At The Supermarket…

For Autistic people, going to the supermarket can be a sensory nightmare. Different temperatures. Different smells. Lots of people. Overly noisy.

I am horrible when there are lots of people around. I’m bad with too much noise. But those are all issues I can explain with other stories. There is one sensory issue that is supermarket specific in my mind.

Different layouts.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t care. I’m adventuresome. I like figuring things out. But my problem comes when I’ve been looking for that one item. It should be here. Then it should be there. It got moved across the store. It got moved down the aisle. There are less in stock. There are more in stock. This is simple, every day things for people when they visit the supermarket. Normally, I can even solve these issues quickly. Every so often, I am thrown for a loop and get stressed.

The bigger problem is if I go to a different store location than I normally do.

I live in a town that, no matter which location of a supermarket you walk in to, entire sections are some place else. I’m not talking about that I can’t find food. I’m talking about finding a specific subset of food. I’m talking about finding the toy that my kid has talked about for so long. I’m talking about finding windshield wipers for the car. I walk in to “my” supermarket, I can go straight to what I need. If I walk in to a different one, I need time. I need time to find things. I need time to control any stress reactions. I need time to simmer down.

A side bar expansion on this issue: I go to different locations of the same supermarket depending on what I am looking for. I will drive OUT OF THE WAY if there is a specific store I have always picked up something at. It doesn’t matter if another store is closer.

I feel like such a tool trying to explain this sometimes. But it makes sense in my mind.


Also published on Medium.