Monday, November 30, 2009

Autism - The inner person

When I write about my son and autism I am trying to portray in my own words what it is that occurs in his mind when he responds to cues, prompting, dialog, greetings, gestures, new situations, common situations, sounds, compliments, disciplinary action and other everyday occurrences. It seems to me that Matthew has a great personality when he wishes to open up and engage himself with others. The question I always come back to is why isn't he consistent in his approach. There is no pattern to his responses or behavior because it never seems to be consistent. On a good day Matthew will behave well and will not have any real problems and will manage to get through the day with very little distraction. When he is having a difficult day he seems to be very cranky and will be susceptible to having fits and will be more aggressive in his behavior and will be uncooperative. I am not sure what triggers these outbursts but to Matthew it is very real and threatening and he puts his guard up and reacts in ways that are not understood by observers like his teachers or classmates.

When Matthew is having a rough time it can be very frustrating because he does become disruptive and has difficulty focusing and completing his school work and in severe instances he has been dismissed early and my wife or I had to arrange to pick him up. As he is getting used to his new school he seems to be making some progress but is still having his share of difficulty but luckily his teachers are trying their best to help him through these difficulties and keep him in school for the full day. I sense the problem is internal or something within the brain that causes these disconnects. When I see my son he looks like any other kid and on a good day you would never know he was autistic.

I believe that we all are guided by our inner feelings and we operate based on how we perceive things and how we feel about ourselves. Obviously if we feel shy or insecure internally we will not usually go out of our way to talk with new people. If we feel confident and sure of ourselves we can talk with anybody. So I feel a lot of how we react and behave is how we feel about ourselves and how we see ourselves in situations. If we are not comfortable we will not want to experience the moment for too long and will try to avoid it altogether. It is natural to wish to not have to go to school on occasion as I remember when I was a kid I would sometimes wish to stay home but as parents we realize that school is very important and we want our son to enjoy his experiences at school and not have those feelings of wanting to avoid school. Usually if he fights us and does not want to go to school it is usually because a teacher yelled at him or a student is teasing him. In those situations I usually tell Matthew to try his best to behave so the teacher won't show frustration and have to yell. If a child is teasing him I try to explain to Matthew that he should try to talk to the child and establish a positive dialog to diffuse the situation.

I have seen my son when he is doing well with his dynamic personality and can talk with everyone and hold his own rather well. He enjoys relating with the other kids and has befriended them in those social settings even though it was in that moment in time. One place he seems to have a great time is the play area at the mall outside the movie theatre where we usually go to the movies. When we have some time before the movie he loves to run around and chase after the kids and he even likes being chased by them. I enjoy watching him when he is having a good time and I would like to find opportunities for him where he can participate in healthy and fun activities and make lasting friendships.

Matthew has an inner gift that shines when he is not closed off and he can talk to his heart's content and be the center of the activity and he likes to reach out and be a part of it all. That is the Matthew I like to see because that is his happy side and the person he is most comfortable with. Why autistic children have different reactions and temperaments in situations is still a mystery to me but I do know that Matthew does have sensitivity to certain things so if those sensitivities are not triggered than it will be favorable for him. If he does have something that disturbs him then he will react and chances are he may rebel and become difficult. We hope as parents that these times become less frequent. We do find that the counseling sessions Matthew attends are supposed to help him get in touch with his feelings and express what bothers him. If we can understand what affects him in positive ways and what affects him in negative ways then maybe we can find ways to try and minimize the negatives so he won't have such behavioral issues.

As parents of an autistic child we are learning everyday and trying to help our son all the time. By understanding things from his perspective and allowing him to freely express himself and get in touch with his inner self then maybe we can find some answers we are looking for to help him adjust with his autism. We all need to know our inner self so we can be better as a person and live a more fulfilling life. The same can be said with autistic individuals including children. Knowing the inner person is half the challenge.

Edward D. Iannielli III

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Autism - To behold a child's potential

As a child I remember an ad that was very powerful to me and was very important in its message and I feel it is very relevant today as it was when I first saw and heard it as a young kid in the early 1970's. The ad of course is "A mind is a terrible thing to waste." and it was established for use by the United Negro College Fund and it has been very instrumental in raising funds for scholarships for minority students and has been very successful in its mission. I always felt that it was a remarkable thing to bring out your best in everything you did or tried to do and by having that as your way of approaching life and the many challenges and opportunities along the way it would make you far better off as a person and in the way you approach life.

I also know growing up the uncertainties and feelings of awkwardness we all feel as we embark on our journey through school and our educational pursuits. It is our first introduction to what life is all about and we are encouraged from day one to do our best and to follow our teachers instruction and to learn to behave and make friendships throughout our school years. As we grow and learn and assimilate in the classroom we start to develop our sense of ourselves and our capabilities and we are encouraged by our teachers and our parents to bring out our best. School is a wonderful opportunity for us all to learn and explore and to grow and achieve and to set goals.

