murder:
- Listen – Really listen to your child. What does she hope to accomplish on a shopping trip? What does she like? What does she hate? Take those things into account. Also, listen to the behavior. The behavior is trying to tell you something. For example, my own daughter’s hearing was so sensitive at one point, it literally caused her pain. I couldn’t get a grasp on that until I noticed her behaviors, pulled her aside, and asked her some questions. Not every child will be able to articulate the sensory issues as a cause, but it doesn’t hurt to calmly ask and listen to your child. Regardless, take sensory difficulties into account when you are seeing sudden dysregulated behavior.
- Limit your time – When you know this is a difficult endeavor, set yourselves up for success by only committing to a short period of shopping, no longer than an hour. Make a realistic list of what you expect to get done in that short amount of time and stick to it. In my story, we were looking for a Christmas dress for my daughter, so we didn’t go browsing in other stores lest a total meltdown ensue.
- Have a back-up plan – Know that despite best efforts, sometimes things just do not work out. The noise in a mall can be too much with the crowds this time of year. The lights might be too disturbing. Funny smells may just undermine everything you are attempting. Nevertheless, adaptability is always the key. Having plans for a quick exit, if necessary or online shopping options is always a smart idea. After-Christmas shopping may not only be more sensory-friendly, you may also find some incredible bargains.
While we always like to believe that we can accomplish the impossible around the holiday season, we need to accept the limitations of a sensory kid. We look much more like the One we are celebrating when we make these adaptations rather than pushing everyone to a point where they lose their cool in a retail setting.
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this:
Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,
because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.
Have you gone shopping with a child who has sensory issues lately? How did that turn out for you?
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