13-year-old Jude Patton has struck up a great relationship with Kirstie Ainsworth and other colleagues in our Antrim store – and every Saturday they give him his own Asda work top and name badge so he can help them out while his family are doing the shopping.
They met when his aunt Elizabeth asked Kirstie if Jude, who has autism, could help her tidy up some of the shelves. They've now formed a firm friendship, so he helps her during the family's regular visits – and the top and name badge make him feel like part of the team when he comes in.
Jude's dad Cyril said: "Kirstie has been brilliant with him; they get on well and I think what she's done for Jude should be recognised. He loves going down to the store and looks forward to putting on his Asda top and name badge, and that makes him feel important and part of the crew. He really enjoys tidying the shelves and they do price checks together too.
"Jude has autism and ADHD, so he tends to get fixated on something for a period of time. When we went shopping, Jude was more interested in tidying the shelves, so the way Kirstie was chatting and smiling with him even before she took him under her wing was brilliant.
"We've been shopping at Asda Antrim since it opened and we've always found the colleagues there are very friendly.
"I have a joke with Jude now and tell him he won't have any trouble getting a wee part-time job when he's 16 because all the managers already know him! You can tell he's going to have a good work ethic when he gets older. He's a great kid – he loves riding his bike and playing computer games."
Kirstie, who's worked at the store for eight years, recently gave Jude a store tour where she helped him make his own pizza and showed him how the checkouts work.
She said: "We met last year when I was filling out displays and this little boy came over and started helping of his own volition.
"His aunt who was with him came over and asked if I minded if he helped me. I checked with our store manager Robert Ryans and he was fine with it.
"He comes in with his parents Cyril and Julie or his aunt Elizabeth every other Saturday so I plan things for him to help out with – little things like sorting displays and filling shelves.
"We keep his top and name badge behind customer services and he puts them on top of his clothes every time he comes in."
Robert said: "Jude and Kirstie are now friends and it's great to see. Jude is a lovely lad and his parents are delighted Kirstie has taken such an interest in him.
"One of Kirstie's main responsibilities on a Saturday is looking after the shelves near the checkouts, so Jude gives her a hand tidying up and putting sweets on the shelves while his family do their shopping.
"We thought it would be nice to get him a top and a name badge. The shirt is the smallest adult size they're available in – it's a bit big but he really likes it. Who knows, maybe in a few years time he could become an employee here!"