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P.E.I. boy with autism gets speedy help at Summerside Walmart

Allena Bernard and her stepson Jace are thankful for the “great shopping experience at Walmart,” after a panic to leave the store spiralled into an act of kindness.
Allena Bernard and her stepson Jace are thankful for the “great shopping experience at Walmart,” after a panic to leave the store turned into an act of kindness. - Desiree Anstey

An understanding employee made a big difference for the family

SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I. —

A routine grocery trip to Summerside’s Walmart turned into an act of kindness to help an autistic boy safely out the store before a scheduled fire alarm triggered a sensory overload.

Allena Bernard, from Lennox Island, feels overwhelmed by the help she received from a Walmart employee.

“I have never had someone understand just how important it was for me and my family to leave. If I hadn’t been helped, I would have just taken the cart with my kids and left my (other) cart filled with groceries behind because of the alarm," - Allena Bernard

“It was Tuesday, and I brought Jace (Bernard) and his sister grocery shopping with me in Walmart, as per usual. I had two carts, one containing the kids and the other loaded with groceries. We were at the end of our shopping trip when I heard the loudspeaker announce the fire alarms would be tested,” she said.

Bernard panicked, knowing that sudden, loud and unpredictable noises trigger Jace and his non-verbal Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Four-year-old Jace has difficulty filtering out what others may be able to ignore as background noise.

“Loud noises set him off in a frenzy. He will start screaming,” said Bernard.

“I rushed with the two carts to the nearest and shortest checkout and a greeter noticed. I told her about my stepson and why we were in a rush to leave, and she instinctively went out of her way to help.”

The Walmart employee took Bernard’s cart, loaded all the items on the conveyor belt, informed the cashier, entertained the kids while all items were then bagged, and helped the family safely leave.

“She even asked a couple of workers that were going about their business when the alarm would sound and if they could delay it, but they couldn’t. This staff member really went out of her way and made my shopping experience great,” said Bernard while tears filled her eyes.

“I have never had someone understand just how important it was for me and my family to leave. If I hadn’t been helped, I would have just taken the cart with my kids and left my cart filled with groceries behind because of the alarm.”

Bernard never caught the employee’s name, but she said,” I really appreciate the Walmart staff even more after that experience.”

Shopping is a big task for Bernard. Jace is high-functioning and “doesn’t stop moving from morning until night,” so when the family goes grocery shopping it’s a matter of in and out.

“I’m hoping the Summerside Walmart will get a Caroline’s cart, like what they have in the Charlottetown location,” said Bernard.

A Caroline’s cart has a large seat built into the base so that children or adults with special needs or who may otherwise need a wheelchair or scooter can sit comfortably.

Bernard thanked the staff at Walmart for making her “experience great.”

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