Cats and Other Nonhuman Companions

Why cats you may be asking? Why not, I reply?

We are living in extremely weird times, no social interaction, wearing face coverings, no schools, working from home and the wonderful technology of Zoom.

We here at CoomberSewell Enterprises LLP https://www.coombersewell.co.uk/ own two delightful, but very different, further babies.

Now Kevin is of a mature age,  a little rickety on the back legs, and sleeps more than his younger counterpart. Kevin is a tabby cat, who has lived life to the full and has the raggedy ear ends to prove it. He is not so keen on catching mice as he once was but will happily eat up the remains that his female companion hunts for him. Kevin likes nothing more to come and sit on our laps and snuggle up under our chins whilst we scratch his neck and ears. He will purr contentedly all the time it suits him; he will move from my lap to her lap and then back to my lap until he gets bored when he will walk around the furniture until he can sit contentedly on the windowsill watching the world go by.

And then there is Woof… A female tabby cat who is a little confused by her name and lives the persona of both cat and dog. Woof has her own personal slave who tends to her every whim and need. Her slave is autistic, a recluse and a selective mute. For him Woof is his constant companion. She lives in his bedroom with him, and though he cannot tolerate human physical contact she is allowed to snuggle into him for warmth and tummy cuddles. She persuades him several times a day to feed her Dreamies, to play games which do include the occasional scratch and bite when he least expects it.

These two cats are a delight to the whole household and in these times of lockdown have become a source of distraction and fun.

Perhaps I should also mention our eight chickens who live in a very large luxurious sun house with a huge fenced in enclosure to run around and play in. Now, I would not want you to think that these chickens are in any way, spoilt after all they only provide us with eggs everyday which we sell on to very appreciative friends and neighbours. Inside their wonderful sun house they have a large shelf that they snuggle together on, to sleep every night. They have eight nesting boxes, though I am unsure why they only lay their eggs in one? They have food and water, a ladder to walk up to their bed, sawdust on the floor and a large bale of hay to keep them warm. Out in their run they have two logs to jump on and off of and to find insects to nibble on. They have home-made climbing frames and on the 1st of January they acquired their own Christmas tree. In their run they also have a large bale of straw which has been de-roped, and they have scattered to their hearts’ content. They also have an automatic feeder which these very clever chickens have quickly learned that if they jump onto the treadle the lid pops opens and they can feed to their tummy’s content. Every morning my other half takes them out scraps of food left over from us humans, laced with plain biscuits and warm water. She changes their roosting paper, cleans up their mess, checks their water and their feeder to keep our delightful, productive chickens happy in their daily task. Every evening she visits them again, cleans up after them again, and entices them back in to their warm sun house with delightful treats.

And of course there are the fish, some who live outside in the pond with lots of lily pads and pondweed. The other fish live a warm life in their tropical tank filled with beautiful plants, a sunken pirate ship, beautiful stones and slate.  Today they welcomed 10 new companions, making them welcome in their tropical home.

I hope you have some furry friends or other nonhuman companions to help you through these difficult times. Cuddles, fussing and talking to our beloveds helps with the feeling of isolation, loneliness and the long days.

But should you need a chat with a fellow human please don’t forget we are always here, willing and able to listen and help where we can. info@coombersewell.co.uk

So This is Christmas???

So This Is Christmas???

Well what an amazing year we have had, who would have thought last Christmas that we were heading for a pandemic?

I know it would be easy to speak about all the things we have missed but I thought 🤔 let’s take a look at some of the pluses, yes there have been a few

Zoom  Skype  Teams  Messenger  to name a couple of online, face-to-face platforms.

Jane and I have transferred all of our university students onto Zoom, which has been a great success. The majority of our students are on the autistic spectrum so meetings on the Internet are much easier than face-to-face

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But it’s not just our university students, one of the many hats  Jane wears is as a schools governors clerk, they too have moved on to Zoom. Jane has also recently joined the Federation of Small Businesses  and is Zooming  along to several of their network meetings.

