Special needs

How shopping for my toddler with special needs just got easier

Shoe shopping for her daughter is no longer stressful for Anchel Krishna and her husband. Here's why.

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Syona tries out her new shoes. Photo: Anchel Krishna.

Follow along as Anchel Krishna shares her experiences as mother to Syona, an extraordinary toddler with cerebral palsy. 

When you have a child with special needs, the regular everyday tasks you undertake can become more complicated.

From toilet training to toy shopping, it becomes infinitely more complex as you deal with equipment, sensory issues, and limitations. Most of the time it’s not impossible, but it can be tough.

For us, one of the biggest challenges with Syona has been shoe shopping. It’s a simple task, but one that is much more difficult given the fact that we have to buy shoes that fit over her ankle foot orthotics (commonly known as either AFOs or braces).

Read more: Why shoe shopping stresses me out >

Usually, when I purchase shoes for Syona’s AFOs, the salespeople ask me questions and use their standard series of tasks to help a customer make a purchase — despite the fact that I explained that my situation was different:
• They insisted that I try and get Syona to stand independently so they could accurately measure her feet. Errr, my kid can’t stand. If you can achieve that, then you need to talk to every one of her therapists because you have just helped us achieve a major goal.
• The size of Syona’s feet really doesn’t matter because the shoes have to fit her AFOs. The salespeople had a hard time comprehending that I needed shoes that were size five’s when Syona’s feet were actually only a size three.
• Focusing on the arch support of the shoe, even after I explained that I don’t care about the support, is irrelevant — because with AFOs all of her support comes from the custom-moulded plastic that keeps her foot in place.

Emotionally, shoe shopping is hard. I see all the cute pairs I want to buy for Syona, knowing that they just won’t work with her AFOs. Shoe shopping is one of those tasks that we all have to do for our kids. But it’s also one of the tasks that most highlights Syona’s differences and how these regular tasks are more challenging.

We recently got Syona’s newest pair of AFOs from her orthotist. These appointments are amazing, and the team at the clinic works overtime to help us out. They truly care about the families they serve and are happy to help make our lives easier (they’ve been known to make adjustments, add Velcro and support to shoes so they are easier to slip on over AFOs). It makes something that is tough so much easier.

So when I went out to purchase shoes for this new pair of AFOs I was prepared for a long, painful shopping trip. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to find a knowledgeable expert who had experience in finding shoes for AFOs at Kiddie Kobbler. The whole process was easy and took less than half an hour. It was an amazing contrast from our experiences last year.

My takeaway from all of this is to look for people with experience and call ahead to see if anyone can help. And while this specific experience applies to shoes, I think I’m going to start implementing it with other Syona-related tasks as well and see how it goes.

What are your tips for making everyday tasks easier to manage?