I have come to understand that we all are worthy of the opportunity to succeed and do our very best and to all have the encouragement and guidance we deserve. As a father of an autistic child I also know how important it is to find the appropriate setting for your child so they can learn and thrive. Not all kids are the same so the school officials and administrators need to have flexibility in there approach to educating all their students because we are experiencing a lot more challenges with school age children and one such challenge that has been increasing in alarming rates is autism. The schools need to find adequate resources and special needs educators to meet the demands and needs of an autistic child. Autism is more and more reported in the news today because of its rise and the fact that there is no real understanding as to why it is so prevalent. The primary concern of educators today is the proper treatment and educating of all students despite their backgrounds or limitations.

I feel as a concerned parent that our child and every child needs to be nurtured and given the proper attention and encouragement so they can learn and thrive in the classroom. It is imperative that they be accepted and given the opportunity to learn and grow and express themselves as individuals. Autistic children are very special in how they perceive things and see the world. If I could step into my son's shoes to see what he sees and feel so I could better understand him I certainly would but that obviously is not possible so the best I can do is to let him know how much I love and care for him and let him know that I am here for him now and as long as I will be here on this earth. My wife and I always reach out to him and let him know this. I say I love you to him every day and he sometimes says to me "Dad, I know this already! Why do you have to say it all the time!" After I laugh when he says this I tell him that I say it because I want him to know how much I love him and am just so happy to be here with him to be able to say it. I tell him I want to be saying it to him and Maria for a really long time! He then says to me that I am so sappy and then I laugh again and tell him he will understand someday when he has a kid.

The one thing I realize when I see my son and interact with him is his enormous capability. I always felt Matthew was very bright and has so much potential. I know every parent feels this way about their child and I completely understand this. In knowing my son I realize he does operate differently than most kids as he does not like to be singled out for a good thing or to be praised. He like to just blend in with the others but the truth is Matthew does have an enormous potential that I have recognized and so has his teachers and family and friends. I feel it is important to reach him and try to allow him to understand that it is important to tap into his potential and strive to do his best in all he does and tries. I as a child was shy and had a difficult time relating so I kind of hid and did not always allow myself to express myself. I did well in school but I was never eager to participate. I pretty much remained quiet but always had my assignments completed successfully. Maria and I instill in our son how important school is and how he should always have his assignments completed satisfactorily and try as best he can to participate and be heard. We want him to tap into his potential and bring it out and be a shining star.

To strive and do your best is a good thing and along the way it is certainly understood that struggles and obstacles are certain but if you dig deep and hold on to faith and trust in yourself to rise above them and to complete your schooling and your goals you will feel so much more complete as a person and will find self respect and happiness. This is what we all try to find in life and this is what I want our son to realize in his life so he can unleash his potential and experience success and happiness and not be weighed down by autism. It is important to behold your inner potential and tap into it for your inner fulfillment and individual expression.

Edward D. Iannielli III

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Autism and finding solace from writing.

Did you ever have a desire to write and you tried to sit at the computer and tried to find an idea to give you a lead to a story and just felt it was a futile effort? You tried to start a sentence or even a title and you just had no sense of what you were trying to start or accomplish. I have tried on occasion when I was younger to write but realized back then I did not approach it the right way because then I would try to take on the writing with no real agenda or plan in mind and I would easily get discouraged and give up before I even started. The one thing I learned with the experience of writing my blog is that if I allow myself to think of a title or an idea that I have a connection with and can relate personal experiences then I can sit at the computer with the intention of writing and the words seem to flow. I do not think it over when I write. I just let the words flow and then I structure it and personalize it to give it an emotional touch. I have written many responses to videos on YouTube with my personal feelings and have written many personal threads on websites that gave me the practice and interest in writing and it seemed I started to touch people with the words I wrote. I really was just expressing myself and relating personally to the subject matter and I would get positive feedback from my comments and writings.

I became fairly active on my facebook account and enjoyed writing and posting and when I learned of my father's tragic death in mid April 2009 I needed a forum to write my feelings as I was going through them. I was having a difficult time and was very sad and depressed and I needed to find some form of comfort and distraction and facebook gave me that and I used it as a means of posting writings and videos in tribute to my dad. I started to get replies of sympathies and words of encouragement and support from my facebook friends and I was very touched by the outpouring of well wishers. It made me able to deal with my sadness and depression and gave me strength and encouragement to try my best to move on. As I started to get back to some form of normalcy I realized the power of writing and posting as it did help me and gave me a sense of purpose and I enjoyed the experience of writing my thoughts and feelings down and showing my emotion and showing that I am a person with feelings and by opening up I would feel a sense of relief.

As I went back to normal postings on my facebook account and writing less I felt something was missing and I started thinking how nice it would be to write about things in my life that are important to me and where I could share my feelings in a forum and in some way find help from the experience and also try to help others by sharing my experiences. At this point I had not yet figured out the type of forum I would write in but I figured it was only a matter of time. One Sunday I was on AOL and I came upon a story of a man who was dying of cancer and was writing his farewell to his family, his wife and 2 children and it was a blog named Thumping my Melon and it was a very sad and poignant compilation of his writings in a diary format and I then realized how I would start my writing in a conventional forum. The sad reality of that blog I was referring to was that the man writing his farewell did die and his family had his writings and an excerpt I read from the story was where he said his goodbyes and wished his wife and children his very best and told his wife that after she grieved for him that he wanted her to move on and find someone to love again. He was giving her his blessings and I was very touched by it.

