Nicole and Fabian Callender with their son Elijah. (Picture by Christoff Griffith.)
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Nicole Peach Bless Callender is passionate, knows what she wants and gets things done. She is also caring, funny, and patient.
The reggae singer sat with EASY on a sunny, breezy Tuesday morning to talk about what she has been up to re her music, her family, her hopes, how she and her husband Fabian Bassie Callender, the bandleader for her band Breaking Point, are dealing with their four-year-old autistic son Elijah and her recently released single Ungrateful Heart.
“Right now, I’ve just been recording new music, looking to do collaborations and I’m in a writing stage. I’m inspired by my four children and more so my four-year-son Elijah.
“After my husband Fabian and I realised Elijah was autistic, we realised that communication was a problem. We’re not sure which part of the spectrum he is because he’s still young and we only detected the different patterns because I have three other children and knowing their development around a certain age we realised some things we’re not happening.
“I realised that he wasn’t communicating to suit his age. I would get up every morning and say, ‘Morning, Elijah’ but he wasn’t responding. Most children, when they start to speak . . . would repeat things that are said even if it’s not the correct word. At first, we thought he had a hearing problem and we got that checked.
“Music drives him – nursery rhymes, cartoons, whatever the other children are watching he would repeat . . . clap in the same key and the same melody. So there was no way he wasn’t hearing, he could not be deaf but if I said, ‘Elijah’, he would ignore me.
“After going to the doctor, we got the diagnosis of autism and we found out people with autism are not really people persons . . . ”.
Nicole said it is hard to teach him some things, especially if he was not in the mood to listen, but with training from the professionals at the Albert Cecil Graham Children’s Development Centre (CDC), they are learning how to handle his behaviour.
“It is not easy and we have been teaching the other kids how to deal with it as well. We teach them that although he might ignore them, they can’t give up,” she added.
Described as very affectionate, she said Elijah likes to meet people and noted that he has “a deep connection” with his dad, who was with him at the CDC the day of the interview.
“If his daddy is his hero, so be it. I just help strengthen my husband. In this situation, I am the stronger parent as Fabian is still trying to come to grips with it. He [Fabian] is still cautious, but I am for exposing him to the same experiences as other children because that’s what we were taught. The aim is to let him come out here [Wanstead Ridge Park] and run around,” she said.
They did that on Easter Monday and Elijah flew his first kite, even hoisting it without being shown. Nicole was overjoyed and captured the moment on video.
Because of their son, her job as an artiste has taken on new meaning and she is determined to be a voice to inspire and create positivity.
“Given my new release Ungrateful Heart, I don’t think people should be ungrateful in this life, period. Life has changed. The system, life in Barbados, everything has changed. Every generation is a different vibe, a different energy, so for me you need not to be ungrateful. I think it is important to have faith. You don’t have to go to church or be a Christian, but you have to understand there is a creator and you have to believe because we breathe, every day we wake up, we have life.
“The importance of thanking God for life, the importance of keeping faith will help you then not to be ungrateful. So, to me it’s a package and all ties in to each other and I had to learn that even before I had Elijah. Having him has reinforced it in my life, my husband’s life and in our family.
The song and video have already started to reach people. She said she received “a lot of messages in my inbox on IG and Facebook, all positive from people who like the uplifting messages and two mothers who said they were so glad I can be the voice for autism and children with special needs”.
“I want to share that with the world. I want my audience, my fans, to understand and to see how I live, see my life, hear my music and let it help them. I want to be an example. I want my music to inspire people, especially people who might be going through something similar to what I am. There are other mothers, other fathers, other parents that are dealing with autistic children and, to be honest, some of them can’t cope with it, but it is important for them to,” Peach Bless asserted.
“In my spirit, I think this is what God wants me to do, be a messenger. I think he gave me Elijah for a reason too. There are so many children out there with problems . . . and their mothers and fathers need to know they are not alone and stand strong, don’t be defeated or feel ashamed. The more we come together to educate people and strengthen them the better.
Nicole said as Peach Bless she wants to sing songs that let people know how to upgrade their mindset and be strong . . . have hope and keep the faith.
“Those kinds of lyrics are what I want to put in my music to motivate people.”
Peach Bless remembers, though, that after the initial diagnosis of autism, she went through different emotions.
“At first, I was hurt but I said it means my life has to change, it means that I have to take a different approach. I was asking, ‘How am I going to deal with this?’ I am a singer, I am a mother, I work two jobs. So that’s how it hit me at first. That didn’t last more than a minute. It was like this is what I have to do to deal with it, ‘get it together’. My attitude and mindset had to change immediately because of my son and other children’s lives.”
Now everyone is on the same page and she is pleased with their progress. Elijah is not treated any differently from the other children. They celebrate the small and big things. She is also grateful to the staff at the Haynesville Day Nursery, which he attends, for their care.
As he gets older, she just wants to “let him be”. She doesn’t know where life will take him but she knows she and her husband Fabian will be there for him together. (GBM)