Shoes for Ellie: Buying shoes for a child with autism
Most little girls like dressing up, picking out pretty clothes, brightly colored beads and wearing dress up shoes. In fact I have pictures of some of my daughters in my dresses wearing my clothes and high heeled shoes. Sensory issues are not uncommon in children with Autism. I actually believe most people have some sensitivity to odors, tastes and textures. Two of my daughters have more than a few sensitivities.
Ellie has issues with wearing socks. She likes socks without seams. The seams bother her toes, rub her the wrong way and in general make shoe wearing quite uncomfortable. I have become a master of putting on socks for her. My husband a very capable man has yet to master this very necessary skill so I remain in charge of socks and shoes.
Ellie has worn the same style and color of shoes for five years. Once we found “the shoes” that worked we saw no reason to torment her, us or the sales person anymore. Granted “the shoes” are Italian made and cost an average of $70 a pair but I rationalize anything that makes for an easier morning getting her dressed multiplied by 365 mornings and it is totally worth the cost. Previously, I just ordered the next size up, bit my tongue on the cost and it was a done deal.
However, last week another child at school told Ellie her shoes were for babies. Her feelings were hurt, she no longer wanted “the shoes” she wanted shoes like other kids. Ones that are “cool with lights” like the kids wear at school. Oy.
Now we had a dilemma. Do I explain to her that labels like “cool” or “baby shoes” are ridiculous? Do I suggest to her to ignore this child and just go with what works? I thought about it, consulted with my husband and my wiser than typical 12 year old and we decided to go with what works.
I asked Ellie to join me on Zappos, a definite shoe Mecca. We started to look at shoes in 100’s of colors, some with lights, and some with bells; if she couldn’t find her “new shoes” here I didn’t think we would find them anywhere. Eager and willing, Ellie picked a lovely pink and white tennis shoe. Not at all like her previous Mary Jane styled shoes. The “new shoes” had a puma cat on it and it lit up when she jumped, ran or in general moved. She seemed thrilled and I charged ahead with the order promising to have them for her the next day. As promised they arrived. Ellie was so excited, she was giddy, and this was a big deal. Expertly, I had her socks positioned perfectly, she was cooperative and voila the Velcro had sealed the deal! The puma was in action.
Ellie wore her new light up shoes proudly around the house all day; she showed everyone how they lit up and even went inside every closet and bathroom with the lights off to experience the full effect. It was done, I was overjoyed and felt relieved and the relative ease.
The next morning we were finishing her getting ready for school and brought out the “new shoes” and then it happened as if someone flipped a switch and everything went downhill from there. She was in tears, the “new shoes” hurt, upset her toes, bothered her and it all came crashing down. The melt down last three hours, included sobbing and caused her to miss school.
We stood there crushed unsure of what to do, where to go from here and sad that the promise of yesterday was going back to the land of shoes via Fedex. I regrouped and announced to Ellie it was time for a feel good day. She would be absent from school and enjoy the company of our amazing nanny Kim. Together they would embrace the day and just do what felt good together, wearing her old trusty Mary Janes. Kim worked her magic, she and Ellie spent a day one on one playing, laughing and shoe shopping. Miracle of miracles they had success; together they chose a new pair of comfortable shoes for Ellie. They are her favorite color, feel good on her feet and best yet, she feels good with them on. Oh and her feet feel good too.