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.

 

Advertisements

Personal Growth – Getting back to basics

On Monday in our weekly team meeting I shared that I am struggling to get into work mode. I have been reflecting over my 10 years with CCC and seeing that January was usually a slow start because campuses only opened in the last week of January. But now that I am part of Digital Strategies, we start as soon as our office opens for the year.

During this time, I am hearing a sermon series at our church called Word. This term we are focusing on the book of John. Our pastor mentioned that when we encounter a new believer, we usually suggest to them to start reading the bible by reading the book of John, because the book is written so that we can believe Jesus is the Messiah and by believing we will have life (John 20:31). The point I want to share is that we are getting back to the basics of our faith.

In this week I have come to the realisation that I need to get back to the basics in my life. I was getting swept up by my circumstances, just reacting and I did very little reflecting and preparation. On Tuesday I started working through a devotional on YouVersion called Word, working through the book of John. I am working at connecting better with God. Suddenly I have more focus. Wednesday night I was at a church gathering, and with 1 guy playing guitar and singing 1 song, I had a moment of surrendered worship that I have not experienced in long time.

I know some of you will understand what I am writing about and others will not. But I need to share my heart and journey, because I know that I am not the only one.

The question I want to leave you with is, what is the basic thing in your relationship with God that you have been neglecting? It may be quiet time, connecting with believers, trusting Him when He says do this or that.

Let me know what I can pray for you.

I pray that you will have peace in tough times,
that you will have strength in times unyielding storms,
that you will have support in when you feel alone.

With the love in Christ,

Nicholas

Looking at 2019

Happy New Year!

I can’t believe we are already in the third week of 2019. Time is just moving at a rapid pace. But we have so much to be excited about for 2019. But we also know of a few challenges that lie ahead. As a family we still have our Cape Town ways and we are still getting used to being back in Pretoria, so this year we will focus more on building our Pretoria community and connecting more with our families. One of the big ways we are trusting to build community is being part of a new church. Doxa Deo Brooklyn, our current home church, is planting an English church in Hatfield. This is an answer to prayer, because we have been trusting for an English Doxa Deo closer to our home.

Vincent started preschool this year and he is loving it. This past weekend he told us more than once that he wants to “go see teacher”. This was heart-warming for us as parents because we can clearly see that he is enjoying school. He will have 2 years of preschool to prepare him for Grade 1. We are trusting that the combination of preschool and occupational therapy will help with his speech development.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

With Vincent at school, Pravani and Kiran will be spending quality time together in the mornings. Pravani realised on the first day how much Vincent kept his brother entertained. Things are going well and Pravani will soon start potty training with Kiran.

From a ministry perspective, we also have some highlights lying ahead. As the Digital Strategy Team, we are looking at building partnerships with churches and ministry strategies, to help them reach their target audience using our online platform. We are also on a constant learning curve and part of this learning curve will be attending a Jesus.net conference in Holland in May. We will also be refining our content on our platform, as well as creating webpages that we can advertise through Google.

Pravani and I will also take a sabbatical in September. This is a 6 week break from ministry that all missionaries in Campus Crusade for Christ are required to take after every 7 years of ministry. We look forward to taking this break and spending quality time as a family.

We are excited and overwhelmed at what needs to happen in this year, but we know that we need Jesus in everything that we do, and we rely on your prayers carrying us day by day. Thank you.

Nicholas

Vinnie is growing! And so are we!

 

“If you’re going to be a leader, you need to be a life-long learner”. This concept was taught to me during a program called the Emerging Leaders Initiative. I was young, about to enter a leadership position at CCC and I was engaged to Nicholas – taking on as many courses and reading material as I could get my hands on. Fast forward ten years and oh boy, I have finally begun to understand that learning isn’t always about academics or accolades!

Kiran loves muddy puddles

One of the most fun, interesting (and hardest) opportunities for learning has been my kids. With Kiran I’m learning how to raise a two year-old again, this means potty-training, emotional outbursts (including regular uses of the word “no!” in his vocab) and needing to enforce discipline even in the face of intense cuteness. Oh my word, the cuteness! It’s paralysing! He is a teddy bear, a man of adventure and has the cutest dance moves ever!

