A parent forcing a child with autism to go into a department store during the Christmas holiday season, even if it is just for five minutes to “teach” them to learn to deal with sensory situations they must encounter as adults someday, seems cruel to me. I have actually witnessed such a situation and the end result was the child going into a full blown meltdown. I have complete empathy for that child because I have tried repeatedly to “train” myself to endure shopping during the busy holiday season (to no avail) by using a script complete with navigational maps, communication phrases, and back up plans for everything from an out of stock item to running into someone who knows you and wants to chat. The totality of the large mass of people squeezing themselves down crowded aisles, the pungent smell of overly used perfumes and colognes, the same Christmas music playing over and over again, and the noise and flashing tree lights increases my anxiety level to the point where after just a few short minutes I end up running out of the store in a panic mode every time.
From Anxiety to Meltdown: How Individuals on the Spectrum Deal with Anxiety, Experience Meltdowns, Manifest Tantrums, and How You Can Intervene Effectively – Deborah Lipsky
Ch 1: Seeing the World Effectively Through Our Eyes – Heightened Senses Impact Our Abikity to Navigate Social Settings; pg 19