Deborah and her children's perspective

Taheera Khan

Date: 20/04/23

Following the previous animation, Deborah shares her commentary as she navigates a trip to the supermarket with her three children.

Supermarkets can be challenging environments for many autistic individuals and their families.

The sensory input and unpredictable surroundings combine to make a daunting experience for Deborah and her son, who are both autistic.

Individuals have their own ways of managing the overwhelming sensory input, while some may turn to stimming as a comfort, others may try to escape the situation.

At the beginning of their trip, everything was going really well, until she noticed her son started behaving a bit differently. Bright fluorescent lighting surrounded the store, accompanied with loud noises and busy crowds, and this intense sensory stimuli quickly became too much for him. He started showing signs of distress, causing Deborah to become concerned.

He appeared visibly upset, and before she knew it, he shot off screaming and ran out of the building. Overcome with worry, she chased after him with her two other young children in tow.

This attracted unhelpful stares from other shoppers, who instead of offering support, made the situation more challenging. It was difficult enough to see her son in distress, but the added judgement from other customers only amplified her anxiety.

She found him in the car park, where he continued to scream and cry into the ground. Observing the scene, onlookers were tutting, whispering and staring – instead of choosing to be empathetic and understanding, their reactions applied more pressure to the situation.

Thankfully, Deborah managed to keep him safe and restrained in a safe way, reassuring him that they were going to go home and everything was going to be okay. One of her children had the great idea to take the phone out of her pocket and phone her husband, who was then able to come and help them out.

At the same time, a kind gentleman stopped by and asked her if everything was okay – which was really reassuring for both herself and her children, because up until then, everyone had been stood staring at them.

In a moment of unease, anxiety, and distress, the reassurance and kind gesture from a stranger was a huge comfort. The small show of support made a huge difference to her family and showed that, sometimes, a little bit of kindness goes a long way and it doesn’t take much to be an ally.

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