Any kind of shopping experience can be traumatic when it involves children with autism (not all though, some can go amazingly well) but one of the worst has to be the trip for school shoes. Even for Milly who is obsessed with shoes this type of shopping expedition is too much, a complete sensory overload. From the minute school finished in July to the end of the first week back in school the shoe shops are packed with mums and dads all in the same position. The shops are crowded with strangers, full of so many different noises and smells that are enough to send all 3 kids into full on meltdown mode and this is all BEFORE you take the 1-2 hour wait time to be served! So after sitting for nearly 2 hours comes the time to have a stranger touch your child’s feet, now this can cause several reactions 1) screaming and pulling away from the assistant as it’s quite common for people with autism to not like people touching their feet (or any part of their body for that matter). 2) hysterical giggling fit as the foot is possibly the most ticklish part of the human body or 3) run around the shop with the shop assistant, parents and siblings chasing after the child (the chase may also include any other child in the shop that can escape the clutches of their parent to join in this fun game of catch the child).
This year I’d bought the kids new shoes at the end of the summer term so they’d hardly worn them and they still fit so I decided they could have hem and then I’d do the shoe shop once they were settled and things were a little less hectic. As Milly’s shoes were getting tight I had a bit of a dilemma; do I take her at the weekend when it’s going to busy and similar circumstances to the summer rush or buy her a pair while she’s at school and hope for the best – I chose the last option but I was going prepared!!!
This morning before she left for nursery I drew round her bare feet onto a piece of paper, cut round the shape and popped it into my bag and hoped that she could wouldn’t laugh in my face when I produced 2 footprints instead of a child. I went into my local Charles Ager in Coventry and couldn’t have asked for better service. I explained the situation about Milly, autism and the hassle of shoe shopping and pulled out my cut outs. The lady was wonderful and assured me that it wasn’t a problem and that she would do everything she could to help me. Without even measuring she instantly knew that Milly was a ‘G’ fit (this bit I already knew so was surprised how quickly she established it). She then pottered off to the store room and returned with about 10 boxes of school shoes. Pulling one pair out she told me that Milly was between a 6.5 and a 7 depending on the brand of shoe, she then placed my cut out into one of the shoes and showed me that there was a thumb’s width left at the front (which is how it should be for growth). I looked at all the shoes and chose the pair I liked the most. At the assistant told me to take them home and try them on Milly and explained how to check if they were the correct fit, reassuring me all the time that if they were the wrong size or if I had any other problems that I could bring them back and exchange them for more suitable ones.
It turns out that they fit perfectly and Milly loves them but one lady and a bit of forward thinking from me made what could have been a nightmare experience into a smooth sailing one. First thing tomorrow I will be ringing the manager of Charles Ager up so that I can let them know what fabulous and helpful staff they have in their store.
For anybody else that has children with shoe shopping issues, try taking the footprint with you to the shop, you never know you might enjoy the peaceful experience as much as I did!