We approach the shoe shop. My child walks happily into the shop and runs upstairs to the children's dept. We look around for some new school shoes.
My son is beaming with excitement as his favourite part comes next. The digital measuring machine!!
He takes off his wellingtons and stands barefoot waiting to be measured. I am sorry says the assistant, but i cannot measure his feet without socks. I tell her that he is autistic and will not wear socks.
"No socks, No measure, its for hygiene you know"
But my child does not understand. I try to explain that if there were any way i could get socks on him i would."Company Policy" she tells me.
Once again my child is getting anxious and i have to restrain him from jumping on the measuring machine. We leave the shop deflated and without buying shoes. Why couldn't`t they simply clean the machine afterwards or keep a box of wipes under the counter?
We enter the next high street shop and my son makes a beeline for the Pick and Mix sweets. We finish counting out our bag of brightly coloured sweets and head for the till. The queue is enormous, there is another till at the back of the shop but my son refuses to go there as it is unfamiliar territory. I see an assistant and tell her that my son is autistic and if we have to wait in that long queue there will be no sweets left to weigh .I didn't`t have to say anymore. She looks at my child with a big smile on her face, takes the sweets and my money, weighs them and hands them back with my change. I thank her gratefully and she tells me that her Grandson is autistic and she knows what a struggle it can be. With our faith restored we leave the shop happy to carry on.
We head over to the other side of town, next stop the department store. Suddenly i remember what happened on the previous two occasions we went there. I know that my child can draw attention to us, but it isn't`t a crime.To be followed around constantly by security, never getting close enough to me so i can explain, but being close enough to draw even more attention to us, is not a pleasant experience. If only he knew my child was Autistic, then maybe he would understand. Until then we won`t be shopping there again.
Treat time; my son spots another of his favourite restaurants and starts picking up his pace. The queue reaches the entrance but he pushes through to find himself a seat. Amazingly he finds one but i cant leave him alone while i queue for our food. I turn around and an assistant asks me if i need any help. I tell her that my son is disabled and i cant leave him. Within minutes we are eating dinner and playing with balloons, flags and most importantly THE TOY!. Would he have got the same service if i had said he was Autistic?
Last stop, groceries, I know i should stay local but in light of the days events, all the stares, the remarks the constant explaining, i go for the easy option; a supermarket with creche facilities. It is out of town and a little out of our way but i am exhausted. Maybe things will get easier soon.....
My child is not rude or ignorant, if you ask him his name and he doesn't`t
answer or turns away it is simply because he does not understand. I have been
working with my son for many years now, and sometimes when he is calm and
in familiar, safe environment he will say
"MY NAME IS JACK"
This is a great achievement for him and one for which i am very proud.
incidences mentioned here are all based on true life experiences.
However, they do not happen every time an Autistic person goes shopping, nor do they happen in every shop.But they can and do happen at any given time for any number of reasons.
Autism Aware and displaying the symbol does not mean that you will be taken
advantage of with people jumping queues or demanding special privileges- quite
There are many thousands of families living with autism who all want to live as normal a life as possible.
Being Autism Aware means that these families will now have the confidence to shop without their previous anxieties, knowing that if and only if they get into difficulty and need assistance they can ask for it without being judged, refused or constantly having to explain a condition that is not fully understood.
help us to build a better more caring environment for these people, one we
can all be proud of by bringing Autism Awareness to the forefront.