Costco killed my kid

Sensory Processing Disorder:
Too much noise in the library

I’ve never really been a big shopper, and avoid big box stores like the plague.  So it was with great trepidation that I recently got a Costco membership.  I had heard rumours of great prices on diapers, and Hubby’s Costco price checking mission confirmed the great prices.

So far Hubby and Little Miss Adorable have been the Costco shoppers of our family, buying large quantities of diapers, wandering the endless aisles and phoning me before any impulse purchases.  I am now the proud owner of 200 feet of parchment paper.  Hubby wants me to bake cookies.  200 feet of parchment paper could mean I bake cookies every day for the next ten years.  Hubby clearly has high hopes.  But, I digress.

Recently Hubby suggested we all go into Costco, three kids under five and me.  And Hubby.

You know this is not going to be good.

Getting into the store required some planning – two non-walkers and one semi-walking five year old require advance planning to go anywhere. We decided to strap Little Miss Adorable and Baby Dunk into their double stroller.  Mr. Sensitive could walk beside the shopping cart, and ride in it if he needed to.

He is normally very good in stores and walks respectfully, always holding the cart, looking at stuff and never really asks for anything.  (I know it sounds impossible, but it’s true.  Don’t be too mad at me, I got my payback today.)

Our little convoy approached the monolithic warehouse.  Automatic doors whooshed open.  High ceilings soared above us, a low hum filled the air.  Endless aisle of stuff beckoned.  Mercury vapour lights (warehouse lighting) beamed down on us, reminiscent of alien abduction movies.

We walked down an aisle, unsure of our bearings but seeking the grocery section.  We looked at rows and rows of all kinds of stuff we’d never thought of buying before, and all of it in super huge sizes.

Mr. Sensitive walked beside me, holding my hand, awestruck by excess.

We found the grocery section, where rows of shrink wrapped packages of meat stretched as far as the eye could see.  There were Hallowe’en costumes beside the meat.  It was August.  I now realise this is one of the weird planning aspects of Costco.

We looked at Hallowe’en costumes and picked out ones for Little Miss Adorable and Mr. Sensitive (both pirates with flashy swords).  Impulse purchase #1.

Then Mr. Sensitive lost his mind.

It took us a while to realise what was happening.  I tried to get him to look at the produce (he loves fresh fruit) and he started running away from me, down the aisles.  He has never done anything like that before.  He normally will help pick out produce like the best of us, thumping melons for ripeness and staring at the colouring of apples before announcing he has found the best one.

I followed him, and took him by the hand.  He pulled away.  And ran.  And laughed.

He has never done anything like that before.  Or since.  He always clings to me like superglue in unfamiliar situations.

I tried to follow my shopping list and dragged him along.  Hubby was busy with Little Miss Adorable and Baby Dunk and price checking diapers and wipes.

Mr. Sensitive started laughing hysterically, then would burst into tears, all while trying to run away from me.  He was in a maniacal frenzy, pulling, trying to run, thrashing around and grabbing at stuff.

I will spare the details, but let’s just say time-outs sure did not work.  Putting him in the cart or stroller did not work.  Hubby and I were close to losing our minds ourselves.

I left Hubby, Little Miss Adorable and a shopping cart full of stuff in supersizes in the store while I was going to the van with Mr. Sensitive and Baby Dunk.

Mr. Sensitive was dropping to the floor, crying, laughing and refusing to do anything we told him to.

I dragged him toward the automatic doors.  The sky was overcast and threatened rain.  I felt Mr. Sensitive’s body relax beside me.

The automatic doors whooshed open.  We left the warehouse.

Instantly, he turned into a whole different kid.  He calmly walked through the parking lot, holding my hand.  We sat in the van with the windows down, fresh air filling out lungs, listening to the radio.  We looked at raindrops spattering on the windshield.  Mr. Sensitive nibbled a rice cake.

He was normal again.  I now realise his body had been rigid with adrenaline, pumped with anxiety and in full fight or flight mode.  Sensory overload launched this.

Costco killed my kid.

Next time, we’re going to stay home and bake cookies.  I have some parchment paper to use up.

Have you experienced something like this in stores before?  How did you deal with it?  What about schools?

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About Angela

Super-powered, Special Ed teacher and special needs mama to FOUR (!) children with an assortment of special needs; including Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and Prader Willi Syndrome. Our family features a heavy dose of good ol' ADHD). I blog about our halfpastnormal life.
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10 Responses to Costco killed my kid

  1. I experience this – he was overwhelmed and I get the same way — mostly in bookstores, but sometimes at Costco — I just have to learn to breathe or get out of there — I so feel for Mr. Sensitive

  2. You know, I *love* Costco, as long as I go during a quiet time. It’s super big and organized and shelves with boxes neatly sorted go up 20-30 feet. It is fascinating. I’m sorry Mr. Sensitive had a bad time in there, though!

  3. Erin says:

    We shop at Costco regularly, but we have very similar problems with our three (all ASD). Our OT mentioned that the high ceilings can be vestibularly disorienting for my kids (in addition to the sensory experience of tire smells mingling with food, etc, and the bright lights and rows, and rows, and rows of stuff!). I often have to take the kids there alone, for our regular grocery trips, as h husband works. I put my younger girls in the carriage and start at the far end of the store with the diapers, dog food, and all the heavy stuff. We make my oldest son lift all the boxes and push the carriage – pushing is an “organizing” activity for him, and it tends to soften the sensory overload significantly. We have taken behaviorists with us on multiple shopping trips too. We have similar problems in Home Depot, Walmart, etc. We haven’t even tried Best Buy in years! Lol. Shopping with autism – fun times… 😉

  4. coyotetooth says:

    Take 3: I set the mood, explain the mission, and start with small focus. For most young people I work with, an unplanned, unprepared journey would be overwhelming. I abort mission if I sense discomfort or over-excitability. I make certain that I am at my calmest.

    I map stores. Stores are designed to attract attention; they attract with all senses. I plan the route to the focused object. I return the same way (unless the person has a problem with that). I spoil surprises by telling them what they will see on the way.

    I have tricks I use to keep focus, and to keep other senses dulled. I task them with important jobs, jobs they are well qualified to do.

    I know, I sound like a boring stiff. But a relaxed successful experience is a good thing. Most importantly, I follow up such an experience with something they love to do . . . A park where running around is good and one can plop on the grass and stare at the clouds, and laugh at the shapes going by.

    And there is nothing wrong with leaving a store and coming back in when ready.

  5. I read oneof your blog posts earlier today on the PWSA facebook page and then a few minutes ago another fb friend posted this one and it showed up on my wall. I read it and then discovered it was the same author as the one i had read earlier. I have an 11 year old daughter with PWS.

  6. funnygurl2 says:

    Yes, stay home and bake cookies. I went to Sam’s Club once. Still haven’t quite recovered myself:)

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