Twelve-year-old Tyree Hill has learning disabilities that mean he struggles to communicate and can find things overwhelming – but his mum Kellie says he’s been transformed by a “phenomenal act of kindness” from Mark Smyth at our Antrim store.
Kellie noticed Tyree was showing an interest in wildlife and posted on Facebook to see if any of her friends might have tips. Mark, who's a wildlife enthusiast, got in touch and gave Tyree a book on birds that really inspired him. Mark's been finding more wildlife magazines and pictures to share with him – and Kellie says Tyree's getting so much joy from everything he’s learning.
She said: "I don't think Mark can understand how much he's unlocked in Tyree. I'm an emotional wreck because what he's done is so beautiful, touching and endearing and has made my wee man so very happy."
Kellie and Tyree regularly stop to chat to Mark on their visits to our Antrim store and Tyree loves telling Mark what he’s discovered.
Kellie said: "Mark always has time to talk to Tyree about birds whenever we see him. Mark is genuinely a lovely person who has time for everyone in life, but the kindness he shows is unreal and I truly appreciate the special joy he's given to Tyree by sharing his love of birds with him.
“It's so touching for me to see my wee man so very happy purely by the phenomenal act of kindness.”
Tyree has severe learning disabilities including ADHD, challenging behaviour, autistic traits and sensory processing disorder which mean he struggles to communicate and understand emotions. Kellie says that since he started learning about wildlife he’s coping much better and growing in confidence.
Kellie said: “It’s absolutely transformed Tyree. When he’s struggling rather than having meltdowns and being distressed and crying he can pick up books and watch birds in the sky or at the bird feeder and find peace from that.
"It’s brought out a whole new side in him. He doesn’t understand emotions and can’t process them and put them across properly, but he’s so happy with everything Mark’s done for him that he spent all day last Saturday writing a letter to Mark to say thank you and tell him what he’s learned.”
Mark, who’s worked at Asda Antrim for seven years, says he’s delighted to see how happy Tyree is.
He said: "He loves coming to Asda to speak to me and it’s really bringing him out of his shell a little bit.
"It’s fantastic to see the difference in him. People always say I don’t show my emotions enough, but this has put a crack in my heart of stone.”
Mark, who’s 58, says he’s always been interested in wildlife, and would love to see more children become as aware of the world around them as Tyree is.
He said: “I recently went to a talk by Simon King, who’s a cameraman for BBC natural history programmes, and he said he was amazed by how few children now have ever held a worm, seen frogspawn, and don’t connect with nature in the way previous generations did.
“It’s lovely to see how happy it’s making Tyree. When he comes in and tells me what he’s learned, like ‘Did you know a baby Robin doesn’t get its red breast until it’s an adult?’."
Kellie says that both Tyree and her other son, 10-year-old Hayden, used to find it difficult to go shopping, but now love to make a beeline for Mark at the self-scan and Scan and Go desk.
She said: "Before he met Mark it used to be a real ordeal going shopping, as I'd have to explain exactly what we would be doing and role play, but now he knows Mark's there it automatically takes all that anxiety away. It's transformed my life."