In 2018, Shoes & Sox, a large national retailer of children’s shoes in Australia, approached Aspect Practice seeking help and advice on what they could do to better cater for the needs of children on the autism spectrum, in their in-store experience and the products available.
Anecdotal reports from families of children on the autism spectrum have indicated that autistic children experience numerous difficulties associated with wearing and shopping for shoes, however, at this time no published research had examined these issues.
How can we help a national shoe retailer provide an autism-friendly shopping experience for children on the spectrum and their families?
We surveyed over 100 parents of autistic children aged from 3 to 21 years across Australia about their child’s experiences with wearing shoes and shopping for shoes, and their perceived utility of a range of possible adaptations that could improve these experiences.
What we learnt
The results of this research provided empirical evidence for the anecdotal reports that autistic children commonly experience a range of issues with wearing shoes and shoe shopping, and identified what these issues were. The research findings indicated that an ongoing program of autism awareness training for in-store staff and a range of adaptations to in-store services could improve the in-store experience for children on the autism spectrum and their families. It also indicated that there was a significant market demand for shoes styles that could meet the particular needs of autistic children across all ages.
Making a difference
Based on these research findings, Aspect Practice has developed a program of training and in-store adaptations, which is now being implemented by the retailer across all stores nationally to provide families with children on the autism spectrum with a more enjoyable and successful shoe-buying experience.
Aspect research team
Kaaren Haas, ARCAP (Lead researcher)
Tom Tutton, Aspect Practice
Lauren Rolfe, Aspect Practice
Autism Spectrum Australia
Shoes & Sox