For myself I am seeing my private clients on zoom as well as attending Twilight networking meetings every other Thursday evening https://www.i-nutrition.co.uk/twilight-networking-events/

Another good thing that has been happening is exercise,  Just how many adverts have we seen in the last year to join online exercise classes. Not that I’m saying we have participated in any of these because we haven’t. What we have been doing is going out for walks  Admittedly we did far more walking during the first lockdown than we have been doing recently but that is because our workload has greatly increased. Not only have I been doing more mentoring,  but Jane has been undertaking far more proofreading  than ever before

What about actually meeting face-to-face with family and friends,  I for one more than ever greatly appreciate those rare occasions. Whether that’s having a socially distanced barbecue  in our back garden or unexpectedly meeting old friends while out on a walk 

Personally, I also like the new way our doctors surgery  is operating. I phone  them, the receptionists asks a few questions, then I’m either phoned back to say there’s a prescription sent to the chemist, or that the doctor will phone me, or the doctor will see me, and I’m given an appointment time. I for one hope this system stays in place after the pandemic is over. No more sitting in germ  infested waiting rooms.

Some things have not changed though, for instance about every eight weeks Jane and I cook, freeze, and take up to Derbyshire 70+ meals  for my old stepdad.  We fill his two freezers  and normally we would spend the weekend with him. Of course, currently this is not possible under the Covid-19 restrictions. So last Sunday Jane and I did a 12 hour, 600 mile round trip,  spending just 45 minutes with him, unloading the car, filling the freezers, and then sitting in his shed  while he stood in the doorway of his kitchen  chatting to one another through our various facemasks  and shields. 

With just under two weeks to go before Santa comes to fill our stockings  we are busy ordering those last-minute presents  off of the Internet. Though very limited I suspect we will meet with a few of our family over this Christmas. So, it just leaves me to say;

Have a very, very, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

 

Meaning Making Machines

I have just successfully survived my final review for my Masters by Research.

Tracking The Timeline and Impact Of Inequality Between Autistics And Non-Autistics In The United Kingdom From The 19th Century To The Current Day

So now I have until mid-February to get my final draft in,  ready to submit at the end of March.

So why am I telling you this, how does this link to Meaning Making Machines and why did I wait until I was in my 60s to go to University?

As a 6yr old in infant school child my desire was to be allowed to have a reading book, but to attain this I had to correctly read some flash cards. One fateful day I was called to the teachers desk, my turn had come once again. Out of all the cards there were two I consistently read wrong, COME and BECAUSE, those dreaded words. My teacher must have felt very frustrated and smacked me on my bottom.

And in that moment, I created my Meaning: “I am thick and stupid”. I then set my life on the track to prove that that meaning was completely correct.

I became the class clown at school, to hide how thick and stupid I was. I left school at 15 so as not to ‘fail’ at any O levels I might have been expected to take.

Due to my mum getting me an interview at the factory where she worked, I started work straight from school. However, within a year I became pregnant even though at that stage I had considered pursuing qualifications as I really enjoyed my job.

Once I went back to work, in between having more children, I always chose basic, factory, potato picking, shop jobs as I believed I was too thick and stupid to attain anything else.

As I got older, I used my thick and stupid meaning as an excuse to not be responsible for my actions.

For example, in my early 40s I became a Doctor’s receptionist, a job I thought was far above my station. One of the responsibilities I was given was being in charge of the prescriptions which came out from the back office. This also included filing them in alphabetical order, this was way outside my comfort zone. ABC is fine but AA, AB, AC etc is a real challenge. One day a gentleman asked for his prescription, he gave me his name, I went to the box, removed a prescription and handed it to him. Within a few short seconds he was laughing hysterically. By an alphabetical error I had given him his brothers prescription for Viagra……

Of course, I went straight to my thick and stupid excuse. It wasn’t my fault, fancy the manager giving such a responsible job to a thick and stupid person.