Another reason I wanted to write was because when I learned my father died by committing suicide by jumping in front of a speeding train and left no note or anything it really was very disturbing to me with so many unanswered questions and we did not know what to think. Was it a suicide? Was it an accident? Was he in the right frame of mind? Why didn't he talk to us? If it was suicide as indicated on his death certificate it just makes me feel so very sad for him. I know my dad had a very difficult life and felt lonely but he had all of us to support him and he was so good with all his grandchildren. That is why the reality of his death by his own actions is so hard to deal with because he was such a wonderful person. Dealing with death is hard enough but when dealing with suicide it is so much more difficult to deal with and I have gone through so much emotional pain seeing my mother wither away. It just is so devastating to have to deal with such tragedy with both parents. One very slowly and one very sudden.

As I started my blog I wanted to start it on a happy note so I decided I would start it with the birth of our son and would focus on autism as that is central to our life with Matthew and because we are dealing with it on a daily basis and because I am inspired by my son's courage and his spirit and that inspiration gives me the inspiration to write and chronicle our experiences and his experiences. I do write of other matters in my blog that come up which is part of life and I also write about my dad, my mom, my wife, my sisters and about me. I am trying my hardest to make it interesting and I am writing with emotion and all my writings are completely truthful with some related from my memories of years ago. I am planning to write for a long time because I am so very proud of Matthew and I am looking forward to the day he graduates high school, starts college and embarks on a career and one day finds that special girl in his life. Maria and I are so happy to be here together with our son and though he may not be perfect he will always be in our eyes and we will certainly see that we write about all his experiences with autism and with life.

With Love,

Edward D. Iannielli III

Autism and Fatherhood

I have said it many times and I will say it many more times because it is the truth and that is the joy of becoming a father is the most incredible thing you will ever experience in your lifetime. When Matthew was born I was so delighted and felt an incredible bond with my wife and newborn son in that moment in time. I have lived many seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years and decades to realize that this is the most special thing you could ever experience in your life. The day we brought our son home from the hospital was a day of uncertainty and great joy and realizing that I was Matthew's dad was truly gratifying and heart warming. I will always remember the day Maria gave birth to our son as that is forever frozen in time in my mind and is my most incredible experience that will live with me through eternity.

I have learned that becoming a father is not something you can study for or take a test to see how good you will be at it. It is a constant learning process and every day poses a new challenge. As a father you wish to provide your child with love, support, guidance, wisdom and encouragement and so much more. In the early days of fatherhood the most important thing to do is to be very supportive of your wife as she is constantly with the newborn baby nursing the baby and bonding with the baby. As the father I realize the bond between the mother and the baby is the most important bond of all and I truly realize the special gift and joy a woman feels when she gives birth for the first time. It must be the most amazing and most incredible experience she can feel once she gets past the physical pain. I have always had tremendous respect for my wife and for all women who give birth as that is something truly special and we as new fathers are so very appreciative for their tremendous sacrifice and their courage all throughout their pregnancy as that is 9 months of preparation and as special as it is, it is so physically and emotionally draining for a woman and she needs to always be supported throughout her pregnancy and always be conscious that she is doing all the right things for her body and for the baby growing inside her womb.

As the days becomes weeks and months and the baby is starting to grow and develop it is very important to have the baby be seen by the pediatrician for regularly scheduled visits and vaccinations. This is a time when you are very much in tune with your child and for the next 2 years the mother will be with the baby morning, noon and night. As the father it is important to give your wife a break and volunteer to change diapers and do feedings when you are available as it is stressful raising a baby and since the mother is constantly with the baby she most certainly needs a break every now and then. It is also important that the father establish a bond with the baby also and help in the early years as they go by so quickly and you can never get them back and before you know it, it becomes a distant memory.

As your child approaches the 2 year mark that is a very special time because the child is really starting to develop a personality and starting to talk and walk and becoming somewhat independent in some ways. I still remember discussions with my wife when Matthew was 2 years old because she was very concerned for him. As she was with him so much more and could see how he responded to her she started to realize that there was something not right with our precious son. Her first clue was when she would talk to him calmly and engage him as she was feeding him and realizing he was never able to make eye contact with her. Usually babies are very good at responding to cues and making eye contact. At that time she knew something was wrong but was not sure what was wrong.

We decided that it would be wise to inform his pediatrician but for some reason we did not really discuss it with her until he was near 3 years old and it was clearly evident that something was not right. The pediatrician immediately suggested the early intervention program which we did inquire about and it was determined that Matthew would most definitely benefit from it. He was diagnosed with autism and was further diagnosed with asperger's which when we found out were not sure what it all meant. The teachers and therapists that came to the house would help Matthew with speech, motor coordination, eye contact, auditory and sensory skill development. It was a long process and we were fortunate to have these resources available.

As Matthew grew and received the therapies from the early intervention program we started to see progress being made and were encouraged and excited and thankful to all the wonderful people who were helping our son. It was wonderful to see Matthew starting to talk and verbalize his feelings and making eye contact. It was a tremendous relief for us and we knew he was going to need special schooling but we were happy that he was coming along and making the progress we were so hoping to see. When you have a child you want them to be perfect in every way but realize you will accept your child no matter what as unconditional love is such a powerful love that bonds the child and the parents forever.

