Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Grocery Store--Life is Therapy

New to the Life is Therapy series? Here's a quick blurb to tell you what it's about:

Sometimes we parents can get bogged down in the notion that the teaching of our children must be done by professionals. Parents of children with special needs are particularly vulnerable to this idea since children with special needs often have to learn and develop quite differently than children with typical needs. This series centers around the idea that learning can and does occur most effectively through everyday life experiences at home and out in the community--for children with both typical and special needs.

I've been rolling around this idea in my head since I wrote about how much Jack loves Publix. Then Erin's cute post just reminded me how much kids get from tasks like grocery shopping that we consider quite mundane.

It's very hard to remember that the entire world is new and different to our kids. It's much easier for them to encounter things they've never seen before. Also, because they grow and get taller and a bit more independent at each visit, they see new things or old things from different angles and it is all amazing.

As Jack gets older and bigger (over the wieght limit for most shopping carts), he is being allowed a little more freedom to roam. I used our friendly neighborhood Publix where most of the staff know us as a good testing area for deciding when he was ready to first walk beside and not sit in the cart. It took a few times of trying it before he was truly ready since he would often try to break free and run.

Once he did show enough self-control to follow my safety instructions, grocery shopping became a wonderful time to practice orientation and mobility and physical therapy. With Jack's visual impairment, he is still adjusting to his lack of depth perception so he had to learn to guage the distance between him and any objects in his path and adjust himself accordingly. It is very easy for Jack to see something he wants to get to and develop tunnel vision (as in he only focuses on whatever it is and takes off toward it ignoring anything in his path). In the grocery store, there are other people and their baskets as well as display racks and sometimes stocking boxes to be avoided. Going up and down the aisles has been great for enhancing impulse control as well as remembering to focus on the immediate area to check for people and other obstacles to navigate.

The grocery store also supplies numerous oppurtunities for practicing speech therapy by labeling the many things available in the store. I usually allow Jack's level of interest to dictate the amount of labeling we do. One day I was getting a little frustrated because it appeared that Jack was just rooted to one spot moving his head up and down. After a deep breath, I watched for a moment and realized that he was actually looking at the vegetables but appeared to be trying to find a good angle to see them. When I slowed down, we had a delightful time, looking at, touching, smelling, and labeling the various fresh vegetables--speech therapy, sensory therapy, vision therapy, occupational therapy.

Since we frequent the same store often, we have really gotten to know the staff and they've gotten to know us so it is not at all uncommon for a staff member to come up for hugs and conversation. This is a great time to practice appropriate social behavior. Each time, Jack is more enthusiastic about interacting with the staff. He's actually much more interactive with other customers too. The familiarity of the people and the location makes things a lot easier.

So next time, you dread thinking of taking your kid to the store, see if you can slow down a bit during your shopping and enjoy the wonder that your child experiences. It will take longer to get through the store but I think the payoffs are awesome!

Recent Life is Therapy Posts can be found at:
What Happens at Home
Something Old
Know When to Stop

For more Life is Therapy Posts, check out the left side bar.

Now it's your turn to participate. This is where we share our ideas and stories with one another. We're all in this together.


Confessions From A Work-At-Home Mom said...

Since I'm not doing Truthful Tuesdays every week, I can play along with this in the future! Hooray!

Ahhhhhh, Publix.... how I miss you. We used to live in an area with them, and they were always so big and clean! Nothing like where we have to shop now (ahem, Walmart). I never thought about how much kids get out of a trip to the grocery store, but you're right!!

Confessions From A Working Mom

j said...

This post brings back sweet memories of grocery shopping with my son. He loved to go to the store so much!

It's sweet that Jack has familiar faces who want to visit with him when he goes to Publix. That has a small town feel to it!

Have a great day, Marie and Jack.

The Blonde Duck said...

Just taking my husband to the grocery store is an experience. I can't imagine taking a child!

mommytoalot said...

Great post Marie. We too do a lot of that stuff with the kids.
LOL @ Blonde Duck..I take four kids grocery shopping with me...and pack my own groceries..it's a challenge I tell ya.

Mary said...

Wait - shopping carts have weight limits? Not that we need to worry about that just yet but perhaps I should pay more attention to the small print on the carts which I've never read...

Your grocery store staff sound awesome. I suspect that slowing down your shopping also gives you the chance to have those meaninful interactions with the staff and foster a sense of community. I should try that! I confess that we get practically everything delivered partly because going shopping with Elizabeth is frequently too overwhelming for me. Next time I'll try approaching it as our destination as opposed to a chore.

The Publix link isn't working for me for some reason by the way.

@The Blonde Duck - the solution is obviously to send your husband with the child ;) I thought your comment was hilarious.

Marie said...

Thanks Mary! I fixed the Publix link.
The weight limits on the shopping carts and to keep them from tipping over. You still have a while to worry about that one!
Y'all should check out The Blonde Duck's stories. I am in love with the Pemberly Pet Shop. Go check out her blog.

Marie said...

Oh I should totally add that I DO go to the store WITHOUT Jack if I need to really buy a lot of stuff or if I want time to mull over what's new in the store.
I try to do smaller, quicker shops with Jack. Of course, that means we are at Publix ALOT. That's why they know us so well.

Rachel said...

That's awesome! I have just discovered letting Ali cross things off my list at the grocery store - she is completely obsessed with it! And it's great to work on her letters, and keep her from getting impatient while I shop.