Self-Regulation, Stimming and Shopping Success!

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I close Declan’s car door and watch as he exits the vehicle, looks to the sky and begins to shake his head back and forth.

“Declan, hold my hand while we are in the parking lot.”

Hearing my voice, he gives 2 mighty gallops back to me and grabs my hand.

“Let’s go get our shopping cart,” I say and begin to direct our journey to the cart return outside the grocery store.  I eye the coveted little cart and head directly for it.  It is the preferred cart for the patrons of our store, and there are rarely any available.

As I walk, Declan hops.  Each drop to the ground is done with such force that my arm vibrates.

“Hold on a sec, Declan,” I say, stopping him from another hop, “Let me get the cart out of here.”

As I pull the cart, Declan stops and swings his head to the sky.  It is a cloudy day and Declan begins to reach towards the clouds with his free hand.

“Okay, bud.  Let’s go.”

And with one hand pushing the cart and eyeing the moving cars in the parking lot, I hold Declan’s other hand and let him move to his beat while we begin our journey to enter the store.


Going to the grocery store was an event I abhorred in the past.  Most trips ended with Declan screaming and crying in the store.  With him trying to jump from the cart, sometimes successfully.  Both of us were driving home in tears, with or without the groceries we came for.

I used to watch with envy at the parents who could let their children walk next to them as they shopped.  The kids that looked around but listened and followed directions.

My trips were filled with the need for set routine.  With headphones and sunglasses.  Lollipops to suck on to keep him calm.  Fear of a stranger trying to come into his world and interact with him.  Or heaven forbid, if someone touched him lightly on the back.


These days, we still follow a set routine.  Which starts with the journey through the parking lot holding hands.  Declan stimming while I guide him in a safe path.

We reach the sidewalk at the front of the store and Declan let’s go of my hand.  He covers his ears and shouts, “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh – IT’S SO LOUD!”  as I roll the cart over the bouncy concrete.

Once inside, Declan has more freedom.  I do not hold his hand and he is free to move however he wishes.  He no longer touches everything, and he no longer wanders or takes off.

He is aware of my presence and stays near.  He is happy to bounce, laugh to himself, shake his head back and forth.  He is happy to repeat sounds or scripted You Tube dialogue he has remembered.

He keeps moving.  He covers his ears when he needs to.  He closes his eyes if something is too bright.  He hides his head if some stranger approaches.  If something has an unusual smell, he will shout “SOMETHING STINKS!”  So, I quickly grab what I need and get him out of the offending odor.

Declan has learned to self-regulate around a lot of the stressors in his surroundings.  I give him the opportunity to stim, or self-stimulate based on his body’s needs.  I can follow a routine and adjust to any changes to meet his needs.

And we are having more successful outings.

We do the self-checkout and hold hands back to the car.  I push the cart with one hand and my other arm vibrates with Declan’s hop, shake and bounce.

As we drive away Declan enjoys his earned treat in the back seat.  Which is usually, a red container of pringles.

These days we are no longer crying, or screaming as we leave.

We are smiling!


18 thoughts on “Self-Regulation, Stimming and Shopping Success!

  1. It’s so great to hear how well Declan is doing! I still do most of the shopping when Ben is at school or after he’s asleep. If we do have to take him it’s a two cart/two person trip. One cart for food and one for Ben with sunglasses, earbuds and snacks. I’m hopeful that eventually we’ll get to where you guys are. Bravo Declan & Bravo Mama👏✨🌟💌💌

    1. I am floored myself. Just 6 months ago I was still lifting him into the seat. Then when he couldn’t fit in the seat, he was put in the back. One day, he just said, “I walk!” And my husband let him. I just can’t believe how far he has come in the past 6 months. He was even in a diaper then! Something clicked in him that he wanted out of the diaper, the cart, he wanted out of time out. His tics are still there, he just seems to have learned the skills to get through the store and even 2 1/2 hours of school. I just can’t believe it! I am hopeful for Ben and for you guys. Thinking of you! Thank you!! 🙂 🙂

  2. What about Embracing Autism, Living with Autism, Autism Survivors. Light at the end of the Autism tunnel. It needs to be a name that gives people hope and light through their own individual struggles. A Love, Light and Autism blog. 🌹 I still think your original name is good though but perhaps your birdies are ready to fly. Fly free with autism 🤔

    1. Thank you so much Elaine! I was talking about name changes too with Autism Psychology and Spirituality – she said the same thing, that she liked my name. I like the ideas you have here! I have a lot to think about!

  3. My son with autism is 17 and still interesting to go shopping with. He still does not pay sufficient attention to traffic to avoid the reminder “look for cars!” Like your son, mine likes to be prompted: let’s get out of the car; close the car door. Let’s get a cart.

    Once we have the cart, he holds the side of the cart with one hand while we are in the parking lot. This keeps him with me but does not attract undue attention, like holding hands with your mom at 17 might. 😊

    The greatest challenges in the store are twofold. He tends to have a blind trajectory, that is, he doesn’t look where he is going to avoid colliding with people, or at the very least, coming uncomfortably close to them. So I need to remind him arms length! Or give them some room! or simply watch out! Most people are very understanding.

    The second is just greed. I limit him to five items per trip. This seems to be just enough. When he has five he no longer looks for more or if he does see something else, he has to put one he already has, back on the shelf ( no, we don’t bother to put it back in the correct place!)

    Anyway, enjoyed your post. Happy shopping!

    1. Thank you! And thanks for sharing! I hear you about the greed. I can usually get away with one treat. But sometimes we leave with candy, chips, soda, cookies….I try to set it up before we go – 1 treat! But sometimes I lose and I know the battle isn’t worth it. Happy shopping! 🙂

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