A few years later I decided to try and get an English GCSE. After every 2hr lesson I went to learning support to have the lesson explained more fully. The gentleman I saw suggested I met with an Educational Psycologist for an assessment. The outcome showed that I am very dyslexic but have a higher than average IQ. Oh! and I attained a ‘B’ in English 😊

Now you would think that would be the end of my thick and stupid excuse but remember, humans are Meaning Making Machines. Something happens, we make it mean something, then we collect our bias history to keep that meaning in place.

I continued to believe that I was thick and stupid even though I had papers to prove I wasn’t.

My A-ha moment…

came during a Landmark Forum course in London. https://landmarkworldwidelondon.com/  I shared my thick and stupid stance. I was asked when did I last feel this. I replied ‘at lunchtime when in the lift with others. I had said the floor number I thought to be correct and of course it was another floor number’. The leader asked for those in the lift with me to raise their hands, he then asked them if they had said I was thick and stupid. They of course said no, I quickly replied ‘but they thought it’.

The Landmark Leader then asked me when I had first thought I was thick and stupid. This I quickly related to my school flash card debacle. We then looked at my thick and stupid history and how I had used this to keep my “truth” in place. Of course, that smack given to me by my teacher could have meant a thousand different things, but I chose it to mean I was thick and stupid. No ‘truth’ there at all, just me being a Meaning Making Machine, which all humans do. Something happens, we make it mean something, then collect history to keep it in place as ‘truth’

So now in my 60s I have passed my Bachelors with a 2:1 and I am nearly finished my Masters by Research.

Now what will be my next challenge??? If you have suggestions, contact us

Different Experiences, Different Times

In this blog I want to talk about the different experience of two people with autism, myself and a 21 year old.

Let me start with my own journey from school to my present day university.

I remember my first day at infant school, standing amongst a large crowd of adults and small children like myself. I remember a little boy clinging to his mother and sobbing his heart out, this boy later became the school bully.

When I started school there was no mention of dyslexia or autism, if you couldn’t keep up you were known as slow, or inattentive or even thick and stupid. Somehow, I always managed to stay up in one of the top classes, by this I mean I was not put in the class for the ‘less able’.

My overriding memory of school both primary and secondary was the people I was at school with. In the first few years of primary school I had one friend, we spent every playtime together, just the two of us. That was until her dad, who was in the army, got posted overseas. My then friend went to a group of girls and asked them if I could join their group and they said yes.

I spent the remaining years of my primary and secondary school life being on the outside of that group, never feeling like I quite belonged. The girls were never mean or nasty to me, I joined in the games that they played, but I never felt like I quite belonged. As we all grew older together, I discovered that they were meeting up at the evenings and weekends, going swimming or to the pictures together, but I was never invited.

In my secondary school years, I felt like the teachers removed me to stand outside the classroom door more often than being in the class. My school reports said things like, “if she spent less time helping others and did own work she would do better”.

Later in life I went to college to study English GCSE, but again I never made any lasting friendships. However, I did learn to hand in unusual possibly obscure subject matter for all my assignments. For instance, my story was on ‘Christmas through the eyes of the donkey’. This got published in the college’s Christmas magazine.

And on turning 60 I went to university to study for my Bachelor’s degree in Counselling, Coaching and Mentoring. I spent three years of my life, two full days a week, with the same cohort of people, with the same outcome as when I was at school. No one was unkind to me, we chatted together if the moment called for it, but I was never invited to go to lunch with them or join in social activities after the lectures.

I am now taking my Masters by Research where there are no lectures to attend or any cohort to be on the outside of. I have wonderful supervisors who help me, support me and direct me along the path to succeed.

Now let me talk about a young 21-year-old and their journey through education. They too started school around the age of five. Throughout their entire primary school experience, they felt they were treated differently than the non-autistics in their class.

