Souvenir shopping with your autistic child
Like most parents, I am always searching for new opportunities to teach my autistic adolescent son useful life skills.I was delighted when I realized that even the seemingly mundane hobby of souvenir collecting could actually be beneficial to his maturity.
By setting a budget on each day’s spending, I managed to avoid many of the pitfalls that could have resulted in a public meltdown. Allowing him to track his purchases and figure out his remaining balance has made him more selective in his shopping, and taught him the value of saving for more expensive items (rather than wasting money on spur-of-the-moment tchotchkes).
Creative financial planning and negotiation skills
An unexpected consequence of curtailing his budget was a new desire to constructively stretch his limited funds; suddenly, he had the incentive to coupon shop and compare prices on the internet for future intended purchases. Moreover, while wetraveled, he would try to negotiate with street merchants, a valuable skill for any world traveler and consumer.
Carry what you buy
Even after creating a financial plan for him, we soon faced a new point of contention over his purchases. While technically he could buy any-sized item within his means, we would still be forced to pack it and carry it home. As such, the next logical step was to buy him his own backpack to fill with his trinkets; the success in implementing this was two-fold, as not only did he learn to buy smaller and fewer items (thus alleviating our stress in playing souvenir to luggage Tetris*), but also led him to understand the importance of weight and size in luggage.
Mastering the art of packing
While allowing our son to purchase and carry his own souvenirs solved some issues, we still had another to cope with—a matter of spatial perception. We had to teach our son exactly how much he could fit into his knapsack, and even more importantly, how fragile, easily-damaged items could be damaged if placed incorrectly in the bag. After numerous meltdowns and a limitless supply of patience, I am happy to report that our efforts were worth it—today he has learnt to stay away from glass and porcelain figurines, bubble wrap everything to prevent additional scratches, and, best of all, access how much he can add to his bag for next day’s purchases.
Perhaps the best consequence of our struggles is that our son became much more respectful and appreciative of his belongings. Unlike before, when mom and dad paid, packed, and carried his souvenirs and he did not care if they got damaged or stolen by casual acquaintances, now he watches over them to the point of obsession—even putting his prized possessions in the hotel/cruise room vault for safe keeping.
*Tetris is a video pluzzle game involves different configurations of blocks falling down. The concept is for the player to control the place they fall onto and make sure they fit into each other .
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