“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.
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.
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.