Saturday, September 19, 2009

The social impact of Autism

As the father of an autistic son I have learned through many experiences that it is difficult to attend social functions for long periods of time due to our son's apparent difficulties in controlling himself. He has had meltdowns, outbursts, bazaar behavior and just difficulty in relating to others. It can wear on you because you are trying to do right by your child by allowing them the opportunity of socialization and also trying to have a life as well by visiting with others. Sometimes their are no incidents and all is well but other times it can seem like a nightmare where you are constantly trying to calm your child or help them through and wind up just attending to them and are not able to enjoy the function. It happens quite regularly and we find that we tend to not attend functions as often because of the difficulties of controlling our son's emotional state. We do not want to limit his opportunities but we find people not to be so understanding or they just don't know how autism affects every aspect of life.

Our son has so many sensitivities and he can go into an outburst or meltdown at anytime and for any reason. Matty has very limited likes when it comes to eating and if he smells ketchup or an aroma of food cooking that he hates like hot dogs or hamburgers or spaghetti he just goes wild and starts to scream and holds his nose and it becomes quite a scene. We had to leave parties for outbursts like these by choice because we had trouble trying to settle him down. I don't know why autistic children are so sensitive with food and smell but our son has had this sensitivity since he was a young boy.

It does become very frustrating because even at home we have a hard time getting Matty on a balanced diet due to his food preference which is very limited for sure. He tends to eat the same thing on a regular basis and does not eat Maria's home cooking. He prefers pizza with very little tomato sauce or chicken nuggets where he only eats the edges. He likes eggs, milk, Stouffer's macaroni and cheese and for snacks he likes chocolate chip cookies and potato chips.

We wish he would eat healthier foods like grilled chicken with rice and vegetables but when Maria makes a plate for him he does not eat and we have taken an approach where we would then not give in so he wound up not eating but learned this was not going to work because Matty is on prescription medication for his epilepsy, autism and ADHD and if he does not eat he will get sick. We can not play around as it can lead to serious problems and he could get very sick. So we wind up having to give in and make him things he will eat.

It seems that autism affects a child's ability to socialize, it affects their eating choices, it affects their sleep patterns as our son never wants to sleep and it is very frustrating as he literally fights with us when it is time for him to go to bed. He has very limited social experiences outside of school as he has no interest in sports or after school social activities. He tends to enjoy being home and doing things that occupy him and does not require social interaction. We feel at times we are not making the best choices for our son but feel we are trying to do the best we can and we love our son so very much and that is why we sometimes feel so upset because we don't know how to help him with his outbursts and poor behavior. We have him visiting with a pediatric psychologist and pediatric psychiatrist to help him and we have him on all sorts of medication but we are still so very frustrated because we realize Matty has so many struggles and we are trying to help him. We will always be his support system and hope he can learn to develop and grow and have fulfilling experiences. I want my son to be happy and to achieve all he can as we know he is very capable and most of all we want Matty to be happy.

We will continue to attend functions so Matty can have the opportunity of seeing other children but we will always have to be guarded as our son requires special attention. I wish it was easier to help an autistic child and expose them to many experiences but as we see it isn't so we have to use appropriate judgement and to have lots of patience and love.

Edward D. Iannielli III

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