During a person’s younger years, they might grow attached to certain items around their home. Indeed, from action figures to books, these objects can become permanent fixtures in the hands of a child. But while most grow out of this phase, Kate Bell faced a unique situation with her daughter.
A resident of Cheshire, England, Bell’s little girl Elsie is autistic. Connected with that, the youngster became very attached to a specific dress in her closet. The item in question was made from a dark gray fabric, sporting a multi-colored heart in the center with a jagged design running through it.
After taking a liking to the dress, Bell’s daughter then refused to wear anything else from her wardrobe. As a result of that, there would no doubt be some challenges ahead for the mom, with the frock getting a lot of wear and tear. However, everything changed in July 2019.
At that point, a friend of Bell’s named Deborah Price decided to take action. Noting the delicate situation, she went on Twitter to share Elsie’s story, before asking if anyone else owned the same dress and wanted to sell it. From there, Price’s inquisitive tweet quickly gained a lot of traction across social media.
The job of a parent can be incredibly rewarding, as they’re tasked with helping their children through the early stages of their lives. Along the way, though, moms and dads will have to face down certain obstacles, whether that relates to health or behavior. With that in mind, one condition in particular can be very challenging to deal with.
Autism can have a big effect on a child’s behavioral patterns, as well as their communication skills. The disorder first came to light back in the 18th century, as a Scottish man named Hugh Blair displayed some of the symptoms. Around 50 years later, another case emerged in Aveyron, France.
Indeed, in 1798 a young feral boy was taken off the streets, with several people attempting to care for him. But despite their best efforts, the “Wild Boy of Aveyron” continued to escape their homes. Eventually, an aspiring doctor named Jean Itard was able to study him, noting some autism symptoms.
As for the name itself, it first came about back in 1910 thanks to Eugen Bleuler, a psychiatrist from Switzerland. However, during that period the word was solely used in Bleuler’s study of schizophrenia. It would be another few years before those in the medical profession started to attribute “autism” to the symptoms we know today.
Meanwhile, the first autism diagnosis came at the back-end of the 1930s in Baltimore, Maryland. The patient’s name was Donald Triplett, but he was better known as “case one” within medical circles. Dr. Leo Kanner made the assessment, before studying the condition further in one of his research papers.
Since then, more information has come to light about autism, with occasions such as World Autism Awareness Day raising its profile. Furthermore, it was believed that more than 24 million individuals were affected worldwide back in 2015. Given those numbers, it’s worth taking a closer look at the condition.
Autism is not just one condition – rather, it’s a label for a wide grouping of conditions. Consequently, it’s sometimes known as autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Those conditions tend to bring difficulties in socializing and communicating, and people with ASD might find comfort in doing the same things over and over.
And it’s fairly common. The Centers for Disease Control say that out of every 59 American kids, one will have autism. But the variety in outcomes of ASD can lead to different levels of function. Some will have high skills and abilities while others will struggle with the symptoms that it brings.
Indeed, there are a plethora of different kinds of autism, running across a spectrum of differences. On the whole a mix of factors from the environment and genetics combine to cause separate conditions. This leads to people having their own problems to cope with and their own high points to celebrate.
While this does mean that some who live with ASD will need a great deal of help in living their lives day to day, others won’t. It’s possible for some to have independent lives. And because there is a spectrum of autism, people sit at different points between those two poles.
With such a range of autistic conditions in the spectrum, parents will be on the lookout for signs in their children. And ASD will usually make itself known by the time a child is two or three years old. It’s too simplistic to be specific, but there are some things that are associated with autism.
On the physical side, autism often comes along with sensitivities in the realm of the senses, seizures, problems with sleep or gut disorders. At the same time, in the area of mental health, autistic kids might show signs of anxiety or depression. And they might have difficulties maintaining attention.
Interestingly, autism can be spotted in infants, with kids as young as 18 months old showing delays in development that are connected with autism. But this isn’t entirely the bad news that it might seem at first glance. Catching autism and getting support in place early will show benefits later, as research has demonstrated.
Meanwhile, Kate Bell is one of those people who’s faced down the condition in recent years. Her young daughter Elsie has it, which led the mom to create a Facebook page detailing her “adventures.” But in July 2019 the pair hit the headlines on social media after Bell looked for some help.
Bell’s daughter had fallen in love with a dark gray dress in her wardrobe that she went on to wear every day. Elsie refused to put anything else on, leaving her mother in a tricky position. Due to its constant use, the frock was suffering from plenty of wear and tear, meaning that it didn’t look like it would last in the long term.
On that note, one of Bell’s friends decided to step up and assist her during her time of need. Deborah Price devised a plan to lessen the strain on Elsie’s dress, before sharing it on Twitter over the summer. Despite her initial intentions, not even she could’ve predicted what happened next.
