When she started her Change.org petition, Kristin Jackowski simply had a hope that someone would hear her. Her 5-year-old daughter, NavyAnna, falls on the austism spectrum and can easily feel sensory overload--especially in the packed checkout aisles of stores.
That's exactly why she petitioned Target to add a sensory checkout lane; to help kids and parents who experience the same thing finally have a smoother and less stressful shopping experience. The petition currently boasts 1,400 signatures.
“[NavyAnna] has low impulse control,” Jackowski told Philly mag. “And so the candy in the checkout lane, she’s constantly grabbing at it and she has a meltdown when we don’t give it to her.”
The trouble is that customers--and sometimes even cashiers--don't understand the difference between a temper tantrum and a meltdown like the kind NavyAnna goes through. Kristin revealed the harrowing experiences she's had at the store in her petition, citing stares, pointing, and rude comments as just some of the responses to her daughter's meltdowns.
"The stares, comments, and eye rolls of disgust I could do without because the situation is already hard enough," she wrote on her petition's page. But that's not what most concerns this caring mom. "If I see it, then my children are subject to that negative behavior as well," she wrote.
Above: Kristin Jackowski with her daughter, NavyAnna. via Facebook
Though the mom of three hasn't heard anything from Target, the store she pinpointed for her petition, a local ShopRite heard her loud and clear--and decided to make a change.
The manager of the Brookhaven ShopRite, Paul Kourtis admitted to Philly mag that he didn't quite understand Kristin's point at first. But after talking with parents of other kids on the autism spectrum, he had a better picture of just how stressful these episodes can be--and what a dramatic difference this new type of checkout aisle would make in their shopping experiences.
Above: NavyAnna, Kristin's daughter, can easily experience sensory overload in typical candy-packed checkout aisles. via Facebook.
Kourtis took up Kristin's case, becoming her champion to the store owner, Pat Burns. "He immediately gave me the go-ahead,” Kourtis told Philly mag. “I just merchandized the aisle correctly with sensory-friendly objects. No candy whatsoever. It was easy to do. We’re happy to do it. I have 18 checkouts at the store. If I lose one for a good cause, that’s perfectly OK.”
But that's not all! Kourtis revealed that ShopRite will work to educate store employees on autism.
Kristin works nights at a local restaurant in addition to taking care of her kids, so she won't be able to see the new aisle in person until Sunday, but she confessed to sobbing out of joy at the news.
Above, you can see the new sign in the ShopRite of Brookhaven location indicating the sensory check out and below you can see the new offering of this aisle and its helpful replacements for the standard candy assortment.
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