Kelly and her husband John first started dating when she was in Matric. This month marks 14 years together for the couple, seven of which they have been married. They have a beautiful son of five years old, and three hairy children.
Kelly says, “We have had our ups and downs, dealing with fertility treatment in order to conceive our Deegan, and then God giving us a curve ball to deal with, as Deegan is on the autism spectrum”
We are super excited to share our first Mom of the Month feature with our readers. Kelly is a beautiful and inspiring mom who is full of joy and an incredible amount of love for her son.
Tell us a bit about your journey into motherhood, what did it mean to you to become a mother and how did it change your life?
Well, I never thought that motherhood would be such a roller-coaster ride but hells bells I do enjoy the thrill. I am very OCD and everything has to go my way, but that has changed somewhat since our munchkin came along. I must say, he was an extremely well-behaved baby, I could say a text book baby. He slept for four hours at a time and even if a bomb had gone off he wouldn’t have flinched. He ate like a dream, and really is an absolute pleasure. He never changed our lives, he went where ever we went. I never had to say shhhhhh the baby is sleeping - SIMPLY PERFECT IN EVERYWAY!!!!!
When was Deegan diagnosed with Autism, tell us a bit about this and what prompted you to get him tested?
I have not yet had the full diagnosis performed through a psychologist, but his paed and school has done tests and the signs are all there. It is no use fighting the obvious. Well, where can I start- Deegan met all his milestones perfectly until the age of three when we picked up that his speech and communication were not age appropriate. We initially put it down to the fact that he stayed with granny during the day, and never heard other kids talking - and that his father and grandfather only spoke at four years old.
So we put him in into a playschool in January 2013 and that’s where it all started. There was no progress, only regression, so we took him to a paed and the paed said "your child is DEAF". Suddenly everything made sense. The no eye contract, the lack of speech and communication, he wouldn’t respond to his name or even acknowledge a person walking into a room, he was pretty much in his own world. We then sent him for a three hour theatre ABR hearing test, only for them to tell us there was nothing wrong with Deegans hearing!!!!!! Relieved, yet back to the drawing board we went.
Our next step was OT, after one session with the OT I asked the dreaded question “Is my child autistic?”. Right there and then our hearts sank to hear the words, “ I cannot diagnose, as I am not a psychologist, but yes, I do observe that Deegan is on the spectrum”. You can imagine what was going through our minds as parents, hubby didn’t want to hear anything about there being something not “right” with his precious boy, and still to this day battles to deal with it, but it is getting better and better.
So Deegs carried on with OT and in June 2014 I said to his OT that I really need to get him into a school as he is going to be five and can’t stay at his granny every day. I had taken him out of the playschool, as it was not doing him any good and children like Deegan need one-on-one attention. The OT gave me my options and I visited Autism Eastern Cape Pre-School and fell in love. Deegan has been there since July 2014 and is sooooooo happy, and the progress is amazing. Love love love Noleen and her team, and Deegan adores Sone his teacher. Deegans speech, communication, social skills - everything has grown in leaps and bounds.
Kelly and her husband, John, celebrating with Deegan on his fifth birthday.
How has your life changed since you found out that he is Autistic?
It has changed our life to an extent but, our family and friends have been awesome in understanding Deegan and supporting us all the way. Yes, I have my days where I could punch the person that stares or says something about Deegs, but then I have to compose myself and recognise that it is not their journey, it is ours, and they don’t have to understand.
Deegan is our only child and he is our new normal, we don’t actually know any different. It just hurts every now and again when I see children that are 2-3 years younger than he is and can do sooooo much more than he can. But then I look at how far he has come and I am proud all over again, that at the age of five he just stopped wearing nappies - it is the little things in others lives that are massive in ours. Like hearing my boy call me “mommy” out of the blue just melts my heart!!!!!!!
What advice do you have for other moms facing this same thing?
Moms, go with your gut, if you feel there is something not ticking along as it should, start with a paed appointment and remember, early intervention is the best you can do for your child, their brains can be moulded far quicker and easier than an older child or adult. Our journey started at the age of three!
Deegan attends Autism Eastern Cape, what difference has this made to his life?
I only have great things to say about the pre-school!!!!! Deegan's speech is coming along, even if it is copy-cat speech, and his vocab is also improving. He sits and paints and colours, his eye contract has come a long way, and you know what - when it is a weekend and we drive through Walmer, and our son says “ I want to school” we know he is in the right place, and he is soooooo loved there.
What have you learnt about Autism since Deegan's diagnosis and how would you describe it to other people to help them understand it better?
It is so difficult to learn about autism because each and every child is completely different and they need to be dealt with in different ways - only when you are faced with it will you fully understand what the child actually goes through. People look at me in the shops when Deegan is having a meltdown and probably say 'shoo what a naughty child' - and I don’t blame them because I myself thought my child was naughty until we figured out how misunderstood he was, and that he suffers from tactile and sensory issues. Going into a shopping centre is so stressful for our boy, with all the noises - which are so much louder to him than us!
Tell us a bit about the things that make Deegan unique, what does he like to do, what is he good at?
One thing that you have to know, is that autistic children obsess over certain things. Deegan LOVES dirt bikes. He watches motorcross on TV - not children's programs. He only plays with motorcross bikes, he “reads” dirt magazines, he calls himself bikesboy and idolizes Travis Pastrana - the crazy guy on Nitro Circus (do yourself a favour and google it hehehehe).
He is an extremely loveable little boy, and is sooooo gentle and wouldn’t hurt a fly. And if I can be biased, he is so beautiful - with his blue eyes he can steal hearts!!!!! He loves technology; cell phones, leap pads and lap tops. Music is in his blood and he can give Michael Jackson a run for his money with all the moves LOL. He is not a ball sport type of a child - which has been difficult for hubby (we are actually both very sporty). My hubby is an avid golfer, and much to his dismay, Deegan calls golf 'monkey football' - but we are coming to terms with the fact that we going to have a drummer or a daredevil on a motor bike - and that's all OK!!!!!!