Mum praises ASDA worker who helped soothe her autistic son

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  • The mother of a little boy with autism has posted an open letter thanking ASDA for their amazing customer service, after a shop assistant went above and beyond to help calm her son down when he was frightened by their Halloween display.

    Jen Goodhand-Wyatt, who’s mum to 10-year-old Oscar, was so grateful to Emma, 23, for her quick thinking that she published her gratitude in an online open letter to ASDA on The Disclosed:

    ‘I wanted to bring to your attention the most fantastic example of customer service that I experienced today in your recently opened Redditch branch.

    ‘My ten year old son, Oscar, is on the autistic spectrum. Whilst in store today, he became overwhelmed with fear by the Halloween displays around the store.

    ‘We had made our way into the store and past a scary skeleton without too much distress but once we were at the rear of the store he was in a total state of sensory overload and the anxiety of the skeleton became too much for him to cope with.’

    The mum goes on to describe how Oscar got so frightened, he felt he was in danger inside and needed to get out.

    ‘He quite literally went into a state of panic and was clawing at me, begging to be taken out of the store as he “wasn’t safe”.’

    Image: Jen Goodhand-Wyatt

    However, leaving proved very difficult as the skeleton display was right by the main exit.

    ‘Being at the rear of the store, there was no easy escape and by it was clear that he felt EVERY exit route was “unsafe”.

    ‘To say this was distressing for both him, his seven-year-old sister and I is an understatement and other shoppers were also upset to see a young boy so afraid.’

    Luckily, Emma was there to save the day.

    ‘Among murmurs from other customers of “the displays should be kept to one area so people can avoid it” (I agree with this entirely and shall address this with you as a separate issue) and “poor lad, can we help?” a friendly face appeared and asked if she could help.

    ‘The “friend” was Emma: a young lady who works in the George Clothing area of the store. I don’t know if she has children or has experience of autism but she showed a level of caring and understanding that we rarely see outside of family.

    ‘She understood that we couldn’t just leave the store – we were trapped as far as Oscar was concerned – and we needed to work to comfort and calm Oscar. Emma asked him “what DO you like?” and he replied “Star Wars”.’

    Emma did some quick thinking and realised how she could distract Oscar.

    ‘She raced to fetch the first thing with Star Wars on.

    ‘She returned in seconds with a pair of pyjamas and got him to talk through the pictures on them.

    ‘WOW. She held a magic key and he started to calm down.’

    Image: Jen Goodhand-Wyatt

    Emma knew that Oscar and Jen couldn’t exit through the checkout area as the Halloween displays were visible from there, so after Jen paid for her items, she spoke to security and helped Jen gradually encourage Oscar to leave ‘via a more comfortable exit’.

    Jen explained why she continued with paying for her items, writing that she is trying to teach Oscar how to deal with uncomfortable situations rather than just leaving them immediately, and praising him when he manages to do so.

    ‘It took about 40 minutes to get him near to the exit as I had to check every aisle and turning for anything that may upset him again and each time he got worked up and needed calming down again.’

    She was so grateful for Emma’s help, that she wanted to make sure her employers knew about what a gem they had working for them. Being preoccupied with Oscar meant she couldn’t thank her at the time.

    Image: Jen Goodhand-Wyatt

    ‘At every step of our shopping experience, Emma made it that little bit easier for both Oscar and I.

    ‘Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to thank her properly as, after she’d arranged that we could make our clear exit with security, we went off on our own to slowly work our way out of the store… and he got upset again so we sat in the coffee shop for a bit before one last dash from there to the door.’

    ‘Emma demonstrated what it is to make a difference. She showed kindness, compassion and worked at Oscar’s pace and she modelled EVERYTHING that a person in a customer interfacing role should do.

    ‘ASDA, you have shown yourself to be a company that recognises the varying needs of people with autism and people with non-visible disabilities and this is why we shop with you.

    ‘Emma exemplifies this in the way she works. She is a credit to ASDA and I hope that she will be recognised for the exceptional way she handled our upset today.’

    ‘I later returned to the store to see her and thank her but her shift had finished. A colleague believed her name is Emma Sanders. Emma… THANK YOU.

    ‘Today you made more of a difference than you can possibly imagine.’

    Emma, whose own son Leo is nearly two, said: ‘I just saw a scared little boy and my motherly instincts kicked in. I tried everything I could think of to calm him down.

    ASDA thanked Jen for her grateful post, and visited her and Oscar with lots of Star Wars treats!

    Image: ASDA

    Emma also got to meet with Jen and Oscar, explaining her actions that day in the store.

    ‘I wanted to distract him from his thoughts and whatever was upsetting him. I just followed my heart. He started telling me about Star Wars, Marvel and Ninja characters. He was a lovely little boy, very clever. It was nice to see him calming down,’ she said.

    Such a heart-warming story!