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My Son Goes to the Grocery Alone and Bakes a Lot. He’s 11 and On The Spectrum.

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Read Time: 3 minutes

We love independence stories! This one comes from Adriane Thompson in Surprise, Arizona. (“Where do you live?” “Surprise, Arizona.” “I’m not that surprised.”)

Adriane works for a company that helps people launch and run successful microschools. She’s also a certified parent coach who is “passionate about helping parents raise self-sufficient, emotionally and psychologically healthy kids.” She writes:

Dear Let Grow: Thought you’d appreciate this! To celebrate the end of the term, my son baked two apple pies. He rode his scooter over to the store to get flour and even brought back the change! One afternoon, instead of doing school work with his teacher — we do a combination of pod-schooling, homeschooling, and tutoring — she worked alongside him peeling apples and preparing the crust. After she left, he finished the pies on his own.  I think this was the first time he’s operated the oven by himself. Beaming with pride and being silly!! Our house smells so good! 

Nolan Holding Pie Small

This was inspiring so I asked Adriane — and Nolan, who is 11 — to tell us a little more! Nolan wrote:

“I baked pies by myself because we were having a Thanksgiving party. We needed pies. I had a recipe book and I follow recipes all the time. So I rode my scooter over to the grocery store by my house and bought the ingredients. I didn’t ask permission because I knew I didn’t need to. I have been baking by myself since I learned how to read. My mom used to help me with the oven but I can do that now without getting burnt. I like getting to do things on my own because it stresses me out if I’m told what to do. 

[Pause: We relate!]

Nolan again: The reason I decided to bake my own pies was because pies are expensive from the store but the ingredients are not. I do things like this a lot.

Wow! As we paused to think about that University of Michigan poll that found only 50% of parents will even let their kids, aged 9-11, go to another AISLE when they’re at the store together, Adriane sent us some more of her son’s creations:

Nolan Cake Pops Small

She added:

Each of our sons goes to a different type of school that fits their individual needs. Nolan is home-educated because school wasn’t challenging. Also, the need to test well and “fit in the box” caused him high levels of anxiety. Thanks to Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, he gets to choose what he learns. He works with a private teacher a few days a week, goes to a learning pod the other two days, and works with a Stanford student to dive more into his passion, computer science. A few times a month, he takes sewing and cake decorating classes from local entrepreneurs. He sewed his own Christmas pajamas this year:

Nolan And Mom Small

And he created his own birthday cake:

Nolan With Pokemon Cake Small

Last year he baked treats and sold them outside a local coffee shop. He made over $250 in less than two hours! It was great for him to work on his social skills. As I sat and watched him talk to customers, collect money, etc. I was tempted to talk for him but kept my mouth shut. Ha!

One man who owns a local sub shop told Nolan he should look at customers in the eye. I was proud of Nolan for advocating for himself. He told the man he was autistic and that it’s sometimes hard for him to look people in the eyes because it causes him anxiety but that he would try. The man ended up buying a lot of treats from him! 

At Let Grow we say: GO NOLAN! And readers, if you’d like to give your own kids a little more independence this year, we’ve got ideas! Take the Pledge of Independence and we’ll send you 10 easy tips!

Nolan Decorating Tall Cake Small 1


  1. BBruce Holtgren says:

    This kid is gonna go places, mark my words. He is obviously benefiting from great parenting, and from looking at his mom’s website (, she very clearly “gets it” about how to raise healthy, successful kids. I am also “on the spectrum” and I can only wish I’d had this kind of upbringing. But back then it was the dark ages … there was just zero awareness about these sorts of challenges. I’m envious when I see success stories like this, but so glad for kids who are growing up in a more enlightened time. Go Adriane! And go Nolan!

  2. MMichelle Mortensen says:

    That was my first step in letting my kids have more independence! I figured if they couldn’t figure something out, I’m in my car right outside, but my kids never needed my help. I had given them grocery scavenger hunts many times before I let them shop by themselves, so they know how to find almost anything in the store.

  3. AAmber Roshay says:

    Loved reading this article. I’ve had a plan of letting my kids aged 7 and 8 shop for a meal by themselves. We don’t live in a walkable area (up hills, no sidewalks, and 5 miles away from a store), so I’d have to drive them there, but I’ll wait outside. This has given me inspiration!