Almost a year on from opening, at least five families are finding support in Whangarei's Play Cafe.
Angie Moselen, early intervention teacher, and Jenny Davis, manager of Raumanga's He Kakano Childcare Centre and early intervention teacher, started up the Play Cafe for families with children who have additional needs to gather, get support and advice and chill out with a coffee.
The group has recently moved meeting space to He Kakano childcare centre and Mrs Moselen said it has "just been amazing" to be in a child-friendly space with the children. There is no other group meeting in Whangarei that caters to the needs of these families whose child has anything from a speech delay to a more severe need or provides the support and services Play Cafe does. A lot of the families that go are referred by specialist services.
Mrs Moselen said the group is "pretty unique in the way that it is building support networks for our families but also offering specialist help".
They have an open door policy to specialist services with a big range of specialists coming along to offer their support and advice. Ms Davis said a big part of what they are doing with Play Cafe is early intervention and ensuring that any issues the children are facing are picked up early.
Mrs Moselen said a lot of families with special needs children can feel isolated and may not know people dealing with the same things. The Play Cafe offers the opportunity for these families to come together and talk and for their children to make connections with other children "who are like them".
Sarah Slagter, who has two children who are hearing-impaired, has been going to the Play Cafe for about four months. The support and specialist help is what drives Mrs Slagter to return fortnightly. Kelly Palmer said she loves the support and the social factor of the group.
"Sometimes you just need someone who gets it."
Her son has neurofibromatosis type 1 and she finds most of her support online so she is grateful that she has found a group that "gets it".
Mrs Moselen wants more families to come along and join their weekly Play Cafe and hopes that they can support more with their specialist services in the future. They hope the meetings will become more frequent and that they can work with more specialists in the community.
Anyone who wants to join Play Cafe can contact email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org