This Mom Deserves All The Credit For New Autism-Friendly Checkout Line

by Jerriann Sullivan

Philly mom petitioned for autism-friendly checkout

A Philadelphia mom is the driving force behind a new autism-friendly checkout line at a ShopRite store. After a particularly stressful shopping trip, Kristin Jackowski launched a petition that urged large retailers to create a lane more suited for kids on the autism spectrum.

Jackowski’s 5-year-old daughter NavyAnna is on the spectrum. Navigating checkout lines have been difficult for the little girl. “She has low impulse control. 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 mom of three shared with Philly Mag. “We have encountered judgment from other customers and employees who are ignorant to these issues,” Jackowski wrote in her petition online. “The stares, comments and eye rolls of disgust I could do without, because the situation is already hard enough.”

While her petition originally focused on Target, Jackowski’s thrilled to hear that it motivated employees at a local ShopRite. “I’m like over the moon and sobbing like a maniac,” she reported. “It’s a great example, and I hope other companies follow suit.” Instead of the usual display of candy and sugary foods, the new checkout aisle is stocked with toys, wet wipes, stress balls, balloons, crayons and a variety of other sensory-friendly items.

Like a lot of people, store director Paul Kourtis didn’t really understand why a special checkout lane was so desperately needed. He told reporters that he did some research and quickly realized how helpful one would be for customers. “It was easy to do. We’re happy to do it,” he explained. “I have 18 checkouts at the store. If I lose one for a good cause, that’s perfectly OK.” The petition also led ShopRite to invest in education on autism for employees, which is nothing short of amazing.

This is a move in the right direction. Companies are starting to do more to help people on the spectrum. It gives us hope for humanity.

And it didn’t even take Kourtis and his team a long time to put it all together. “I brought it to the attention of the store owner, Pat Burns, and he immediately gave me the go-ahead,” he said. When Jackowski shared her petition with Target managers, they responded enthusiastically but claimed the change would have to come from corporate. Kourtis took a few days to get the new checkout lane put together at his store.

They used the autism puzzle-piece symbol to let shoppers know about the special lane. “They’re going crazy for it. Even if you don’t have a child who is autistic, everybody knows a child who is,” Kourtis shared. “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.”