In the morning they attended a normal class with everybody else, but always felt like they were treated differently both by the teachers and their classmates. At lunchtime instead of going into the dining room, those who were deemed ’different’ had their lunch separately. In the afternoon these children were again segregated into a separate class to learn more about social skills than reading, writing and arithmetic.

At the age of 11 this young person started in a special educational needs (SEN) School to continue their education. Though in this school they felt more accepted and treated more equally and were able to make friends with like-minded people, they were not allowed to take any meaningful qualifications.

Next this person progressed into college to take GCSE English and Maths and a BTEC qualification. Again, they experienced feelings of being treated differently, and though the BTEC course they had chosen had aspects that did not sit comfortably with them they continued to the end, finishing with a successful BTEC qualification.

This gave them enough points to continue on to university to take a Foundation qualification in computing. This is when they and I met, I became this young person’s mentor, and what a privilege that has been.

They have now completed their Foundation degree with a very high score and progressed onto the first year of their Bachelor’s degree in gaming.

During all of their experience of university they have not felt any of the stigma that they felt through their schooling and college life. They have made friends and been treated equally with the whole of their cohort by their lecturers.

So, what does this say about the 20th and 21st century experience of an autistic in education?

We both experienced prejudice from teachers and other pupils, we both experienced rejection and isolation during our school and college lives. But here is where the paths differ, I as a 60+ year old still felt on the outside during my Bachelor’s degree experience, whereas this 20+ year old found acceptance, friendship, and path into their future life.

Could this just be because of different personalities, different backgrounds, or is it be the difference between how older people and the younger generation view autistics?

The Effects of Covid-19 Lockdown on one Autistic

When we first went into lockdown, I thought how wonderful that would be;

no social interaction, no face-to-face business interactions, just sitting quietly in my house all day with my furry cats, Kevin and Woof.

This could not have been further from the truth!!!

Zoom and more Zoom and even more Zoom. The wife even Zoomed me today to help me wrestle a website into submission. Now don’t get me wrong, I love Zoom, it’s a brilliant piece of technology and we couldn’t keep our business going without it.

We see all our clients over Zoom, along with our business networking, which is proving to be quite profitable. We joined the Federation of Small Businesses this week thanks to a lovely gentleman, Lee Harrington, that we met through the Twilight networking group.

I think a lot of people who have no personal experience of autism believe that autistics don’t particularly like social interaction or eye contact, but for some of us that couldn’t be further from the truth. Though I don’t particularly like large social gatherings, and wouldn’t dream of going to a nightclub, I do like to be around people especially if I have a role to play. In the past when I used to go to church, I was always in charge of serving the tea and coffee. And when I used to do face-to-face business networking, I normally had a role, collecting the money, leading the group or the whole area, sometimes even all three.

During lockdown I have really missed people, and even though I enjoy Zoom it’s not quite the same as sitting in the same room with other human beings. I am not looking forward to not being able to have my friends come over for coffee or a meal for the next month.

Luckily my hairdresser managed to squeeze the family in last night for home haircuts, so we don’t all end up looking like hairy monsters like we did last lockdown.

Sadly, we’ve had to cancel a five-day holiday to Camber Sands for the second time. We’ve also postponed visits to both mine and Jane’s parents until hopefully we can travel to see them before Christmas.

But this post isn’t all doom and gloom, all of our clients have agreed to go on to, yes, Zoom, making our income secure. Today Jane finished her corrections for her PhD. One of our young men is still able to go to work and the other two are still studying. We have each other, we have our family and friends, to Zoom with. We can still go shopping and go out walking for exercise. At the time of writing, we all have good health with no Covid-19 symptoms, nor do any of our family and friends.

So, within our own little bubble life is continuing, with love and ma be the odd disagreement, but overall, we will survive, no, more than survive, this epidemic.

As you read this, we send you love, kindness and the hope of good health. Follow the rules, stay safe, be kind to one another. These days will pass, and things will return to normal; we don’t know when, but they will.

