I nicknamed our new location Nemo because it took lots of work and persistence to find. While it involved many hours of our version of swimming aka driving, searching, and visiting potential spaces, our most challenging and frustrating experience revolved around the questions and raised eyebrows I would see after mentioning that our Child and Family Therapy Center would specialize in serving families that live and interact with a child with special needs.
It was difficult for me to understand what the problem was. I had mistakenly assumed that everyone would gladly welcome Talk-a-While with open arms and be ready for the challenge to provide a space for familiies to find each other and grow. Instead, concerns were raised that the property would potentially be destroyed and left in disrepair, or that the future children of our center would be too disruptive for other tenants or perhaps would be unsupervised and found wandering around the property. These narratives of what could be or would be left me quite disappointed. How could we be rejected based on such narratives and I wondered in these moments why exactly they had these impressions. Had they witnessed a child with special needs struggling one day in public, and this made them feel awkward and uncomfortable? Was it too difficult to watch? Were they just simply scared of the unknown? I wondered for a little and then I quickly moved on. I recognized that it would not be the right place for us.
Then I bumped into 2577 Samaritan Drive, and instantly I knew it was our Nemo. There were no winces or squirms when I mentioned serving children and their families and especially those with disabilities or special needs. Instead, I heard positive affirmation of the need for this type of work, and how wonderful that would be for our community. I got a chance to talk about our relationial theory framework and mentioned our need as humans to grow within our family relationships, and I saw smiles. I can't lie. I was ready to push back and defend our mission but instead I felt a sort of sigh of relief to know that someone understood what we wanted to do, and was supportive in our cause.