Our Adventure with Vincent: Learning about Autism

The smile that melts mommy’s heart

A heartfelt thank you to all who have inquired and even assisted us with Vincent’s developmental journey. So much has happened lately and we want to share our joy with you.

Towards the end of last year, it was suggested to us by a few concerned friends and those who have been working with Vincent that we should take Vincent to a paediatric neurologist to have him tested for autism. I must tell you, that this troubled my heart. “Could my child be autistic?” It sounded like a life sentence. After many phone calls and emails to neurologists in Pretoria, I finally found one who was not only willing to see us (because it is hard to find a neurologist that works with kids) but also help us by allowing us to pay the consultation fee in three separate payments! Our consultation with her was a blessing and an eye-opener. She conducted an ADOS test. ADOS stands for Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule. It is a standardized diagnostic test for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Wrestling and cuddles with pappa and lil bro

We learned that autism isn’t one particular condition that can be defined or confined to a few symptoms. Now with all the information and new discoveries in the medical world we can see autism not as a disease (one particular colour) but as a spectrum (a rainbow with all the hues in between). The ADOS test helped us to see that even though Vincent has quite a few markers on the spectrum, he is actually quite brilliant and we as his parents need to begin to understand his world and what his unique challenges are, not so that we can “cure” him but help him manage how his body sees and responds to his world. Some of the red flags Vincent has are: speech delays, attention deficit, obsessive-compulsive disorder, high-sensory threshold and poor eye contact.  The neurologist recommended a holistic approach to helping Vincent with his development. This includes occupational and speech therapy done by people who specialise with autistic kids, attending preschool with a small classes as well as small doses of medication to help him with his tantrums and concentration. Vincent saw the neurologist in January 2019 and has made significant progress since then:

1. He LOVES school (pictured below)– We found an English preschool with small classes, a very experienced and loving teacher and best of all – it’s only 2 blocks away from our house! Vincent is surprising us at home with his growth in vocabulary and skills. Although he does struggle with paying attention in class, he is developing at a pace that I could not achieve by keeping him at home

2. The medication – We have seen steady progress regarding Vincent’s capability of handling his emotions better as well as paying better attention when attempting a task. This hasn’t changed his personality in any way – in fact it feels like we are getting to see the real Vincent – our joyful, friendly child. Through the grace of God we’re able to get this medication and see Vincent’s neurologist for free at our local public hospital. His teacher has remarked that Vincent is now completing his tasks at school and is indeed more focused as a result of the medication.

3.Occupational and Speech Therapy – Serna Smit – Vincent’s occupational therapist from October until now, recommended to us an occupational therapist in our area who works specifically with autistic kids. Her assessment with Vincent showed significant growth in his development particularly his eye contact and verbal interaction

The Occupational Therapist assesses Vincent through role play

(when compared to last year). She recommended we start with speech therapy and focus on that for now. This led us to Karien Marais – a speech therapist who works with autistic children. Her assessment of Vincent went well and she believes that Vincent will improve greatly with weekly therapy which he will begin on 9 April.

We as a family have learned so much in a short space of time. There are indeed daily struggles of course: Vincent still does have erratic mood swings, his speech isn’t fully discernible, he still speaks in 2-3 word sentences and getting him to concentrate is difficult. Once again this reminds us that autism isn’t about trying to cure Vincent, it’s about understanding his world and helping him learn how to thrive in it. Our greatest encouragement has been watching God’s provision – not just regarding the finances for Vincent’s care but especially the people who are giving us the love and support through this journey. It seems that God has already foreseen our needs and we are catching up with discovering what He has done!

It’s like what Isaiah 64:4 says:

“Since ancient times, no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.”

God is acting on our behalf, wow, we are indeed privileged to be called His children!

Friends, thank you for your love and support. We unwrap the gift of Vincent’s development every day and are humbled that the Lord would entrust him to us.

 

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