Oat Lattes and Cakes -15 MINUTES READ.
The little coffee shop, big on inclusive spaces!!!
How do I measure the value of therapeutic places? To give context, every morning if Joe feels safe enough to go to school, Cooper and I spend a couple of hours @theglobecleethorpes. When you arrive, the smell of the coffee fills the room and the staff welcome you with a huge smile and cater to your every need. The sound system plays a variety of songs depending on who's set the playlist. This changes daily depending on who gets to it first!!. Today the back room is filled with donations ready to be sent, in support of the Ukrainian crisis. The Globe is a family run business and considers the staff working there, family too. This is very apparent when you see the subtle interactions. Its very endearing to observe.
As part of this family, two lovely humans, Cariss and Kayleigh have offered to help me design the foundations for my blog!!!. I knew what I wanted it to look like and all the visuals are photos id taken, but just didn't know how to build it all. I must have been sighing rather loudly out of frustration whilst trying get my head around the techie bits which I hate, when they offered to use their only day off to help me....(Legends!!)
A big huge thankyou to these wonderful humans.
That offer of help totally sums The Globe up. They are just good people. The best kind. The first time Joe came along with me, I'd pre booked a table so Joe got seated straight away and we didn't need to waste time and energy reading the room. I usually sit at the same table if I can get it. On the walls there are shelves full of books for people to help themselves to, read or buy and variose different forms of historical conversational pieces to evoke conversations for people who are happy to chat.
I wanted to find a welcoming space where I could either sit and write, read or simply take in other peoples conversations. This can be a double edge sword when you are isolated from the community, listening to others chatter about every day topics can make you feel a little resentful. This will depend on how my evening went the night before or morning, as to how over whelmed I can sometimes feel.
On one occasion I was sitting at a table reading Nick walkers latest book, (further down the page) and in the background the song "true colours" by cindy lauper played. Well, I felt a huge surge of emotions as my mask melted away as soon as the words started to fill the room. I think we all mask anyway as humans, no matter how we identify, but that day I was triggered and questioned, if it was ok to be sitting on my own every morning and how pathetic this must look when the only real interaction I had with the world was here, as I desperately try to connect with people?
On the flip side However, I actually enjoy my own company as I dont need to make as much effort!! Thankyou to Matt and his team for enabling me to find solace within your coffee shop @theglobecleethorpes. Because of you and your team, Joe and I have a place to feel welcome and I have made new friends!!!
This is Jan and Geoff. They were sat close by to my hubby and I over heard them talking about their son, I heard the word "autistic "so my ears automatically pricked up, as they always ways do, when I hear any language which links with being neurodivergent. I cant help myself. I'm like a homing bird trying to listen, waiting for the mostly disabling language that some may unintentionally use. Sometimes I even correct them.!!! Its like one voice is saying, go on correct them, jump in!!! and the other one is saying, No Jenny that would be inappropriate and judged as being over familiar!!!!! I digress.... Anyways, I say...... Sorry to interrupt but did I hear you say your sons autistic? and the lady, now known as my regular coffee buddy aka Jan, replied with Yes.!!!! So I replied with "congratulations!! Mine too !!!. I think Jan was abit taken aback by this response. As peoples usual response is..... sad face.... Pause.... Then, I'm sorry. Which really infuriates me. as what do they need to be sorry about? Feel sorry weve had to battle for everything and the education system and everything outside of it is built to disable which causes trauma but please don't feel sorry for joe being autistic. Its sooooo, well.......insulting, disappointing and un community like!!!
I digress... Again!!
Anyhow, we talk about lots of things really. I talk mostly about how important empowering language is and how I'm preparing Joe for adulthood and they share with me how their sons life is effected by adulthood and how little a say they feel they have when trying to advocate in meetings because hes 34 years old. So we are learning from each other. We also occasionally talk about what face cream we like to use which is of great importance too!!!! I'm not sure Geoff would agree though? Sorry Geoff!!
When we talk about "community." What do we mean?
Community will mean lots of things to different people. For me and Joseph, we have felt outside of our community for as long as we can remember due to lack of autistic spaces, in fact, to feel outside of something would mean that "something "would need to exist in the first place. I really do feel then, that in actual fact, true authentic autistic spaces in my area are yet to be established. Joe and I haven't come across them yet anyway. This is because the majority of community spaces and community living are designed for neurotypical people, when designing and creating community spaces most of the time.