The Changing Face of Business Networking

 

With the many restrictions, due to COVID-19, across the country, business networking has had to change.

Back in the day when I started my networking journey I physically went to small, local breakfast meetings. As my experience and confidence grew, I tried networking groups that had multiple meeting points across the country. Here I found the format very similar to the more localised groups but, in some cases, the companies were outside my scope. For instance, the IOD (Institute of Directors) is a great group of business people but bigger than my then very small telecoms and IT business could expect to do business with. Likewise, a networking group that specialises in the smaller, arts, crafts, and home based companies may also not be suitable for some businesses and services.

It is extremely important to know your demographics when doing business networking. A great pitch is not enough if you cannot deliver the goods.

In todays market there are still a few socially distanced groups meeting to have breakfast together, but on the whole most groups have gone onto internet platforms like Zoom, sadly without food ☹

So, what do you need to know about attending business networking groups?

Firstly, research the groups available to get one that’s a good fit with your chosen market and yourself (some groups will allow you one or two tasters). So for me, after attending a few other Zoom networking meetings (other virtual platforms are available), I found my home at the business networking group called Twilight https://www.i-nutrition.co.uk/twilight-networking-events/. One of the advantages of this group is the option to turn up 15 minutes early and meet with two other businesses in a small group room. This also helps in getting known and knowing others and judging how inclusive and friendly the networking group might be.

Secondly, check how much it will cost you to join your preferred networking group. Some groups charge a membership fee plus a meeting fee, whilst others only charge you for the meetings you attend, as with Twilight. To join this week’s meeting, click here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/twilight-networking-zoom-meeting-thursday-22nd-oct-2020-from-545pm-tickets-108749354246

Thirdly, prepare your pitch. Sixty seconds is the normal amount of time allowed. The format could be similar to this; your name, the name of your company, and what your company provides. If there’s a specific type of client you’re looking for this would  be a good time to ask. Always be polite, try to avoid acronyms as most people don’t know what they mean, and most importantly avoid the words; just, should and umm! It is also helpful if you can speak without reading from a script. Oh! And smile 😊 Many groups also have a 10 minute slot for one business, at each meeting, to give a longer explanation of what the company does. This can usually be done with or without PowerPoint slides. You will need to let the group leader know that you would like to do one of these slots as there may be a waiting list.

Next think about the 1-2-1s you would like to have. This is the most important part of business networking. Look for companies that you feel you have a mutual two way link with. It is not just about selling your products, it is also about helping others sell theirs. It might not be a product you require but it may be a product one of your clients might benefit from. Though I am relatively new to Twilight, I have already had a couple of 1-2-1 meetings, and have four more booked into my diary. Zoom also has a chat function which Twilight posts into their Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/groups/twilightnetworking making it easy to connect on LinkedIn and Twitter as well.

And finally, support your group and their leaders. Invite other businesses along, promote using social media platforms and blogs, and if there are any problems deal with them privately with the relevant people, never, ever in public, as this will reflect badly on you and your company.

It would be great to see you at one of the Twilight meetings I attend fortnightly http://www.twilightnetworking.co.uk/ (the next meeting is on Thursday 22nd October at 5:45 PM) It is easy to book on (see Eventbrite link above). It only costs £5 per meeting, with no additional fees. The group is light and friendly but serious about doing business.

Joyce CoomberSewell

Alien in the House

Are you an older person who has always wondered why you’re a little ‘weird’ and ‘odd’ compared to the other people around you?

Even as a child I wondered if I had been dropped by aliens from another planet. I always felt like I was on the outside of every group, be it school, St John’s Ambulance Brigade, Girl Guides or at 15 years old starting work. This progressed throughout my life, in my marriage(s), having children, even running my own successful company.

 

Then the grandchildren arrived…I have 11 grandchildren and 6 are diagnosed as autistic. Aha! and here all was revealed…

At 1st I thought there was no point in being diagnosed at my mature age, late 50’s, but then I realised that I could be the example these young people needed. Being autistic needn’t stop you being happy and having a fulfilling life.

