20 Jul Hitting Developmental Milestones: Giving Thanks to Our Extended Family
“Nevertheless, I will bring health and healing to it; I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security.”
– Jeremiah 33:6
Our mission at Children of Hope is to create safe, loving, and nurturing homes for our children to grow in. As we continue to watch our children make great strides in life and hit developmental milestones, we can’t help but feel grateful for our community who helped us make this happen. None of what we do would be possible without God’s blessings and the generosity of our extended family — you! In the spirit of sharing how your prayers and financial donations have helped our children, we wanted to highlight the enormous impact it’s had on our homes recently.
Daniel Kibet, 14, and Darian Mwangaza, 7, from our Kitalale home were diagnosed to be on the autism spectrum. Daniel has been with us for several years now, and has been in a special needs class at school, but has had slow progress with development and behavioral issues. Darian came about two years ago and was diagnosed early on. Both boys had been seen by a specialist in the area, and our aunties and uncles have worked diligently with the boys to help them make advancements in their development. There has been progress, but we definitely felt we needed additional resources to help with further development.
When children enter our homes for the first time, we take them for medical check-ups and assessments to ensure we’re aware of each child’s individual needs and make a plan to follow through with their care. During the individual medical check-up for these two boys, it was difficult to precisely determine the conditions the children were suffering from since both of them were severely malnourished, developmentally delayed, and suffering from trauma. With time, after getting proper nutrition and care in our homes, we could see that there were definitely issues with their development that needed to be addressed.
Daniel’s inability to communicate properly made us more vigilant of his developmental issues. His speech wasn’t developed, and he would try to use actions to speak with the other children in the home. This involved tapping or hitting them on their shoulders to get their attention. Daniel avoided eye contact most of the time and liked playing alone. He would panic if someone touched him, and exhibited sensory behaviors that included flapping his hands in the air, succumbing to a short attention span, laughing, and mumbling a lot to himself. Through a professional assessment, Daniel was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum. The aunties have been following the advice of doctors and working with Daniel on his developmental needs. The older he got, the more challenging it had become for the staff as there were limited resources and expertise in Kenya for dealing with autism.
When Darian entered our home two years ago at the age of 5, we started to notice behavior patterns that mimicked that of Daniel’s. Darian was unable to walk and had delayed speech as well. He would mumble to himself, but his speech did not make coherent words. This was when we took Darian to get a professional assessment and he was confirmed to be on the spectrum.
Specialized Therapy and Care
Our desire is to care the best we can for the children God has entrusted to us and we knew we needed additional expertise. We reached out to Laura Ferguson, a board-certified Behavior Analyst for support with Daniel and Darian.
With over 20 years of experience working as a behavioral therapist for children on the autism spectrum, Laura came highly recommended to us by one of our sponsors for her expertise. She has designed programs to help children on the spectrum reach developmental milestones and function optimally in life. Laura’s expertise in special education has allowed her to help Daniel and Darian show improvement.
Laura traveled to Kenya from her home in Colorado to spend two weeks at our Kitalale home. She spent significant time taking the boys through a very detailed assessment and designing a therapy program for each of the boys individually. She also spent extensive time training a few of our staff, who will regularly perform the therapy sessions on an ongoing basis. Laura will be supporting our staff through ongoing training sessions via Zoom. She will be adjusting the therapy program with regular feedback from our staff.
Over the past month, the boys had two daily sessions – one in the morning and one in the evening. Along with Samatha’s assistance, Laura worked with Daniel and Darian for two weeks and included our staff in the sessions to observe and participate as well. Some of her therapy processes included having the children do crafts, play with building blocks, kick a soccer ball around, launch toy rockets, and more. The sessions looked a lot like playing, all in an effort to improve their communication abilities. Currently, the boys are learning how to ‘mand,’ which means how to ask for items they want or need.
Understanding Autism Treatment
The boys loved therapy time as much as Laura and Samatha love spending time with Daniel and Darian. When it was time for their morning session, Daniel and Darian were quick to run into the therapy room and greet their therapists with warm hugs and smiling faces. They thoroughly enjoyed their play sessions and seemed to be making great progress.
The aim of specialized therapy is to help our children progress and to teach our caregivers how to continue to care for our children using the right tools and methods. We feel incredibly humbled to have had such a caring, skilled individual provide our boys with the special support they need. Our homes have made it a point to teach the rest of the children about autism and disabilities through frequent discussions.
We’re eternally grateful to our extended family, that is you, to our caring aunties and uncles, to God, and to the specialized healthcare professionals for giving our children the opportunity to thrive in life. We’d love for you to pray with us for our boys as they navigate this journey with us. Pray that auntie Stellah, auntie Petty, and uncle Amos at Kitalale apply the knowledge they learned from Laura as they continue the daily therapy sessions with the boys. Pray that the boys continue to make progress everyday and that they go on to develop all the coping mechanisms they need to flourish in life, and that our staff utilize their new training and put it into practice on a daily basis.
Your generosity and willingness to give what you have to help our families thrive is a blessing, and we know that your love, prayers, and donations go a long way to helping provide our children with what they need to thrive.