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New Chariot At Loblaws

Featuring Caroline's Cart

· accessibility,advocacy,disability,special needs,product review

IBI stands for Intensive Behavioural Intervention (IBI), which refers to the application of principles of Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA). Of all the treatments available for children with autism, ABA has the scientific evidence that can produce improvements in areas such as: communication, social relationships, play, self care, school and employment. When properly administered by a certified and well-trained practitioner, ABA can increase positive change in behaviour and reduce those that may cause harm and/or interfere with learning. Each child has their own unique way of learning, and I’ve always found that the instructional practices at Breakthrough Autism are not only grounded on evidence-based research, but also tempered by their differentiated instruction and their instructors’ qualified experience.

I always like to share Bella’s progress at Breakthrough Autism as the intensive nature of the IBI therapy has not only helped Bella thrive, but it has also given her many life skills to help her become more independent in the home and school environment.

If you know Bella and/or have had a hand in her education, it can take years for her to grasp a skill, let alone be able to apply it in context within multiple environments. In 2016, Bella started a program that focused on pushing a cart. I requested this program to be implemented because the end goal was to give her the independence to eventually be able to push a grocery cart with me when we are shopping together. With the combination of the repetitive nature of the IBI therapy, and the opportunities to practice this program in the school and home environment, Bella is now able to push a cart like a boss.

For all the ABA folks, here is a glimpse of the simplified version of the Pushing Cart program.

Now, in order to run this program it would have been unethical of me to ‘borrow’ a real grocery cart *silent laugh*, so my DIY-Dad modified our old Melissa & Doug grocery cart and created an extension so that it would be high enough for Bella to rest her hands comfortably on. He also added a padded handlebar with coloured tape to accommodate her vision impairment, so that she could target her hands to hold the bar. We then placed one of my medicine balls to weigh the cart down so that it would give the gross motor feedback to teach Bella the pushing movement.

At school, her stellar Community Class team continues to work in collaboration with Breakthrough Autism and I to ensure that she receives opportunities to practice this program in the school environment during her programming time. Occasionally, Bella also gets to push the cart to deliver the sub lunches to various classes in the school.

Since Bella was a toddler, she was always fascinated with grocery carts. Even to this day as I pull into a parking lot, Bella will kick and scream in excitement when she sees the grocery carts being collected as the workers corral and maneuver them back into the store. I wonder what is so fascinating about these carts? Maybe it’s the attraction to the metal of the carts banging into each other, or the movement of the carts passing by... or maybe even the attraction to the young worker? LOL

Either way, when I learned that she was genuinely interested in grocery carts, it was an easy decision to transform a preferred interest into a functional behaviour. When Bella is with me at the store, she is now able to keep her hands on the grocery cart and push it forward for up to 10 steps, until I ask her to stop!

The pushing cart program is a great success for Bella, and continues to be a program on maintenance. Consistent practicing opportunities in multiple environments are key in Bella’s learning, however I’d be lying to you if I said that I was consistently able to:

1) Do my weekend grocery shopping solo with both kids.

2) Find a clear aisle in the grocery store to run the program 5 consecutive times.

3) Provide Bella a consistent reward of blowing bubbles when she pushes the cart without erroring…

...all while yelling “NO! Put it down. Choose a snack with less sugar!” to Petie as he tries to con me into buying some processed crap. So, here’s my mom-truth confession, I will always find a way and somehow manage to keep both kids happy. To give you a glimpse of reality, I'd like to start off by showing you some pics of Bella enjoying the ride on her metal chariot in her younger years...

And this is now… Bella enjoying her ride, Petie enjoying his free cookie (1 per kid every visit to Loblaws), and a cart full of everything but the kitchen sink. #mominarushwhilegettingsh*tdone #DIYgrocerycartforbigkids

Now it’s obvious that a 10-year-old sitting in a grocery cart isn’t age appropriate, so when I was introduced to a company called Caroline’s Cart I knew I had to find a way to get this at my local Loblaws store. If you haven’t seen these carts before, check this out!

So what, now what?

After 6 months of communicating with our local Loblaws store manager, the Loblaws customer relations department, and the Loblaws corporate head office, the advocating finally paid off. This past weekend I received an email from the store manager letting me know that Caroline's Cart was available for us at the store.

So here are some snapshots of the new chariot at our local Loblaws. Any person with a disability is able to access it as an accommodation while they are grocery shopping in the store. The contoured seat is comfortable for low muscle tone individuals, as well as a harness to help secure a person from 35 lbs. to 250 lbs. There is also an ample-sized cargo basket that provides space for purchased items.

As our family was leaving our Loblaws grocery store that day I muttered to myself about how happy I was to have finally received the grocery cart, as it took so many months to advocate for it.

Out of nowhere Petie responded to me, “Do you ever wish we didn’t have Bella so that things would be easier?” *insert emoji with shocked eyes*

Me: “No, I would never think that. Mommy is very happy and lucky to have both you and Bella because you teach me to be a better person, and to never give up. How about you? Do you ever wish we didn’t have Bella?”

Petie: “Never, I know she needs me. And now that there is a grocery cart for Bella, there are other families who will need it too. Bella will make it easier for other people.”

Thank you to Caroline's Cart for guiding me in the right direction to help with my advocacy to get this chariot at our Loblaws. You are doing great things across our country and beyond to help families like ours in the community! For more information about Caroline’s Cart in partnership with Easter Seals, click here. Also, check out their Literature & Downloads, to access a sample letter you can write to your local grocery store manager.

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