Posted inUncategorized

A visit to the Cwmbran cafe that is staffed by young people with Asperger’s Syndrome and autistic spectrum disorders

Two minutes after arriving in the cafe at  Aspris College a 16-year-old student was making me a lovely cup of coffee for the bargain price of 70p.

Zack Teague spends time working in The Hub as part of his studies. My hot drink was served with a saucer, teaspoon, a couple of sugars, and perfect customer service. A dozen food hygiene certificates are proudly on display on the kitchen wall to show customers the staff are qualified.

The 40 students at the college have Asperger’s Syndrome or autistic spectrum disorders. The college used to be based on Coleg Gwent’s Pontypool Campus but when that closed to combine with a new site in Cwmbran the team at Aspris saw an opportunity.

Zak holds a panini
Zack with a panini he prepared for a customer

Students have always been supported to do work placements. Their new home at Cwmbran Leisure was large and had space to build a cafe where students could make and sell food and drink to the public.

Zak said: “I enjoy it. It is a really nice place to work. Ina (the cafe manager) is a good teacher who shows me what to do. It’s always interesting to see what the different things people order. Sometimes it’s difficult but we get through it. I pick up things quickly.”

Kath Lawler, manager of Aspris College
Kath Lawler, manager of Aspris College

Kath Lawler, college manager, said: “When we moved to our new premises, what better way of giving work experience than having it in-house? It gives them so much opportunity. They deal with customers, the maths, eye contact, and initiated conversations. It’s finance, customer service skills, even getting their food hygiene certificates. They are now qualified to do something like that. Nobody wants to be seen to be different. 

“Any profits the cafe makes go to a different charity each month. They (the students) choose where it goes. They started with simple teas and coffees and now do afternoon teas, sandwiches, and paninis. We have regular customers and we get the police come in as well. It’s good to build up those relationships.”

man serving customer in cafe
Zack serving a customer

Twenty of the college students are supported to study at Coleg Gwent sites. The other twenty study on-site in a variety of classrooms. The college offers various qualifications, employability courses, skills training and access to further education courses. Kath said: “All students do independent living skills based on around ‘what does independence mean to them?’ They cover skills like cooking on a budget, changing a bed, the things that will make a difference when they are not with their parents.”

She said: “We’ve had a young person who could only manage 20 minutes a day who now goes to university. He rings me up each week and lives on his own and supports himself. He could not be left alone. What an amazing journey he’s had.

“We just try to make a difference to anybody that comes through the door.”

An occupational therapist and speech-language therapist are also based in Cwmbran.

man getting change for customer in a cafe
Zack giving a customer change

The Hub

a woman and two men by a cafe menu board
(l to r) Ina Carney, cafe manager, Zack Teague, and Jason Spiers, from Aspris College

The Hub closes in June and reopens in September. From Monday to Thursday it’s open from 10am to 1.30pm. Afternoon tea must be pre-booked and is £8 a head or £15 for two.

Ina Carney, cafe manager, supports the students doing work experience in the cafe. She said: “Sometimes they are too anxious to come through the door. The best thing is seeing the students take over.”

I sat at table and chat with Ina. We were a few yards from the counter where Zak was working. She proudly pointed out that he was on his own and serving customers.

Before I left I spotted a compliment book on the side and noted some of the comments

  • “Wonderful service and a lovely atmosphere. Many thanks. Will return soon”
  • “Fantastic service, brilliant value for money and a wonderful atmosphere. Paid for two but had enough food for three.”
  • “I would like to thank the staff at The Hub for the amazing service and kindness. Max was extremely polite and very friendly.” 

The entrance to the cafe and college is in Cwmbran Leisure next to Cwmbran Centre for Young People.

Photos from inside Aspris College

🙏 Do you enjoy reading Cwmbran Life?

If you enjoy Cwmbran Life, please consider supporting the site so I can keep writing and sharing the stories you like to read. Every story, photo or video has taken time to produce and share with you. News isn’t free. There are several ways you can help me spend more time out and about in the community:
🤝 Become a Facebook Fan subscriber.
☕️ Buying Me a Coffee – Make a donation or become a subscriber.
💻 Businesses can advertise on the site’s business directory or take out some sponsored social media posts. Email and we can chat.
💸 Send a donation via PayPal.


Posted inNews

A visit to the Cwmbran cafe that is staffed by young people with Asperger’s Syndrome and autistic spectrum disorders

Zack Teague in the cafe
Zack Teague works in the cafe at Aspris College