As a father of an autistic child I realize there are many challenges and many frustrations but when you know your child is special and you learn that there are professionals to turn to and schools that are there to provide tailored programs for your child then you start to develop hope and are encouraged and start to see the good things and the progress and you then realize that your child can make strides and do the things you hoped they could. It will take them more time maybe but they too can do the things that other kids do and our son is very bright and has such a great disposition. I am constantly learning from him as he is exceptionally bright and is a joy as well. I know he will have his struggles but I am confident that he will grow and mature and make wonderful progress and we are so proud of him and love him so much. Matthew is my son, Maria is my wife and I am so lucky to have them both in my life and am so proud to be Matthew's dad.

Edward D. Iannielli III

Friday, November 27, 2009

Autism and Life situations

I often wonder how my parents raised 3 kids in their time as it is a considerable challenge raising one child and providing him with everything he needs to have a chance to succeed in his life. I have always wanted to be a father and to pass on to my son all the things I learned and help give him the knowledge, self confidence and drive he needs to attain all the dreams and goals he sets for himself. I know that we play a significant role in our child's life as his parents and the schools he attends and the teachers he learns from also play a role in his development. With our combined efforts it is our hope that he will learn and prosper for he certainly has the ability and the mindset. Although he is autistic and has difficulty in his social development he still has the intelligence and the ability to do well in his studies and to find areas of interest that will encourage him and motivate him. As we experience life we encounter many things and when you raise an autistic child you will find it requires a lot more patience and understanding when it comes to dealing with the many circumstances of life and explaining them to your autistic child.

One of the hardest things to explain to any child is the death of a loved one. In trying to explain death to an autistic child it requires a great deal of strategy and understanding. When my dad died so tragically it was a very difficult thing for me to deal with and to know that he was a big part of Matthew's life made it so much harder explaining it to him. I remember when I first learned of his death I was in total shock as both my brother-in-laws came to the house to break the tragic news to me and my family. They asked if Matthew could stay in grandma's room when they sat down with me. As they told me my son happened to come into the living room and he saw me crying and asked me what was wrong. I was so sad and in such shock I was in no condition to talk to Matthew about it so I ran up to tell Maria and asked her if she could watch Matthew as I needed to have time alone to take it in and deal with it as I knew it would not be easy.

The hardest part of coping with my father's death was learning the sad circumstances of his death. He was a very kind and caring husband, father and grand father and a wonderful person who was so very generous and compassionate and he would do anything to help us out. He was wonderful with all his grandchildren and he just was like a big kid who was always there to baby sit. So when I learned that he leaned into a speeding train and was thrown further down the platform cracking open his skull and dying on impact I was just so beside myself. All I could do was try to understand what would make him do such a thing and I just could not find an answer. I did know he was sad and lonely at times but he was so active with all his grandchildren that we all thought he was doing ok. It is such a tragedy and I just feel truly awful about it because my dad was such a wonderful man who did so much good and he deserved a much better ending than this horrible tragedy. My dad died with a broken heart and we just could not help him through his pain and I am very sad about that.

So as time has passed and we realize the absence more and more it still is fresh and very painful to me. I have sat down to explain about "Pop" to Matthew and he does not accept that he is gone. In fact when Pop's birthday passed this October 27th my son asked me where was his birthday cake and I shrugged my shoulders and told Matthew that it wasn't appropriate and he started to lose it. He started crying and screamed at me that I was not respecting my dad and he did not want to see me any more and he ran upstairs to his room and shut the door and cried. My son taught me something in that moment and I felt really bad so the very next day I went to Matthew's favorite bakery and bought a birthday cake for "Pop" and when I showed him the cake he gave me the biggest hug and kiss and said "See I knew you loved your dad and he knows it too!" He made me realize that we should never forget and this was his way of showing it so we sang Happy Birthday to Pop and we each had a piece of cake in his honor.

Another aspect of autism that poses a major challenge in dealing with life situations is adapting to change. Matthew, like most autistic children is resistant to change and if there is the slightest change it can have an affect on the child where they will react in a way that could be violent or where they will scream or cry or both and it can take time to settle them down. Most autistic children need to have a sense that things remain the same as they hate change. It was very difficult getting Matthew used to the idea of having a new teacher each school year and it took 3 years before he could have a change in his school teacher. He now seems used to the idea and now is adapting well to a new school and new teachers.

Behavior is probably one of the major areas we need to work on improving with Matthew as he tends to have trouble conducting himself properly in different settings. We used to never go out as a family to a sit down restaurant because Matthew just could not sit down and behave. As he is getting older it is getting better but on occasion he still acts up but it is with less frequency. We usually go to family style restaurants like Friendly's and Matthew does sit and behave and it is good to get out as a family sometimes especially when we are on vacation.

When Matthew was younger it was impossible to take him to a movie because he did not have the patience to sit and he would be up every 10 minutes and would talk and people would get annoyed so we used to have to walk out of movies fairly regularly because Matthew had a lot of difficulty sitting through them. As he is getting older we are finally able to see a movie in its entirety with the exception of the occasional bathroom break. It now has become a pleasure taking him to the movies and is one of the things we look forward to doing together.