“[My] friend’s autistic daughter only wears this dress,” Price wrote on the social media website in July 2019. “Don’t judge. Sometimes people can’t cope with certain stuff, and it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, does it?” With that in mind, she put forward her plan to help Bell and Elsie.
Price added, “Question is, has anyone got this Next Official dress from three years ago in age 11 plus? And if so can we buy them off you?” Alongside the tweet, Bell’s friend included a picture of the dress as well, which stood out thanks to its multi-colored heart in the center of the chest.
Before long, Price’s plea was generating plenty of attention on Twitter, as online users came together to offer their help. From posting links to eBay to sharing their advice, she was inundated with responses. However, a few of those replies really stood out, with people looking to do their part.
“I don’t have the dress,” wrote one Twitter user in the comments section. “But if it would help I’d be happy to get some of the fabric (is it just plain black T-shirt cotton?) and try to make a similar one for [Elsie].” Price appeared to like that idea in her response, leading the user to take a closer look at the dress.
“Looking at it there,” the person wrote. “It looks like it’s a ringspun cotton jersey with un-hemmed arms and hem, and a T-shirt neck. Most of which I could likely recreate from an old XXXL men’s T-shirt from a charity shop, which is worn-in already. Though it would have to have one side-seam.”
Elsewhere, another social media user came forward with some good news, revealing that they owned one of the dresses. But there was a potential drawback, though. “I do have this in age ten, my daughter never wore it as [she] didn’t like the colour gray,” they wrote. “Happy to send to you if you think [it] will fit.”
Unsurprisingly, Price was thrilled by the gesture, noting that she’d consult Bell ahead of giving them the green light. Following that conversation, the mom’s friend then came back and confirmed that they would be interested in taking the dress. And she made the user an offer of her own as well.
“[Bell] says that would be amazing if it’s okay with you,” Price wrote in response to the user. “Because her little girl can wear it at home and have the slightly longer one they’ve already got for school. Thank you so much! Let me know if you’d like some money for it.”
As the replies continued to flood in on Twitter, Price then received a response that left her shocked. Indeed, Next contacted her directly through its official Twitter account, having produced the dress a few years earlier. In the resulting message, the clothing company tried to find a solution to the problem.
“Hey Deborah,” read Next’s message on the social media website. “We have dropped this item from our range, but we’d still like to help get this item for your friend’s daughter. We can’t guarantee it, but we will try our very best to contact the supplier and see if we can produce a few more batches of this dress.”
However, the twists and turns didn’t end there, as someone else replied to Price’s tweet. Much like one of the previous users, they had the exact same dress, albeit in a slightly bigger size. To prove that they were genuine, they snapped a photo of their daughter holding up the item.
By that point, Price’s inquisitive tweet had gone viral, with her message generating a massive response across Twitter. Since then, her initial post has earned close to 8,500 likes and more than 3,000 retweets. In addition to that, it’s also garnered more than 200 comments, which delighted Bell’s buddy.
Price wrote, “Such a pile of flippin’ lovely people you all are! We’ve got suggestions of mumsnet, a Facebook group, people offering to make one, Next themselves talking to the supplier on Monday. Thank you so so much!” But her reaction to the outpouring of online support didn’t stop there.
After praising the social media users who offered their help, Price followed that up with an interesting comment. “This is lovely,” she continued. “It’s like Twitter used to be before the hate.” From there, she had a message for Bell, adding, “Look [at] all these amazing people trying to get your little girl a frock. It’s brilliant.”
Some 24 hours after the first tweet was posted, Price then felt the need to write up another message, as she reflected on everything that happened. Looking back at the previous day, Bell’s friend now delved a bit deeper into what the responses meant to her. Evidently, she was truly touched.
“Yesterday I put a tweet out asking people if they had this Next dress from three years ago,” Price wrote on Twitter in July 2019. “Because my friend Kate Bell has a daughter with autism who can only wear that dress. [Elsie will] eventually grow out of her fascination with this dress, or not. Who cares. Doesn’t matter.”
However, Price didn’t just focus on the reasons for wanting to help Bell and Elsie. She also had some things to say about social media itself. “Well you know how Twitter’s generally a bit of a bear pit these days?” the user continued. “It wasn’t yesterday. Something lovely happened. People started to retweet it to look for the dress.”
After that Price brought up some of those Twitter users, as well as Next’s response, hailing their kindness. But that wasn’t all, though. “In the end, one lady said her daughter had an age 16 [dress] and she’s sending it to us,” Bell’s buddy revealed. “It’ll be too big, but it doesn’t matter.”
Price then touched upon the other social media user who offered up her daughter’s age ten dress, before getting to an important update. She wrote, “A girl called Mila found her age 12 dress which will be perfect, and she said to her mom that she would send it to us.”
With that in mind, Price had one more thing to say on the matter. She added, “I told the mom to tell Mila how kind she is. She’s given my friend some breathing space and made her daughter’s day too. Massive thanks to each and every one of you, and huge thanks to the two girls who have chosen to send their dresses.”