Autism, Shopping and the GIANT SPIDER

Oh what fun…..not!

I hate shopping. Not because of Autism but because I hate shopping. I have a hard time finding what I want, I never have money, and I don’t deal with people well (I’m an introvert). Add my teenage daughter who loves to shop and wants to look at everything causing many squirrel moments (You know the ones I mean-we’re looking for socks and she sees a fluffy pillow and off she goes.) Now add my Autistic son into the mix.

In Autistic kids over stimulation is always a problem: too many people, too many lights, too many colors, too many things moving by at the speed of commerce and suddenly his ears are turning red and the whites of his eyes are turning pink. Those are a sure sign of an over-stimulated, agitation migraine headed our way. First thing to do is to find a quiet place with little or no decoration and let him get calmed down for a little bit.

Unfortunately the materialistic world we live in is driven by constant stimulation and not even the bathrooms are quiet anymore. There are often times when we will find a quiet corner of the store, like the garden center, and just hang out for a while to try and keep him from boiling over.

Now add in that ultimate fun…Holidays!

That’s right folk, holidays, when all the special crazy stuff comes out, for example, Halloween. Don’t get me wrong. I love Halloween. It was always one of my favorite holidays. I love dressing up and even my son loves to play dress up. But Halloween is about scary things and that isn’t always a good thing for us now.

Let’s take the other day as an example. We went to Party America to get some supplies for my daughter’s class for their Homecoming float. Found some great stuff, but my son didn’t enjoy that store very much. To start with right inside the front door was a GIANT INFLATABLE SPIDER! It was goofy looking and stood almost 6 feet tall. It was black and white and had LED lights inside. For a normal person that wouldn’t be a big problem even if you didn’t like spiders. You know that it isn’t real.

My son, however, views the world in more of a literal sense. He was very sure that it was a real spider and that it was not safe to walk past. We almost didn’t get him in the store. Once inside, he was totally freaked by all the scary stuff right inside the door and then as we walked around he kept a sharp eye on the door just to make sure that the spider hadn’t moved or tried anything funny. Poor kid jumped at every sound and kept up a solid narrative that was mostly just the words “Spider, web, climb, giant spider” over and over again.

Some of you are thinking, “Why didn’t you just leave?” Well, life doesn’t work that way. I can’t choose one kid over the other. My daughter and her classmates needed to get the bits for their float and sometimes there isn’t another choice of store. Besides it wouldn’t matter because around the  holidays  everyone has the same type of decorations in their stores.

So once the girls had what they needed for their float it was time to leave. Unfortunately the GIANT SPIDER stood between us and freedom. William didn’t want to go anywhere near the door because the spider was waiting. He was shaking from head to toe, his ears were red and his eyes where pink.  It took a couple of tries, three teenage girls surrounding him while I held his hand in one of mine and wrapped my arm around is shoulders and then finally we got past the spider. As soon as we passed it, William burst away from me and ran out the door- straight into the street. Luckily there was no one coming at that moment, two seconds later would have had him run over but we lucked out.

All day after that he talked about the GIANT SPIDER. The spider was still dominating the conversation all through dinner and the bath. He refused to be alone in the bathroom during his bath because-GIANT SPIDER. Then it was off to bed and a running dialogue of GIANT SPIDER all through story time until he finally fell asleep. However, that wasn’t the end of it. He was up several times overnight asking about the GIANT SPIDER. Finally he got up at 5 AM and I gave up.

I don’t know how long the GIANT SPIDER will keep on keeping on for poor William but I imagine it will be closer to Christmas and then we can go back and start a whole new obsession about GIANT REINDEER!

Needless to say, I hate shopping.