We also encountered times when Matthew would run off without warning when we were in the mall or an amusement park and we really had to run after him so he would not get lost. It took many times sitting him down and explaining to him that he can not do this because he can get lost and it is not easy finding him in such a big place with so many people. After many stern discussions with him on this he finally realized it is not a good idea and he does stay close by now which gives us peace of mind.

We are now seeing the progress Matthew is making and we are pleased but feel he has a long way to go and we are now starting to prepare for the time when he starts to notice the girls. This is something I am hoping will be a smooth and easy time for him but knowing how kids are I feel we will have lots of discussions about it and we will wait for him to ask as this is more appropriate. We also want Matthew to focus on his studies and do well in school so he can further himself and plan for college one day.

I feel the kids of today's generation are growing and maturing much faster than we did because they are exposed to so much more with tv, the internet and school. We have to make sure we listen to them and provide them with a forum to talk about all their feelings and always maintain a two way conversation with them. Matthew is our son and he is very important to us and we wish to always be there for him and guide him and teach him about life and help him be the best he can be. He is our pride and joy and we love him so very much and want to teach him well so he can enjoy life, establish friendships and do all he wishes to do.

Edward D. Iannielli III

Dear Santa.

As we celebrate another Thanksgiving with our family and loved ones we are reminded that Christmas is around the corner and we look forward to the Christmas season in hopes of feeling the joy and happiness we remember as children when we had an innocence and a child's life free of worry and responsibility. Christmastime in our household was wonderful and it was a time of family togetherness, happiness and eager anticipation. We learned early that if we were good we would be visited by Santa and his reindeer on Christmas Eve while we were sleeping and we would receive some of the presents we wished for. I have so many fond memories of those days and sharing them with my wonderful mom and dad and my 2 younger sisters. I remember when mom would have us write our letters to Santa and how she would help us with writing it so we would word it properly and not sound too greedy. We always asked for practical things and some toys as it was the toys we most wanted.

As I am getting older my memory is not quite the same as it used to be but I can still remember back to some of our family Christmases of long ago and still feel those same feelings I did as a little kid and I can still manage to smile like I did way back then. This to me is truly important because those were special times in my life and it feels good to be able to remember some of them. The Christmas I received several toy cars, both hot wheels and match box and a racing track with the loop the loop was one that stood out for me as was the Christmas I received my first bicycle without training wheels. My sisters received nice presents as well but I was more focused on my own presents. I remember my sisters would look so cute in their Christmas dresses and mom would have me dressed in a nice white shirt and tie. My younger sister is 6 years younger than I so our first Christmas all together as a family of 5 including our parents was in 1967 when she was only 5 months old. I kind of remember that Christmas with my mom holding her in her arms and I enjoyed kissing her on her little cheeks when I was 6 years old. I remember telling mom that was a special Christmas having a little baby in the family and she patted me on the head and said what a good little boy I was. She made me feel good when she would do that.

I remember when we realized that not all our presents came from Santa and my sisters and I would sneak around to try to find them. We did find some on occasion but would not let on that we knew and we would still delight in the joy of opening them. Our parents were so generous and they made all our Christmases wonderful and joyous. We also enjoyed visiting at both our grandparents houses to celebrate the Christmas holiday and receive more presents and visit with our cousins and family relatives. We had such wonderful times and memories that still resonate with me and bring me back to a time that was magical. As we got older we still enjoyed the family celebrations and opening our presents and also remembering our parents and buying them presents too which was our way of showing them how special they were to us.

As a parent I take great joy in seeing my son all excited around the holidays and expressing his joy and happiness. I would also ask him to write his letter to Santa like my mom did when we were just kids. I notice my son would ask for similar things that I asked for when I was his age and I just take great joy in his childlike innocence and am proud how much he has grown from the very first Christmas we shared as a family back in 1998 when Matthew was an infant and Maria held him in her arms. It brought me back to the Christmas of 1967 when my mom held my baby sister in her arms. I was so happy for Maria and I that we now had a baby to share the holidays with and to share our lives with. It is the best Christmas present I could ever hope for, the birth of our son, Matthew on December 8, 1998 even though he insists his birthday is March 8, 1999, something I will never understand.

Our son is now 10 years old and will be 11 this Christmas and I am amazed how the time has gone by so quickly and how we all are getting a little older. I have many fond memories of celebrating Christmases with my wife and son, my dad and my sisters and their families. We had many joyous Christmases together and it was a pleasure to share with all of Matthew's cousins and with "Pop". Our dad was always so generous and so giving and this Christmas will be very difficult to celebrate as the twinkle in the star atop the tree will not be nearly as bright. We will hold on to "Pops" spirit and his kindness and celebrate Christmas in his honor and also celebrate Mom and Dad's Christmas together again after so many years apart. It is our memories that give us joy and our family and loved ones that give us strength. So even though this Christmas will be sad knowing that dad is no longer with us we will still share in the celebration of being with family and loved ones. May we as a family all find joy in our heart and hold on to the precious memory of dad and keep the image of his youth and happiness alive through our lifetime.