"Meaning that people are trained from earliest childhood into the performance of neuronormativity- "The performance of the local dominant cultures prevailing image of how so called "normal" person with so called "normal "mind thinks, looks, and behave"(Nick Walker) end of text.
and are therefore conditioned with the expectations of living within certain boundaries, said spaces, community living, and rules including those rules inside the education system, this is also known has being "neuronormative" and "part of the performance of neuronormativity" (Dr.Nick Waker) under the language within the neurodiversity paradigm.
In the sense of community, for us "Community" means feeling that you belong, without judgement or having to change your identify to please others or to make others feel more comfortable or to fit an excepted stereotype and that you feel part of something as yourself and are seen as a valuable contribution.
The official definition of "community" Noun.1. "A group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristics in common."
But having something in common doesnt necessarily mean that you automatically have places available for all of those people that have something or things in common to meet and form relationships. If they choose to. Well not in our experince, not if your neurodivergent. Actually, scrap that, there are places that claim they are inclusive, however are still operating under the pathology paradigm and are not making the adjustments that neurodivergent people need or are not aware of these adjustments or have not created a totally neurodivergent led space to begin with (meaning that neurodivergent people have not being asked to help create the space.) The globe, Cleethorpes wasn't set up with any particular group of people in mind though just open to all humans. In other words. Accessible to all under on one roof. Its the mindset you see. Music too loud, they'll turn it down, need a quieter space, no problem ,they provide it. Don't want to talk to anyone, no problem, they'll give you your space, need more room, no problem they move a table. Flexible, fluid without batting an eye. On one occasion Joe felt safe enough to start singing one of his favourites in Spanish and gave all the staff a show, which concluded with a round of applause and plenty of appreciation. How did that effect Joe? He wanted to return.
The staff ENABLED him to be Joe outside of his home.
This was a positive experince. He lasted around an hour which to some might not seem long, but 5 minutes, 20mins, one hour, it doesnt matter. It was a positive experince which leads to feeling validated and he doesnt appear anxious when I talk about the Globe or shut me down straight away when I suggest going.
What tools does Joe need for this to feel successful for him?
Feeling regulated and therefore safe is EVERYTHING.
Drawing pad and black pen so he can drown out everything else and absorb him self in his passions. This makes him feel safe and in control, head phones, this dulls down sounds that irritate him, rubber Lego chew, freedom to be able to stim/singing either in English, foreign language or made up. This helps with regulation. Having full control of when he can leave. Remove as much uncertainty as possible. Add phots of all of the above
To summarise my initial question How do I measure the value of therapeutic places?
Also please see blog on the main page -Titled how do we teach children and young people to value their identity when they are measured against mainstream guidelines which measure "performance" and what message does that bring?.
I learnt over the years exposing Joe to harmful environments have caused a great deal of trauma which has led to high anxiety,PTSD. Over the last 3 years he has benefited from a very important relationship with Gemma draper, add proffessional title who has supported him in talking about His Primary Mainstream Education and how this period of his life(seven years)foundation to year 6 impacted on him along side other elements of his day to day living. TO BE CLEAR THIS IS NOT THERAPY TO "TREAT AUTISM" THIS IS TO SUPPORT HIM IN TALKING ABOUT HOW OTHERS HAVE TREATED HIM AS AN AUTISTIC PERSON. Add photo of Gemma and Joe This has had a huge benefit in terms of how Joe views himself as an neurodivergent person.
Gemma and I work closely together. Exposing Joe to harmful environments does not help Joe in any way to understand his body by "pushing him to go" or by "building his resilience" In fact it does the opposite. With this in mind, for Joe to be able to access the globe there was a lot of prep work. TIME...... TO RECOVER FROM PAST TRAUMA. Its taken 3 years since he left his primary education.
Stage 1- Laid back conversations at home about my time spent at the globe.
Stage 2-Photos of the Globe for Joe to look at as and when he wants.
Stage 3- Looking up the globe on google to find out how many miles away from home he would be if he agreed to go.
Stage 4- Going "Just for a look"
Stage 5- Going...... I measure value through Joe being enabled to be his self in that environment without having to change any of his presentations and this in turn reinforces that he is validated and included. He returns home happy and we have a positive memory of our time together. Thus not adding any additional trauma to his brain/mind/body.
Is this valuable? Hell yes!!!