Autism in children-jeniffer mbogo shares her journey

“Motherhood is one of the toughest jobs in the world and fortunately the most rewarding. I am a mother of one; Samuel Mbogo who will be turning seven this year. Samuel has autism spectrum disorder. By definition, autism is a neurological disorder that affects a person’s speech, behavior and social skills.  It is characterized by impaired social interaction and verbal and non-verbal communication, and by restricted, repetitive or stereotyped behavior.

 Like other kids, Samuel is fun to be around. It is sad that society is either wary or blatantly shuns special needs kids like him. Being a mum of a special needs child is trying and involves a lot of character building. I call it extreme parenting as you need to be absolutely FEARLESS to do this. Being blessed with Simon has helped me be wiser; it has enhanced my faith even when it’s daunting and challenging.
I inculcate a lot of confidence in Samuel through lots of affirmation like ‘you’re such a good boy, or you’re the sweetest”!  I spend quality time with him- he just loves spending time with mommy and  nothing makes him happier (except swimming) I shower him with lots of hugs and kisses and & “I love You’s, and praise him for every attempt he makes as well as achievements

Being a mum with a child with special needs has come with a lot of challenges. There is lack of family support – yet you can’t make it on your own. You need family to let your child sleep over for the weekend so that you can take care of yourself. You need both parents taking turns so that neither is overwhelmed and overloaded with the responsibilities. Secondly, members of the public can be so ignorant-I have had to deal with doctors, nurses, teachers, pastors, Sunday school volunteers, and nannies that had no idea how to deal with my son.

The cost of getting therapeutic help is high and also getting good therapists is not easy. Another major impediment is education- the cost is high and there is a scarcity of schools to accommodate kids with special needs like my son.

Samuel is currently in Class 1 at Kestrel Manor, it’s a school totally God sent to us. I work very closely with his teacher, speech therapist & the Head of the Special Unit. We share education and development goals, concerns and successes. We map out an Individualized Education Plan which states the goals we’ve set for Samuel; these are revised according to how quickly he meets them; and then new ones are set.

The advice I can leave with parents with kids with autism is:
•    Take care of yourself first: allow yourself to grieve when you need to. Sometimes we start grieving all over again even long after we had accepted the diagnosis. Sometimes it takes YEARS to even accept the diagnosis. Everyone copes differently, but grieving is definitely a door we have to go through.
•    Ask for Help. Don’t struggle on your own, especially if you suffer from depression. seek out other parents, see a therapist, or just talk to someone
•    Spend as much time as you can with your kids (all of them), they truly blossom when with their parents as opposed to the nanny/teachers/the TV.
•    Early intervention makes a big difference – Invest in a few sessions with good therapists to teach you how to deal with hyperactivity, speech delay, and behavior etc. Also research online and see what you can do at home.
•    Network: Meet with other parents and learn from them what’s working and what’s not. I’ve heard so many testimonies about improvement of young kids based on a diet or nutrition tip. Also it’s easier to search for schools, therapists and the like via word of mouth.
•    Visit www.autismawarenesskenya.org for referrals to therapists & schools, information, talks by professionals who deal with ASD, movies that help create awareness, joint disability events in the community with SEP Kenya and many other organizations dealing with different disabilities
•    Autism support centre – has a wonderful social butterfly programme which takes the kids out for fun activities like hiking

jeni1   Want to contact Jennifer Mbogo? Email: jeni_mbogo@hotmail.com, Twitter: @jenimbogo

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