Thirteen-year-old James Felix often finds shopping overwhelming – but he loves joining his mum Lindzi on their regular trips to our Tonypandy store after striking up a close relationship with our colleague Jason Morgan and the rest of his “Asda family” who go out of their way to make him feel welcome.
Colleagues at the store have helped James, who has autism and ADHD, grow in confidence as they've got to know him – and Lindzi says he hasn't stopped smiling after the store's community champion Karen Thomas arranged a behind-the-scenes tour and gave him a lanyard to wear so other people know he has a hidden disability.
Lindzi says Karen, Jason and other colleagues at the store have done so much to help James.
She said: "The store is absolutely amazing. They really can't do any more for me and James – they're always looking out for him.
"It really is one big happy family at Asda Tonypandy and their help makes my job so much easier. If it wasn't for them, shopping would be a real struggle.
"Going shopping with a child who is autistic can be a real challenge. People do judge you. They think that your child is being naughty when they're not. So having the lanyards is a brilliant idea."
Lindzi, pictured here with James, says he looks forward to their regular trips to the store.
She said: "He doesn't go out to play as he doesn't socialise too well, so going to Asda is one of the few things that he really enjoys. He feels safe there and it's his little getaway.
"He always makes a beeline for Jason – he's got a special bond with him and Jason's so good with him.”
Lindzi says the store tour organised by our community champion Karen, pictured here with James, was fantastic.
She said: "He absolutely loved his tour of the store and was given a name badge and a high-visibility jacket. He thought he worked there!
"He really liked it – especially going in the big freezer. I was turning blue and looking like a Smurf, but he was fine – he loved it!
"He went home beaming and couldn't wait to tell his brother and sister, Jake and Emily, about it. That's really good progress for James. He's been smiling since."
Jason, who's the store's George GM trading manager, has been at the store for four years and has got to know James well on his regular visits with Lindzi.
Jason said: "James is such a nice boy. He always comes looking for me and likes to give a hug. I just treat him like any other kid. That may be why he makes a beeline for me. I always asks him how he is and what he's been up to.
"Everyone at the store looks out for James. We're a valley store and everyone knows each other and looks out for each other. We're genuine, working class people here.
"It's brilliant that James has got a lanyard too and he loves it – it makes him feel like he works here. It's such a brilliant idea."
Karen says she was delighted to be able to help make James feel more confident.
She said: "He's such a joy and known to all managers and colleagues in the store and he loves shopping at Asda.
"He is such a friendly lad and is so gentle. He is always smiling when he comes into store. He's got his favourites – especially Jason – and he always gives them a cutch (hug) when he sees them.
"We do all we can to help Lindzi and James when they come into store to make it easier for her. She knows that James is safe here and everyone looks out for him. If she ever loses sight of him then all she has to do is ask colleague and someone will know where James is.
"James now wears a hidden disability lanyard which tells both colleagues and customers that he has autism and he may need a little more help with his shopping."
She says James loved his tour of the store.
"He never stopped smiling," said Karen. "We took him everywhere – the canteen, the George warehouse, the offices. Along the way he wanted his photograph taken with Steve, the store manager and David the deputy, and Tony, our security section leader, showed him his body camera too."