All shopping trips can be stressful for parents when their child is in tow, especially when it comes time to check out.
Kristin Jackowski is more than familiar with this less than desirable situation, but the struggle is even more difficult for the Philadelphia mom because her daughter has autism. After one of 5-year-old NavyAnna's particularly upsetting meltdowns in the checkout line, Kristin decided to try to make a change. She launched a petition asking large stores to create an autism-friendly checkout aisle. The movement was originally focused on Target, but ShopRite heard about the idea, listened to its customer's need, and made it happen at its newest location.
"I'm over the moon and sobbing like a maniac," she told Philadelphia Magazine. "It's a great example, and I hope other companies follow suit."
This new setup swaps sugary candy and snacks for sensory-friendly items including crayons, stress balls, toys, and wet wipes, which is huge for both families with children on the autism spectrum and those who wish to avoid the point-of-purchase candy temptation entirely. According to her mom, NavyAnna has low impulse control and the sweet treats in the checkout aisle trigger a meltdown when she has to put them back. "We have encountered judgment from other customers and employees who are ignorant to these issues," the mom of three wrote in the petition online. "The stares, comments and eye rolls of disgust I could do without, because the situation is already hard enough."
According to ShopRite store director Paul Kourtis, "It was easy to do." He added: "I have 18 checkouts at the store. If I lose one for a good cause, that's perfectly OK."
The aisle is marked with the autism puzzle-piece symbol and Kristin hopes that other large companies will follow ShopRite's lead. "[Shoppers] are going crazy for it. Even if you don't have a child who is autistic, everybody knows a child who is," Paul said. "People think it's a great idea. Anything to provide our customers with a safe and friendly shopping experience, I say let's do it."