PUBLISHED: 12:45 11 May 2015
Archant Norfolk © 2014
A new cafe in Yarmouth is providing support, friendship and a welcome cuppa for parents of children with autism.
Debbie Jansen knows first hand just how bewildering it can be for parents when their child is diagnosed with autism, so she has used her experience to open a very special café – offering a lot more than tea and cake.
Her son Ben, now 10, has Aspergers, ADHD and several other conditions under the umbrella of the Autism Spectrum Disorder and it was her determination to create a safe and comfortable environment for him that led her to open A Slice of Heaven in Yarmouth.
Her autism friendly café has become so popular with children and adults alike that Debbie now hosts a weekly support group where parents can share experiences and get advice.
“It took four years to get a full diagnosis for Ben and it was hugely difficult. It can be very daunting, facing up to the fact your child might have a disability. But you have to think about it as your child having a ‘different’ ability. It is about learning how to tap into their potential and running with it, giving them an opportunity to shine in any way you can.”
After Ben’s diagnosis she took redundancy from Aviva to enable her to spend more time with him and to be available for his various appointments. It was then she began baking cakes, initially as a hobby.
“I was making wedding and birthday cakes and it gradually became a business. I opened a shop in Yarmouth’s indoor market and a Slice of Heaven was born,” she says.
When she moved to a new premises which enabled her to open a tea room as well, her thoughts turned to making it autism friendly.
“It had be somewhere that Ben would feel happy and comfortable as he would be with me a lot of the time. Then I thought if I am making it a calm, safe environment for him, why not extend it to parents of other autistic children.”
She has created a calm space, with sensory toys, an area for drawing and reading and a cup cake factory where children can decorate their own cakes.
“It gives parents a little bit of respite and a chance to talk if their children are happy and calm.But equally, parents know it doesn’t matter if their child has a meltdown, there is no need to worry about it and to feel self concious. We are completely non judgemental,” she says.
Such has been the success of the café, Debbie has now started her weekly support group and the response has been fantastic.
“Slice of Advice is open to everyone and gives parents or carers the chance to share experiences, get advice and just to talk. We try and look at a different theme each week. I felt I learned so much going through the process of getting Ben diagnosed that some of that knowledge might help others,” she says.
Slice of Heaven, 148 King Street, Yarmouth NR30 2PA. Slice of Advice is every Wednesday from 10am -1pm and everyone is welcome. See facebook.com/sliceofheaven1970.