To be honest it was not an easy straightforward process. I started this adventure by going to see my GP and being referred for an initial assessment. In my early 40’s I had already been diagnosed with a higher than average IQ and dyslexia  and now they also added ADHD and dyspraxia. To obtain an autistic diagnosis I had to wait for another appointment further up the medical chain.

Some months later this appointment, with 3 questionnaires, came about. The medical chap asked me what my 1st thought had been when I met him. Now I know the ‘correct’ answer should have been something safe, maybe complimentary, but I was here for an autism diagnosis, so I decided to be honest!!!!

My thought, I said, was “why hadn’t he ironed his shirt?”

You can imagine this did not go down well with this young man, as he stroked the front of his very crinkled shirt.

One of the questionnaires was to be filled in by someone who knew me between the age of 5 and 12. Whilst this might have been possible for some, me being slightly older with no living parents and only estranged siblings, this was not possible.

Eventually my letter came to say though he was 98% positive I was autistic because of not having the questionnaire filled in he could not give me the diagnosis.

And so, the processs had to be restarted. Back to the GP I went and this time I was referred to the Maudsley Hospital. 2yrs later, now being over 60, I received an appointment with again the 3 questionnaires, 1 of which I still couldn’t get filled in.

This time, the 1st appointment was all about copying shapes, making up stories from pictures and general  chat. Several months later my 2nd appointment arrived, this time with a psychologist, no crinkled shirt this time.

A couple of months later my full diagnosis arrived.

Now you might be saying “that’s a lot of rigmarole to go through”, but there again my grandchildren are worth it, plus so am I.

I have discovered a lot about myself over the intervening years, why I am the way I am, why people react around me the way they do, why I think how I think, why I stim, why I mask. This has all helped me feel less ‘weird’ less ‘odd’.

So, if you relate to any of this maybe it’s time for your adventure of getting diagnosed.

It is that time of year

It is that time of year when we are thinking of starting or returning to University. Hopefully Student Finance England have approved your application, but did you know that you can also apply for DSA – Disabled Student’s Allowance?

To qualify for DSA you will need a current, medical diagnosis. This can include physical as well as neurological conditions and mental health issues.

Once your application to DSA has been made you will be required to attend an assessment with a local assessors’ company. This appointment is extremely important as the assessor will be looking at what you need whilst undertaking your course. At this point I would like to add if you are already part way through your degree you can still apply for DSA.

There are many things that the assessor can recommend for you. These might include; a laptop, software, a guide, mentoring, a reader or scribe, study skills, in fact the list is extremely long and will be fashioned to your particular needs.

Once your assessment has been completed the assessor will send the report to DSA where it will be looked at and approved where possible. DSA will then allocate different companies to supply the recommended equipment and support. This will be sent to you by letter, called a DSA2.

It is then your responsibility to contact the companies allocated to arrange delivery of equipment along with training on how to use the equipment. You would also need to contact the companies allocated for your support needs. For example, if you are allocated mentoring, study skills or any other services with CoomberSewell Enterprises, you would then ring us on 07789685185 or email us on info@coombersewell.co.uk to arrange an initial meeting to discuss dates, times and venues for meetings. Due to the current Covid pandemic we are meeting all our clients on Zoom (except for library assistance, of course). Meetings normally take place once a week during semesters, at a mutually agreed time. After each meeting your non-medical helper would complete two pieces of paperwork, one is an overview of the session and the second is to document the date, time and location of the meeting. These would then be posted to you once a month for your approval and signature. On your returning them to us we would submit an invoice to DSA for payment.

It is important to remember that although you are not paying, DSA is, you will have entered into a contract with us for services, so signing and returning is your part of the contract.

We hope that with this explanation of the DSA system, you now feel confident to start or continue this part of your University journey.