Vincent is a marvel and testimony to us of God’s creativity, patience, fun and love. As you may have heard, he is currently receiving speech therapy as well as occupational therapy. For those of you who don’t know, here is a synopsis of his journey until now:

We began noticing Vincent’s speech challenges earlier this year when his brother began talking more and more. To me, it was a personality thing – Vincent was a quiet boy who enjoys playing by himself. We also noticed that when Vincent played with his cousins, he couldn’t communicate with them well. This all gave us a point of reference regarding how he should be communicating. Most of his sentences were 1-2 words long, he would babble a lot, not respond to our questions and would have sudden tantrum outbursts without being able to tell us what the cause of his frustrations were. He was also often distracted and restless, it was difficult getting him to complete almost any task.

Vincent’s time in hospital wasn’t easy but we are thankful for unblocked ears!

My family encouraged us to take him for a speech therapy assessment and we soon got an appointment with the Speech and Language Pathology department at the University of Pretoria.  The assessment revealed that Vincent had a significant wax blockage in both ears, and that he would need both speech and occupational therapy. After a visit to the ear, nose and throat specialist it became clear that Vincent would need to be put under a general anaesthetic to remove the wax thoroughly. After doing this and going for a hearing test, we found the procedure to be a success. We also made an appointment with an occupational therapist. This assessment proved to be one of the most helpful of them all. Serna Smit, an occupational therapist in Moreleta Park, explained to us that Vincent has a high sensory threshold. This means that he needs a high amount of sensory input before he can focus on anything. The communication between his senses, his brain, and his muscles and joints (the term for this is proprioception – fancy right?) need to be exercised and developed so that he can understand what to do, prioritize what to do and do it through to completion. This also will affect his speech, helping him to finish his sentences and verbalise his thoughts constructively.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

I can gladly say that after 5 weeks of speech therapy and 3 weeks of occupational therapy, we are already seeing a difference in our boy. The differences are small but we as parents feel so empowered by the tools given to us and seeing the fruit of those efforts is encouraging.  Here are some steps given to us by the speech and occupational therapy:

Speech Therapy: The acronym OWL is key. O is for observe – taking the time to watch Vincent for opportunities of communication (like him looking up at the fridge at the jar of sweets). W is for wait – show him with your body posture that you’re waiting in anticipation for him to ask you what he wants. L is for Listen – actively listen to him, letting him know that his attempts to communicate are validated by us being excited that he wants to talk to us, a part of listening is to also give him a word or two as a nudge forward, for example “Vincent, say ‘Sweets please Mamma’” and when he says it I respond with praise and excitement.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Occupational therapy: To have constructive play time that has a beginning an end. Like picking up only the red blocks with tongs and dropping them into a basket until there aren’t any left. When he gets bored or distracted I gently redirect him to focus on finishing the task rather than moving onto another toy. Activities such as “ring-around-a-rosie” (falling onto the ground and getting up again), playing on grass, feeling the sand, riding his bike barefoot – all those activities are actually helping him do things like building puzzles, completing chores and even using more 3-word sentences rather than 2 words!

Dear ministry partners, please continue to pray for our beautiful boy, that he will flourish and that we as his first teachers won’t grow weary of learning and practising with diligence.  Pray for our selection of the right school for him next year and that God will continue to provide for the cost of Vincent’s therapies.

With love,

 

Pravani

 

 

Going Potty

It’s been a busy but blessed season at the Kelderman household. Our little big boy Kiran who turned two in May is now potty training and he is very proud of himself,  especially when he’s allowed to flush! If you had told me 5 years ago that I would be excited about bowel movements I would’ve laughed at you, but these are now part of the fun conversations I get to have with my family.

Our first-born, Vincent, who turned 4 in April is full of fun, joy and curiosity. As some of you may know, we have had challenges with his delay in speech. This past week I was finally able to take him for a speech therapy assessment at the University of Pretoria (pic right). It was fascinating to learn so many things aboDSC_0001ut my boy. I got to understand that his love for sensory stimulation, music and numbers are great tools we can use to build his language development. The feedback I got from the assessment helped me understand that we need to work on a few things: his hearing, his language development and the way he deals with the sensory overload that his body and mind experiences. We are currently tackling the hearing issue by gradually removing a wax build-up using eardrops and will soon send him for regular speech and occupational therapy. We are grateful to God and look forward to watching Him use our precious, friendly Vincent for His glory.

