Like all parents, I always wondered how I would react if one day I learned that my child had special needs or suffered from a serious illness. This is what happened to my husband and me, and here is our story.
We are parents of Congolese origin with two young girls who have been developing typically. We also have a son named Kihinda. We began to have concerns about his development when we noticed that at age two, he was not yet putting together two word phrases.
After our arrival in Canada my husband and I still lived in a bubble. Apart from daycare centres, we did not know there were other services for young children. While we were waiting for a daycare space, some of our friends were brave enough to share their concern about our son’s language development. We replied that children develop at their own pace and that Kihinda would eventually speak. We were in denial.
When Kihinda was three we found a space in an anglophone daycare centre, where a third language heightened the problem we had been trying so hard to deny. Three months later, to our great relief we found a space in a francophone daycare centre and we thought this would instantly solve the problem.
Kihinda’s time in daycare opened our eyes. Thanks to the keen observations of his educators, we were finally able to accept that his language delay was more serious than we had thought. We are still grateful to those educators for their insight. In consultation with our family doctor, we took steps that led us to the Eastern Ontario Child Development Centre, now known as the Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre. A few months later, our son was diagnosed with a mixed language disorder (receptive and expressive).
The centre referred us to Children’s Integration Support Services (CISS). A resource consultant supported the school age program Kihinda attended. Between kindergarten and grade 3, our son had a number of professional in the early learning and care field. Following many hours of observation with our son, the resource consultant worked with our family and the daycare staff to develop and implement a team service plan. Using the annual team service plan as a guide, Kihinda’s educators were able to implement strategies to help him understand others and make himself understood.
By age eight Kihinda had acquired all the necessary skills to function independently. It was decided at a meeting with the resource consultant that CISS services could be withdrawn.
Kihinda has had an Individual Education Plan throughout his time at school and we have been surprised at his progress year after year. Today he is in grade 8 and is in an international program at an Ottawa area school.
Between kindergarten and grade 8 Kihinda developed considerable self-esteem, which has helped him make friends both in his classes and in his neighbourhood. He has a keen interest in cooking, which means his mother can sleep for an extra 30 minutes many mornings while her 14-year-old boy prepares lunch for himself and his 8-year-old sister. Kihinda’s family can travel worry-free because his photographic memory makes it impossible for us to get lost.
While we don’t know what the future has in store for Kihinda, he has developed skills over the years that will help him succeed at whatever he chooses in life. While he still has challenges to overcome, he has come a long way and the results are remarkable. We wish to thank CISS for contributing to this dramatic change in Kihinda’s life.
Written by Kihinda’s mother, Yvonne Saiba