This holiday season is difficult for so many because there are so many people hurting due to a depressed economy and fewer jobs and a lot of poor judgement in Washington DC. We are now feeling tough times hoping that we will still have a job so we can provide for our family and pay our monthly obligations. I have seen good friends laid off and are suffering and dealing with the possibility of foreclosure. These are people who work hard and have families and pay their taxes and at one time trusted in this country but now wonder why they are in danger of losing everything. As I hear this I often wonder why our leadership let it get this way. Christmas is a time for kids and I heard some children write letters to Santa asking him to find their daddy a job so he can pay for the house they are about to lose. When you hear this it just makes your heart sink and you hope these families will get the help and support they need and find gainful employment so they can get back on their feet and provide for their families, keep their homes and get their kids a little present for Christmas. I will pray for these families and try to do something to help give them hope but we all must do our part and we all must try our best to keep going so we can provide for our families at this most difficult time. I wish a Merry Christmas to all and healing for all those suffering.

Edward D. Iannielli III

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Giving Thanks.

I often wonder why we designate one day a year for appreciating all that we have and all we should be grateful for. I feel we should give thanks every day we get to spend with our family and our loved ones. We are all dependent on each other yet live distinct and separate lives but are joined together by a bond that is stronger than anything we can imagine. Love is a bond that conquers all and when we love and feel loved there is nothing as gratifying. It affects us in every aspect of our life and we can not survive without it. It is what gives us strength. It is what gives us passion in our life. It is what motivates us. It is what makes us whole. It is what gets us through trying and difficult times. It is what makes us care for others. It is what makes us reach out to ease someone else's pain.

To hold love in your heart is truly a wonderful thing and to tell someone else that you think of them always and you wish to be with them for the rest of your life is what we all strive for and if we are lucky enough truly attain. To experience the most precious gift in the world which is the gift of intimacy with another person is a joy and God blesses us if we are fortunate enough with a baby that makes our life special and meaningful and makes us realize what truly is of most importance in our life. The unconditional love of a baby is the best form of love we will ever experience in our life and it makes us all better for the joy, love and compassion we hold for our little baby is the greatest gift of all.

As we gathered at the table to celebrate another year gone by and another thanksgiving with all the people most important in my life which are my wife, son and mother-in-law I could not help to take a moment and reflect upon my dad who recently passed away this year and I felt an overwhelming flood of emotions that caused me to shed a tear and to smile at the same time for my dad was truly special and was a wonderful father in my life and was so loving towards mom and my sisters. I felt sad that we would no longer see him and that Matthew would no longer have Pop their to help him build his Lego city which was the highlight of his visits. It will take time to readjust to our lives now as we lose the ones who meant so much to us. We will never forget the wonderful memories of Pop but will feel the void left by his apparent absence. This is particularly difficult for young children to understand but in time our son will learn to remember Pop and know that the times he got to spend with him were truly special and he should hold on to those memories and cherish them.

I always knew that we would encounter happy and sad times in our lives and that we have to know that life as we know it is very precious because their is that element of uncertainty that we just don't know and no matter how hard we try to make our lives perfect and free from pain and sadness it is an impossible feat for we all will eventually face our mortality and this is why I believe we need to be thankful everyday because we don't have guarantees in life and one year from now is to far away to celebrate once again. I am grateful every day I wake for what I have in my life and wish to be here a long time to spend with my wife and son. They are the focal point of my life and I want to be there for the both of them and if we are lucky enough to be blessed with another child I would be delighted for children are what keep us young and that bond of unconditional love is a true miracle that keeps us close to our family and to God. My son's smile and knowing that he is happy is the greatest gift I could ever receive and when I tell him I love him I mean it with all my heart and when I kiss my wife and tell her how much she and Matthew mean to me I am revealing my most inner feelings and emotions and I am at my most fragile for I am laying it all on the line and know how much I need their love as well.

I live for love and I wish to do my best before it is my time. As I get older and wiser I also become more sentimental and more introspective and I start to flood my mind with memories of my childhood and my parents in a younger and happier time and I tend to become more emotional and cry more. I am not ashamed to cry or reveal my feminine side because I feel it is part of me and I am ok with it. Life is to short to get hung up on things. We are all people and we need to be accepted for who we are and find happiness in our lives and be the absolute best we can for when we die we are gone forever and that is the hardest thing to come to terms with especially when you bring children into the world. You always want your children to be protected and well cared for and you always wish to spend as much time with them as you possibly can and guide them and teach them the ways of the world. My son is my greatest gift I have been given in my life and to have my wife by my side is as well and the hope we hold for our son is what keeps me going in my life so I can see him grow into adulthood and live a life full of promise and joy and go on to study in college and find a rewarding career and hopefully meet and marry that special girl in his life. This is what I live for!

Edward D. Iannielli III

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

For you Dad: Touched by a mother and her son.

It is always nice to be remembered and to be respected and to know that you made a difference in the lives of others. This can be said of my dad who did make a difference but would never really think anything of it. He was very humble and feels he did what he had to do so he could provide for his family. My parents always made us feel special and I have many fond memories of having wonderful holiday celebrations as a child with my parents and my sisters. From those special times as a child I have always appreciated the holiday season and getting together with family and friends. It is my favorite time of the year and it is when we get to share the joy with our family and our beloved children. This holiday season will be so much more different for the Iannielli family because someone who meant the world to us and did so many wonderful things is no longer here to share it with us. I have been feeling sad lately as we prepare for our Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays because my dad who I loved and respected and admired very much is no longer part of our celebration. It is a void I can not put into words other than to say it is very evident and very sad for me. I know my family and my sisters and their family's feel the same way. We are opting to have a quiet dinner at home and just trying to relax and enjoy being together as we all lead such busy lives. Though my dad is gone the memories are there and we are trying our best to enjoy the holidays for the sake of our children despite the hugh absence we feel.

