Monday, July 20, 2009

Understanding Matthew's Autism

When we were informed that Matthew was autistic I admit I was quite surprised and not sure what this actually meant. I remember many years earlier reading a book about a young girl who lived in her own world and she described it as an isolated one with very little communication and a lot of madness. I know there are differing degrees of autism and realized her's was severe and I was concerned that we implement all the necessary systems of support to help Matthew as suggested by Beverly from the New York State Department of Health. I knew now I had to avail myself of every possible resource and publication to help deal with our son's autism. We often wondered why our child had to be affected by this puzzling diagnoses and not even sure how it was characterized. Was it an illness, a disease, a disability? Could it be cured? If so how so? The flood of questions were coming at me like a blinding snowstorm and I needed to take a step back and think rationally about it. I certainly wanted to do all the right things for Matthew and needed to find some clues and answers which I felt would come over a long and exhaustive process. In revisiting my son's birth I wanted to try to understand what may have led to this condition. I do remember when the doctors were preparing for Matthew's delivery there were concerns that his position was awkward and the doctors were trying to relax my wife and at the same time help move Matthew through the vaginal cavity as safely as possible. They needed to use suction and forceps to assist in his birth. I feel this was a bit traumatic and I remember Matthew was born with a slightly cone head shape and the nurses put a knitted hat on his head immediately following his birth and cleaning. Upon his birth I had come to realize that nothing can be taken for granted in the birthing process. When we left the hospital Matthew's head did take a normal shape and things seemed fine. In Matthew's first year we had seen patterns of behavior that are typical of autistic children. I remember from an early age he was sensitive to ringing and if he heard a bell or alarm it would set him off and he would cry and it was difficult to calm him. He also had difficulties with responding to voices and cues. His eyes did not follow with hand movement or gesturing. At that time we did not suspect anything being wrong but was concerned enough to raise the question to his pediatrician. I do remember when I had some time alone I would wonder if there was a possibility that Matthew was misdiagnosed and that he was just slow in his development. I remember as I read medical terms and personally related experiences about autism I was hoping that it was not relevant but became resigned to the fact that Matthew most likely was autistic by his reactions, responses and behavior. I remember crying and just praying for his situation. It was a difficult realization to come to terms with and I knew I had to be strong and do whatever I could to help him.

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