Special Needs Parenting: Finding kindness and the perfect shoes

Jodi Shenal by Jodi Shenal Additional Needs

Jodi Shenal

Jodi Shenal

I'm a stay-at-home mom with two amazing children. My son is on the Autism spectrum and my daughter has a rare genetic disorder and multiple disabil...

The hustle and bustle, the hordes of shoppers, and the thought of germs all around create a hermit out of me.

Sitting at my computer in my pajamas with a cup of coffee is definitely my preferred shopping experience.

When my daughter needed shoes to fit over her bulky, cumbersome AFO leg braces this December, I knew online shopping was out of the question.

They had to fit just right and they had to be perfect for helping her on her quest to taking steps.

My daughter is seven years old, and has a genetic disorder that among other things, causes low muscle tone. She has worn orthotic braces for years.

As she is now learning to take independent steps in a gait trainer, her braces with the sole made onto the bottom are beginning to cause a problem.

She’s never needed shoes before with them, but now she’s starting to rock back on her heels while walking, needing more traction.

I have taken for granted all these years how daunting the task of finding AFO compatible shoes would be!

On a Saturday evening, my family bravely headed into a large shoe store, child and braces in tow.

As we made our way to the kids’ shoes, her anxiety kicked in, and my husband swiftly carried our crying daughter back to the car.

The store was jam-packed, and as my own anxiety began to climb, a friendly sales associate asked if I needed help. I started into a long spiel of what I needed while showing her one of the braces.

As they surely don’t get a lot of requests like mine, I worried that I would be disappointed when she politely asked another associate to come over and help.

I explained my need again and was met with understanding and a dedicated attempt to find a solution.

One of them asked me what my daughter’s diagnosis was, and shared with me that she was studying medicine.

She nodded with sincere interest as I related to her the ins and outs of a Chromosome 1q43q44 deletion.

She listened intently and compassionately as I opened up about the conditions associated with her disorder.

Both of the sales associates pulled down countless shoe boxes, searched high and low for wide width shoes, and sat on the floor with me to try each and every one of them over the brace.

They thought of creative ideas, and they were more disappointed than I was when the only pair that precisely fit were black with blinding neon green colored stripes.

As the proper fit and style had been identified, the mission was now focused on finding the same fit in a pretty, girly color.

They eagerly offered to order a pair online for me, in my price range and color choice, to be shipped to my home. Hooray!

We all walked to the front of the store, and I was feeling quite accomplished as they searched their system to order exactly what we needed.

As I was preparing to pay and head out of the store, I thanked the young ladies and expressed my gratitude to them for going out of their way to assist me.

They both replied that it was no trouble and that they were just, “doing their job.”

The customer service that I received that day was beyond superb.

For a Special Needs Mom, experiences like that are greatly appreciated.  I am very thankful that I ventured out into that particular store on that particular Saturday in December.


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