Here’s What You Get From Being Considerate

Alice  and I have been doing a lot of shopping at Big Y. If you have read this blog recently, you know that the staff at Big Y has been very patient and accommodating with Alice. This is great and I like to make sure that the management in the store knows it. I made a point of passing on just how good things are to the company management.

027Alice’s shopping list has grown to 10 items and you can see that there are a few challenging words. She had no problems reading the list and as usual Alice did a wonderful job. She knew where the items all were and needed only basic support and few redirections to get it done.

I was a crafty parent today because I knew that Big Y had a surprise waiting for Alice today. Earlier in the week, Betti Boggis contacted me directly and asked for a head shot of Alice for a gift they were going to give her.  I made sure that we did the shopping first so that Alice wouldn’t be distracted by the surprise. And what a surprise it was.

028 029Raanan and Jeanne gave Alice some balloons, some fun pencils, and a real Big Y employee ID with Alice’s picture.

034Alice was so happy!



While we waited in the checkout line, Alice was giggling and making squee noises and showing her new ID badge to anyone she could. It was a fantastic experience.




Valentine’s Day

Copyright © 2014 Stephen Hawley, all rights reserved.

Not every day has been great recently with Alice. In this blog I focus on the successes and the achievements. It helps to think positively. Alice has had a few “accidents” which I suspect were “on purposes” and she has been especially pokey doing self-care for school even though she is perfectly capable of it. A few mornings, I’ve found that she has crawled back into bed and shut off the lights. Something like that is very easy to deal with in a positive parenting way if you have time, but that is not an option when you have to also get her into snow pants and boots and get to the school bus stop.


Alice has also had a really stuffy nose and was exhausted by dinner time. That’s when E remembered that she needed to do her valentines for school. So the trick is to decide ahead of time what do I think she can do that will succeed and what can we work on for her. So tonight is was fine motor and reading.  I took the valentines and went over the “FROM” labels with a yellow highlighter and then had her write her name 27 times. I carefully counted off the seconds to myself as she did each one – between 15 and 25 seconds each.  Good – this is realistic.

I wrote the names of her students, but had her read them to me and every third one I asked her to spell for me.

15 minutes well-spent.


An Open Letter to Big Y

To Donald D’Amour

CEO, Big Y Supermarkets

Dear Mr. D’Amour,

I would like to congratulate you on the quality of your staff at the Northampton store.  My family has shopped at Big Y for groceries for the past 13 years, and shopping has been a more or less routine experience until my daughter Alice was born.  You see, Alice won the lottery in terms of special needs.  She has Down syndrome as well as having a heart defect that contributed to her having a stroke within minutes of being born. One thing we are striving to do as parents is to develop her independence as much as possible.  One way I have done this with her is to get her involved in the entire process of shopping.  At this point, we have a routine.  I take her to the store with me and she brings a clipboard and write her a list. She gets those items, puts them in the cart and checks them off.

You might be thinking, “what does this have to do with our staff?” Everything. Absolutely everything. Your staff understands that when Alice is in the store, she’s working. They understand that she is doing a job that involves planning, organization, reading, writing, and communication. When I make the list for her (and by the way, it’s grown to about 10 items now), I’m very careful to include one or more items that involve having her talk to someone staffing a counter. This is where your staff has been particularly terrific. They are careful to listen and treat her with kindness and respect. At least every other week, I stop by the manager’s kiosk and let the manager know who in particular stood out.

This past week, it was Chuck at the butcher counter. He treated her with respect, patience, and kindness. It was very touching to see because in my parent’s eye, I could see her doing this on her own as an adult, something I would like but have a hard time imaging on some days.

When I see how well she is treated at the store, it makes it clear to me that Big Y is truly a community store. It is underscored by the rare occasions when I am shopping on my own and at least two people will say, “oh – you don’t have any help today?” Good for you.

And besides hiring excellent people, you hire with diversity. It’s very easy to put that into words in a mission statement or a corporate mantra on your employment page, but to see it in action makes it clear that you put your money where you mouth is.

Thank you.

Stephen Hawley