Seven-year-old Joseph Lewis, who has autism, often finds public places overwhelming – and when he called in at our Gorseinon store with his mum Tanya for the first time in several months she was so impressed by the kindness and compassion shown by cafe manager Amanda Hamil that she took to Facebook to say thank you.
Tanya brought Joseph, his 11-year-old sister Chloe and brother Tommy, who's five, for lunch at the store's cafe to take advantage of the Kids Eat Free offer which is running through December.
She says the thoughtful way Amanda made sure Jospeh had a nice experience made all the difference, as she let him take his time choosing his food, served it with the wet and dry food kept apart, and helped Joseph when he got upset when an alarm went off.
Tanya, who's a regular customer at the store, near Swansea, had not been shopping with the children since earlier in the year because of the pandemic.
She said: "This wonderful woman Amanda had never met any of us before. She asked what Joseph would like to eat, but he had to take his time to find his words. He kept saying "apple juice" over and over. Amanda said 'Tell you what, let him take his time, he can have his apple juice first then we'll see what he wants to eat'.
"Joseph couldn't quite get across what he wanted... commonly with kids with autism it's plain beige-coloured food. Amanda kindly said she'd bring him a kids' meal with a piece of toast and that it was no problem at all. She clearly had real understanding and compassion and knew this was really challenging for Joseph.
"I sat at the table with the three children together and then thought I'd better ask her to not put beans on his plate. Again, commonly with children with autism, [it can be a problem] having wet food touching dry food. I got up to queue thinking 'she's going to think I'm a right pain' to ask if he could have no beans, but Amanda was already walking out of the kitchen to our table with two kids' meals with beans on the plates and another kid's meal with Joseph's plain toast, nuggets and chips but with beans in a separate bowl. He was really excited.
"Then something started alarming in the store and this made Joseph stick his fingers in his ears and cry and scream. He was walking around the cafe with his fingers in his ears when Amanda kindly asked him 'what can I get you?' and asked how she could help him feel better. She offered him colouring in or a dot to dot as he loves doing dot-to-dot. She got this for him and helped him sit quietly and gave him and his brother a box of crayons. She was amazing.
"Her kindness and compassion really helped a struggling little boy and this is exactly what we needed. Children with autism need this so they can grow up feeling safe and go and do every day things and then have the chance of living independent, happy lives like they deserve."
Amanda, whose grown-up nephew has autism, says it's nice to be praised, but insists she was only doing what comes naturally.
She said: "It's the way I am. If you see a child upset you just don't walk past you ask 'are you ok?' I try to talk to them and calm them a little bit.
"It was just a natural reaction with Joseph. Not everyone understands and not all conditions are visible. Somethings you can't see, so you just need to have a little bit of patience.
"As soon as you see a child who is autistic put their fingers in their ears you know then that the noise is too much so you try and reduce the noise down a bit. I couldn't see Joseph being distressed and I felt for his mum too but she was amazing and her two other children were brilliant.
"When Joseph's mum had asked for beans with his meal I just knew that putting those beans on that plate was going to cause him a bit of distress, so I popped them in a little bowl at the side. A small thing like that can make a big difference."