 

In the meantime, I’ve been trying a few exercises at home just to help him slow down, davprocess information and articulate what he understands. It’s been rocky here and there (especially because Kiran wants to do his Godzilla impersonation on every project we attempt!) but we are having fun and making progress. In the picture on the left, Vincent is selecting pegs of the same color, naming them and pegging them onto a cardboard. This activity helps with focus and fine motor skills.

 

Vincent, Kiran and I attend a mommy group once a week. Here the mommies get to give each other support, encouragement, advice and prayer and the kids get to play outside and make friends. Kiran’s closest friend is a beautiful blonde with a fbtshy sweet smile, her name is Sarah and they’re two weeks apart. Sarah’s mom, Beth, is a close friend of mine and she leads our mommy group time. I’ve found this group to be a lifeline, steam-valve release, “I’m not crazy”, we’re-all-in-this-together circle of friends here in Pretoria. Honestly, I don’t believe anyone should do parenting on their own, especially us as moms who often take on more than we can handle.

Amid all the laughter, tears, chaos and mess, I’m immensely grateful for  this season when I can have my boys all to myself and have a front-row seat on their growth journey, even spiritually. Vincent and Kiran have both started saying grace at the table lately and it’s been precious to watch them pray with their tiny hands clasped together. I am learning from them – to trust, to laugh and to release all that I feel to our Father.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Imitating God

Over the past few months I have been using an app to help me spend better/more time in the Word, and allow the Word to challenge me. The app’s name is Like Jesus. The reason I am writing about it today is because of the Scripture it gave me. Ephesians 5:1 – “Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children.”

As a father of 2 boys, I see how they imitate me in actions and in words. It’s eye-opening about my own character and on a level, I want them to better than me. As a parent we also have expectations for certain milestones to be reached. Currently Vincent is taking his time with the speech ability milestone. So we, mostly Pravani, are doing exercises to encourage Vincent to use words and we have also scheduled an appointment with a speech therapist for next term to evaluate his speech and come up with a plan of action.

Now to bring it back to us and God – the Bible tells us in John 1:12 that if we accept Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, we will be children of God. And Paul encourages us in Ephesians 5:1 that we should imitate God. The challenge is that we don’t always know what to do. We need an expert to help us. That is where the church (the body of Christ) comes in – believers who have gone through similar challenges, men and women who you can see have a relationship with God and are growing in their faith. The key is to walk a path with them, so that we can grow together towards God. The manual that helps us, is of course the Bible.

Please pray for Vincent and our journey with him as we keep building into him. We will also be praying for you to grow to as God’s children daily.

Nicholas

P.S. Don’t worry that we are leaving Kiran behind. He is imitating Vincent and learning fast.

Family here, family there, family everywhere

Over a period of 2 weekends we had a Kelderman 60 year celebration weekend and a Pillay family reunion. Not to mention all the February and March birthdays within the family. We have seen family more in the past few months than the previous 8 years, and it is awesome and overwhelming.

Below are pictures from the Kelderman 60 year celebration. My grandparents migrated from Holland in 1958 with their 3 sons. My cousin decided that a weekend camp would be the best way to commemorate this. Hearing stories, playing games, swimming and catching up with uncles, aunts and cousins was great. But the best part of the weekend was hearing the family history – the cost of leaving behind everything familiar and by faith in God embracing an unknown future.

The Pillay family reunion was a celebration of birthdays – the most special of which was Pravani’s dad turning 75. It was also arranged as an opportunity to bring the extended family together to remember a very special address – 101 Horsham Road, Clairwood. We heard the family story of how the house came to be and how many generations of the Pillay family lived in it. We even had the opportunity of placing our names and the names of our children on the family tree. It was amazing to see our part in the legacy of generosity, hard work and the love of family. Pravani’s dad also had the opportunity to share about his love for cars and the many weird and wonderful types he’s owned over the years.

These family occasions, including the birthdays, make us so grateful to be back in Gauteng. Our boys are getting to know their cousins and we get to spend precious time with our parents and siblings. My dad’s brother shared with us how hard it was migrating from Holland and not having any extended family around. No grandparents, cousins, aunts or uncles. It made me realise the amazing gift we have of living closer and how much my boys need family.

So my thought for this update, or rather it might be a question, are there any family members you need to make peace with, or give a call just to say hi? Think about it.

Have a blessed day.

Nicholas