Shared by his mother, Kasonga

We have come far with our boy. While writing this testimonial, I find I am no longer filled with anger towards the previous school that let Ryan down. I also find that I am no longer filled with fear because now I know Ryan is getting a solid foundation at Mindstretch

Ryan was diagnosed on the Autism spectrum in November 2016, just after he turned three. He was attending a Montessori day care. We immediately informed the school of the diagnosis and they told us they could not keep him on. They implied it was due to his ‘challenges’. I felt like I had been stabbed. Fortunately, Ryan’s doctor at Red Cross helped us with a list of potential schools and that is how we found Mindstretch.

Ryan had a heart-warming first encounter with the Principal, Jennifer. Though we could not enrol Ryan then due to financial constraints, Jennifer kept us updated and invited us to Mindstretch events. We enrolled Ryan at an educare linked to UCT, where my husband and I were studying. We told them of Ryan’s diagnosis. They assured us that the facility was inclusive. We were greeted with a different, unhappy reality: we received negative reports every day about Ryan being disruptive, and that he was a slow learner. We noticed changes at home, such as our son being easily angered. He did not want to go to school and mornings became a struggle. After just six months at the educare, our little boy, just four years of age, was suspended. It was devastating.

You can imagine our joy when, in December 2018, we secured funding and got Ryan enrolled at Mindstretch. Mindstretch offered Ryan more than we had dreamed possible – in less than a year! His speech has improved, he enjoys school, we can take him to other children’s parties, he participates in different activities and loves crafts and baking.

One highlight is how the HANDLE programme that Jennifer and her teachers apply has helped us deal with Ryan’s sensitive skin.

When Ryan started at Mindstretch, he did not want to wear certain fabrics like cotton. The school introduced Ryan to skin brushing therapy. Within a week we saw improvement. The skin brushing helped Ryan feel more comfortable in his own skin. Now he can wear long-sleeved shirts quite comfortably.

Food was another problem: Ryan was picky eater. Jennifer and the teachers gave us tips on how to introduce new foods. They also hold a regular ‘cooking class’ at school. As a result, Ryan is now open to trying
new foods.

Having Ryan at Mindstretch Preschool has brought joy to his young life and it has given us peace of mind. My husband and I are able to concentrate on our studies knowing that Ryan is at a school that understands him and which tailors the programme to his needs. We meet regularly with Jennifer and Ryan’s teacher to discuss his Individualized Education Plan. It helps immensely to be familiar with the goals/concepts/skills and strategies that the school has planned to help Ryan realise his full potential.

Our journey has shown us how deep the need is for programmes like that of Mindstretch. It has also shown how significantly one small child’s life can be changed with decent intervention, and how wide the ripple effect is on family.

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