I remember when my mom passed away back in 1990 it took me several years to get back to some sense of normalcy as I had gone through a deep depression and it was my dad and I who became much closer and my relationship with my dad became very strong and he was a tremendous inspiration and helped me to learn important values and to prepare for things I did not know would ever happen for me such as marriage and fatherhood. I was so happy that he was here to meet my wife Maria and our son Matthew.

As I prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday with my wife, son and mother-in-law I was thinking of my mom and dad and felt that dad was now happy to finally be reunited with mom. They have been apart for so long and they are now back together in eternal peace.

As I thought of my dad I was touched by an e-mail that came from a mother of a 13 year old boy who is in middle school and is reading a non fiction book for his 8th grade English class. The book his mother suggested he read, titled the Bridge is written by an author who met with my dad to write a chapter in the book of his experience working on the Verrazano bridge. The author is Gay Talese and the chapter in the book centers around 2 men and a brief introduction of their lives up until that fateful day working on the Verrazano Bridge in 1963. The 2 men are Gerard McKee and my dad, Edward D. Iannielli Jr. They were working together and had parted to do their respective jobs and as my dad continued tightening the rivets he heard Gerard calling for my dad in distress. When my dad turned to Gerard he saw he was barely hanging on for dear life to the cable and my dad screamed Oh God! and tried to reach to grab hold of him but Gerard was a big man weighing over 200 lbs and my dad weighed 138 lbs and had a crippled hand and as he tried to pull him up he did not have the strength to do so and as he felt him slipping through his grip all he could do was picture my mom and me as a little baby and he saw Gerard fall to his death. The quick actions of an Indian by the name of Lloyd LeClaire helped save my dad from falling as he jumped on top of my dad to keep him tight to the catwalk. He saved my dad's life.

As I read Maria's e-mail I was moved and was reminded how special my dad was and how he has touched the lives of others. She really made me feel good and she helped ease the sadness I feel and I was so touched by her kind words and her reaching out to me and my family to acknowledge my dad and to share his story with her son. She really made my day and for that I am very appreciative and would certainly share stories of my dad with them. She also enjoyed reading the story I wrote about my father and son and his visits to help Matthew build his Lego skyscrapers. I was very lucky to have my dad in Matthew's life and the one thing that stands out in my mind of their relationship was my dad's feelings on Matthew and autism. He never treated Matthew differently and he always made my son smile and feel good and always was there for him and cherished their times together working on lego buildings and just hanging out. It was wonderful and we do miss him so much and realize we do have to move on but can still cherish the memories and always remember those special times.

Dad, you see how people appreciate what you did! This is for you because you touch people's lives and Maria and her son and their kindness is so precious and is a wonderful gift and I wanted to share this with you because you are so special to all of us! Thank you Dad! We Love you and miss you very much! Give mom a big hug and kiss for us. We love and miss you both! Happy Thanksgiving!

Your loving son and family.

Edward D. Iannielli III
Maria Iannielli
Matthew Edward Iannielli
Mama Terri (Terisita Gonzales)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Autism and humor.

In life I have come to the conclusion that we should learn to smile and laugh more often and not always be so serious and succumb to the pressure of everyday situations. Life is a long road for many of us and it seems to pass by in an instant and we should always remind ourselves that we are here to enjoy the precious gift of life we've been given and cherish the time we are afforded here with our family and loved ones. Developing a sense of humor is not often as easy as it sounds but we can try to look at things slightly different that will enable us to see things in a happier light. We still will encounter sad days in our life and we will cry and feel depressed and wonder why certain things happen the way they do. Those days obviously will be difficult and finding humor in those situations is not appropriate but that should not stop us from smiling and laughing one day again. Humor is what helps us and is very important in finding joy in our life. We also need to teach our children the importance of smiling, laughter and humor. I am of the opinion that humor is good for your heart and laughter adds time to your life and helps you interact with your children in a very important way.

Autism is a very serious condition that affects how someone reacts and interacts or withdraws from situations. It is an impairment that affects the brain and it seems to form a disconnect that hinders normal social interaction. As a result it may make one find it difficult to experience laughter or joy. An autistic child's view of the world can be much different than that of a normal child. An autistic child will tend to be more distant and possibly unfeeling as it is hard for them to express themselves and they can easily get frustrated and react in a way where they may become violent or uncooperative. They will yell and scream or react improperly to what affects them. It is hard for them to laugh and be spontaneous. An autistic child can be unpredictable in how they react and they will be inconsistent with their behavior. It takes a lot of patience to try to get through to an autistic child and to get on their level. You need to speak their "language" so to speak. They are sometimes very hard to read and you will find it unsettling if they react in a way that causes a disturbance and lack of control. In these situations it is very difficult to find humor and helping them through the difficulty is the first order of priority. You really have to make it a point to teach your autistic child how to laugh and joke and find humor in things and not take themselves or life so seriously. It is not that easy but if you can help your child learn to laugh and find happiness and humor you will be giving them a priceless gift.

