Costa Coffee (Mothercare, Romford).

Somewhere safe to be

Added on Sunday 07 August 16

This is a review of a specific place where i spend lots of time. This is not a review of the chain. I’m writing the review to express and explain why i like it and what they do too help me. Perhaps others can use it as a template for other places

I am still figuring out how to go places without getting overloaded, in practice this means I live in a pretty small world.

Day to day and alone, i can’t walk very far. I have one walk, between my freinds house and my flat. Its about a mile.

This is pretty limiting, but as my flat is surrounded by roads and i have such little energy its very hard to access the town centre. Even with the awesome autism hub there, i just can’t get there at the moment.

However, the route between my flat and my freinds house include a business park with a few large shops. One of those is a massive mothercare, with ELC toy shop and costa coffee inside.

I first looked in about two months after i got my flat. I then slowly got more comfortable with the place. I started visiting at the weekend for lunch and slowly built up from there.

Feeling Safe.

There are very few places where i feel safe. Sadly, my flat is not one of them. Alone at home all day is very challenging. It’s like sitting an exam. High pressure, high demand and deeply unsettling.

I feel safe at my freinds house, and the mothercare cafe is a 1 minute walk from there. I feel safe at the cafe as well.

I think there are a few reason why i feel safe at the cafe:

Roads - the cafe is across the road from my friends house down a little lane. There is a zebra crossing i can use. This means, no matter what state i get into (eg, spaced or tired) i am likely to be able to get to somewhere safe.

Sensory Enviroment - the sensory envioment in the cafe is far from perfect. It’s too loud and too bright for me. But with the seats around the edge and the use of ear defenders / headphones it is managable. The autism hub is much better enviroment, but getting there is too energy intensive at the moment.

Hiding in plain sight - I am autistic, and when i am flapping and stimming i think most people will notice. However, if i am sat in the corner of the cafe hiding behind a laptop no one seems to notice or care. If they came to speak with me, or ask me anything, then notice immidiately, but most of the time i am complerely unobserved. This is a nice feeling.

The Staff - the cafe staff don’t know i am autistic. They know i can’t speak, i bounce and flap and i get confused quite easily. They have seen me in every state from happy and bouncy, to spaced out and barely able to walk. They are always, kind, respectful and relaxed. They have a sense of humour, they are confident. I dont know entirely what they think, but generally we find "family friendly" places just tend to be easier for me. I always wave hello, and eat the same cake / drink. Somedays when i am spaced out then will prepare it in advanced for me. I trust them even though i dont know thier names.

Open Lots - The Cafe is open till 7:30pm weekdays and 3:30pm on a Sunday. This means i can escape there easily and often. I spend 2-4 hours a day there most days. Unlike the hub (which is open just 4 days a week) i can have a single routine for everyday. If i am having a bad day i could wait here untill someone i trust can come and collect me.

Food - I purchase the same food and drink every visit. I also eat the same thing for lunch as well. This sameness is awesomely helpful for me. Its predictabe and comforting.

Other stuff - i also visit the toy shop and sometimes buy stuff from the wider mothercare store. Things like gates, lights, bath stuff and some bedding. This is a nice, it gives me a chance to have autonomy and independence.

Final words.

This is a review of just one place, but it is such a great place i think it deserves recogntion. The staff and location make it feel safe and relaxed. It’s expanded my world and gives me a good place to work from. It’s not "special needs", its not "autism freindly", its just a really good cafe with kind, friendly staff. Good job Costa!

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Spaced Out & Smiling is about exploring the fun side of Autism, and trying to understand what it means to be Autistically Happy.

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