Carrie HATES Walmart (so do I, and I’m not autistic…just kidding, I practically live in Walmart). I’ve met some other people who’ve said their autistic children also have a horrible fear of Walmart, and even though I don’t know those children, I can tell you exactly WHY Carrie hates it.
Every single time we go to Walmart, we bump into someone we know. It freaks her out. Seeing people in a location where they don’t belong is disruptive to her and makes her question her security. If you’re over here at the store, WHO IS MAKING THE FROZEN YOGURT??? AAAAaggghhh!!!
Carrie’s fear of Walmart is so bad that on one recent particularly bad day for her, she rode in the shopping cart with an ace bandage wrapped around her eyes. I HAD to run in and get a few things and I obviously can’t leave her locked in the car, and there happened to be an ace wrap in between the front seats (that’s a whole other long story). I wrapped her up like a burn victim and pushed her through the store, daring people to stare at her.
But yesterday, we went to Walmart. She even walked, although she kept her eyes closed and her head down. Of course, we ran in to someone we know, a friend of my older daughter Ann, and just like always, she turned her back, covered her ears, and began to fret to herself. But then this happened:
“Carrie, look. It’s Laney and her mom. Do you remember talking about Laney the other day?”
“Yeah. I can’t look!”
“You don’t have to look. But didn’t you want me to ask Laney’s mom a question the other day?”
“What was the questions? Do you remember what you wanted me to ask Laney’s mom?”
“Can Laney and her sister come to my house to sleep over?”
“Well, she’s standing right here. Why don’t you ask her?”
“Laney’s mom? Can Laney and her sister come to my house to sleep over?”
Carrie has been talking about having a sleepover, but I know that any child who gets suckered into coming to spend the night will pass the entire evening sitting in a corner while Carrie cries because someone is at our house who isn’t supposed to be there. We’ve gotten around this in the past by having Ann invite someone Carrie’s age, then Ann plays with her all night long. I’ve paid Ann for this gracious service.
Carrie wants to do the things that her normal classmates get to do, like slumber parties and skating rink visits, but she’s just not there yet. By being creative with how we approach it, we’re babystepping Carrie into a higher level of normalcy and helping her overcome some of the issues that still hold her back.