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© 2023 by inTune Pathways 

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A Moment in the Supermarket: Unhelpful Intervention.

February 18, 2018



"Mummy!" she screamed, "Mummy!" as she tore after me down the baby aisle in the supermarket. She was crying and afraid I was abandoning her. She was afraid I was upset or angry with her; that she had done something wrong. Her autism predisposes her to thinking and feeling this way-fearing she will disappoint others, out of nowhere, even when it makes no sense. Just a minute before she was helping me pull the basket on wheels along by the handle, me telling her what a wonderful job she was doing helping, how strong she is. And now, because I started off around to the next aisle without her as she was looking at items on the shelves, she believes she has done something wrong and I am leaving without her.


It's heartbreaking. 


She requires constant reassurance of my love and approval of her, constant proof that she is wonderful as she is. 


Guiding her is tricky. Not always knowing how to handle delicate situations with her (every situation is a delicate one) and making plenty of mistakes has been difficult.

Often, when she has said or done something that I know will create difficulties and challenges for her (I know this because I've been living on this planet for 38 years and have plenty of experience with human beings and social expectations), I struggle to find a way to have her understand the situation without her reacting with anger.


She reacts with anger because she is confused. She reacts with anger because she is embarrassed. She reacts with anger because she is frustrated. 


She reacts because she thinks and feels so deeply.


She thinks and feels she can trust that everything is as it seems, as it appears. She doesn't realise that there are made up rules that we don't speak of that she is expected to know and follow. Even when they make no sense.


"Daddy, you don't need to use a brush. You don't have hair, you have head!".


"That lady has a very round tummy. Why Mummy?".


She doesn't understand why we prefer others don't say these things aloud. After all-they're facts. How can someone be offended or hurt by something so trivial?


They just are. And, your observation and thoughts on that matter are not going to change century old made up social constructs and rules. 


And so, she struggles.


She struggles to understand what may or may not be the right or wrong thing to say.

Sometimes, she's scared to say anything.


There have been comments around her behaviour.


Her behaviour comes from a place of curiosity, inquisitiveness, spontaneity, impulse, wonder, delight and..




Her behaviour is her exploration. It is her navigational centre. It is her communication when she lacks the right words.


And so, because she has been guided, corrected, scolded and taught so many times about situations she didn't understand or recognise as being unacceptable..


She reacts with anger.


And oh, how wonderful she is.


She is kind. Kinder than most adults I know. 

She is compassionate and generous.

She is fiercely loyal and loving.

She is intelligent. Wow.


She will tell me-


"Please don't be angry with me Mummy. I don't like angry people", even when I am not angry with her.


She is sensitive. She is hypersensitive.


And oh, how wonderful she is.


An unkind word or deed against her will stay with her for all of time.

A kind word or deed toward her will stay with her for all of time.


And oh, how wonderful she is.


She is a child. All of three years and seven months. 


Her behaviour is her exploration. Her testing boundaries. Her understanding relationships. 


We get to the check out and we begin placing our groceries onto the conveyor belt. I tell her what a wonderful helper she is, how strong she is.


She notices a gate. It's a gate that closes when the register is shut. She closes it.

I ask her kindly and patiently "Open the gate please". 


She is startled-in trouble again, she believes. She is angry.


"Why?" she demands.


"Because it isn't for you to touch." Aurgh. Fail. She isn't stupid. That won't cut it. 


I'm acutely aware of the lady behind us watching. I feel (imagine) her judgement burning through my back.


OH..there it is.


"That was rude" I hear.


"Very rude" I hear.


I turn, alarmed. 


"Oh! You're speaking to me? Goodness I'm sorry, I didn't think you were addressing me, as I hadn't thought I'd been rude!" I say.


"No, she was poking out her tongue." She says.


"Poking out her tongue? At you?" I ask.


"No" she begins to laugh nervously, "At you", still laughing..now more and more, attempting to lighten the moment.


"Oh right" I say, giving her a smile.


I then turn my back and continue to pack my groceries.


I identify very quickly that I have given others permission to look upon my child with the age old "Do what adults say" approach and mentality.


It's heartbreaking.


I pity her.


I see her humanness.


I understand where she is coming from.


She somehow believes it is her obligation and duty of care to alert me to my child betraying my authority and control by poking her little tongue out at me behind my back.


I see her conditioning.


I feel it.


God, I remember it.


The blows to my ego when my children opposed my authority and control. The panic associated with that loss of control when my children blatantly gave me the message that-


"No matter what you say or do, we will not change for you. We are exactly who we are meant to be".


And I learnt. The hard way.


The most interesting part in all of this outing?


Explaining to my beautiful daughter why there are social rules about not commenting about others aloud in public, yet adults don't have to follow them.



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