The amount of time and effort parents spend looking after their children is astounding. We see so many mothers and fathers pushing baby carriages down the street or looking after their kids at family gatherings that it is easy to forget how difficult the whole endeavour really is.
And even parents themselves can overlook the little things that can mean a whole lot in the life of a young child. For instance, the search for comfortable shoes is a lot different when you are young than as an adult. Nowadays, I spot something I like, I see if they have it in my size, I try it on, then I buy it or move on.
For children this process doesn’t run so smoothly, with parents dedicating entire afternoons to shoe shopping, knowing that they will have to do it all over again once they’ve grown a little bit, leaving them with piles of shoes that are no longer used.
But this process, and others, are even harder when the child you are looking after is autistic. Of course there are plenty of different parenting techniques you have to employ, but there are numerous smaller things that you wouldn’t have even considered.
Steph Opogah has an autistic son, who is only two-and-a-half years old. Due to the way he processes sensory information, they discovered he could only wear certain types of shoes, sending them on a long journey to finding the perfect pair. Eventually, they found a pair: Little Bird shoes from the UK-based retailer Mothercare.
“He can’t tolerate the feeling of buckles or socks or wet grass beneath his toes,” Steph explained in a Facebook post that has since gone viral, “Some surfaces he’s so sensitive to, he has to be carried. But he loved these shoes.” This was back at the start of the year, and in the months since then, the shoes began to wear out.
When Steph went back to the store to get another pair of the Little Bird shoes, she found that the retailer was no longer selling them. She tried to find an alternative pair, to no avail.
“This time, he wouldn’t let any other shoes touch his feet. He became totally overwhelmed and frightened if I attempted to put shoes on. The whole store was staring at us as his screams reached every corner.
“I asked at the main desk if I could order some in, but was told that wasn’t an option, but I could give head office a call. So I called them once I got home and relayed my predicament. A kind lady told me she would do her best to help.”
She began searching wherever she could to find a pair identical or similar to the special shoes, but had no luck. Just when she thought there was no hope left, she was surprised to find that the call she had made to the store actually had some results. She received a package in the post from the company, an answer to her prayers.
Mothercare sent multiple sizes of the shoes as a gift, so she won’t have to look for another pair again. “I am overwhelmed!” she wrote on Facebook, “I called to ask how to pay for them, and Mothercare said they were a gift and that no payment was required.”
Andy Harding, Mothercare’s chief customer officer said in a statement: “We are delighted that Mrs Opogah and her son are happy with their new Little Bird shoes, and are very proud of our employees who took the initiative to arrange this kind gesture.”
The original post amassed 90,000 shares in just two days, as well as 10,000 comments from people sending their best wishes or complimenting the response from Mothercare. “Struggles like this are a daily occurrence for families with Autism,” Steph continued in the post, “But the journey is made so much easier when there [are] kind helping hands and hearts out there.”
This is one of the few, heartwarming times that people are actually praising a customer service department. It’s good to know that there is still good in this world, even with a simple gesture such as this.