Humor is the ability to see the funny or lighter side of things. It is a way of finding pleasure and joy and we react with laughter and encounter good feelings that make us smile and feel whimsy. It is a way of escaping the realities imposed in our lives. Humor is connecting with others in a way where we can be spontaneous and we can laugh out loud in their presence and it can be contagious. Laughter is medicine and it helps us to feel better and appreciate the lighter side of life. We don't always have to be so serious. We can laugh too and this is so important in our life. It is important for autistic children and autistic adults also and when we can learn to laugh we then can learn to be ourselves. If I can teach my son anything in life it would be to learn to appreciate the little things and the ability to laugh and find good in everything and to give back.

Sometimes we look to find humor in movies we like to see. It is always nice to see a comedy that really makes us feel good and laugh so hard we almost cry. That is the greatest feeling when you can laugh with such vigor and feel truly wonderful in the process. I as a kid always appreciated comedy and I would love to watch the old Abbot & Costello movies on Sunday morning. I would look forward to watching them and would really enjoy how they acted together. It was pure joy watching them on the screen and I remember laughing on many occasions and grew up on their movies and could watch them over and over again. I enjoyed their movies so much I would teach my son about them and we would watch some of their movies together. They definitely made me laugh and appreciate that part of my childhood.

The most fun I have with my son is when we see a funny movie together and I see and hear him laugh and having a great time. This brings joy and happiness to me and this is what makes me appreciate life. When I can see my son feeling good and expressing his happiness and laughing and finding in that moment something that gives him a good feeling then I will feel great joy and will laugh along with him and remind him of that moment and see if we can find more moments like that because that is what we all need to do in our lives so we can find our happiness.

Edward D. Iannielli III

Monday, November 23, 2009

Autism and creativity.

When I was a child I always wished I had talents beyond what I learned in the classroom and I admired my dad very much as he was very talented and I remember as a kid he would busy himself for hours at a time with his drawings and his models made from his own materials. As I tried to follow him I realized that I was average in many ways. I did not have any real exceptional abilities and I did not develop any special skills like my dad. My father had an ability to draw and was very talented as he was most certainly an artist and he also had attention to detail in crafting his models. He built from scratch replicas of Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St Louis airplane and a WW II aircraft carrier with aircraft and a construction site with a tower crane from plain card board and oak tag sheets and tooth picks. He had the vision in his head and he worked off photographs and was able to bring the raw materials to life in his creations. He certainly had talent but would never admit it. He was very humble and did his work as a hobby that contented him and made him happy. My mom also had talent and she was gifted with a beautiful voice and she loved to sing and I remember when she would sing lullabies to me at night I would say to her how beautiful her voice was. It was very easy to sleep to such beautifully sung songs. I still hear her beautiful voice in my mind if I think real hard and focus on those long distant days.

I tried to find things as a child that would help me expand and grow and I did the customary things like color by number with paint and lite brite art and etch a sketch and spirograph. I then graduated to building models from kits which were usually racing cars and I enjoyed building radios from prefabricated kits. I never really pursued any of these activities for a considerable length of time but did enjoy them in my childhood.

Knowing how important it is to develop interests and hobbies I wanted to make sure Maria and I expose Matthew to art, music, reading and writing. At a relatively young age he became interested in the computer and would love to do paintbrush and would create his artwork and save them to a folder. He enjoyed drawing all different types of things. Some abstract and some pretty distinct. He would draw a neighborhood of homes or a flow of cars in traffic or a crowd of people or a sporting event like basketball. His abstracts were more an array of colors in different patterns and designs. As he started to develop his interest he would seek rolls of paper to draw on and would concentrate on things that were continuous like roads with buildings and homes and cars. He would number the buildings sequentially and would have odd numbers on one side and even numbers on the opposite side. His drawings on the roles of paper were detailed and very specific. He loves his roles of paper and will usually busy himself for hours drawing and coloring on them. He must have 20 rolls of paper completely drawn from one side to the other. He developed an interest in drawing maps also and liked viewing the different road atlases and the maps of the United States and of the World. He has an appetite for learning and loves working with the computer to formulate lists. Most everything he does is connected to the creation of a list. He loves Walt Disney and he did a google search of all the Disney movies from the beginning to current and he created a list of all the Walt Disney movies created.

Matthew also developed an interest in music and has navigated his way on Rhapsody and managed to create music play lists of his favorite artists like Elvis Presley, The Cars, Abba, Coldplay, Meatloaf, Elton John, The Beatles, Badfinger and so many others. He enjoys listening to music and loves to sing and I know my mom would be very proud of the way he sings. He has such poise and can remember all the words of whatever song he sings. He has a good memory when it comes to his singing.

Since I have been writing actively and posting to my blog, this very blog it has given me inspiration and passion because I am writing from my heart and I am pouring out my soul and recalling all my experiences from my early childhood to my current day life and all the joys and tragedies in between. I am revealing myself and my thoughts and fears and my gratitude and my purpose in life and the 2 people in my life who mean everything to me, Maria and Matthew. I have learned a lot in the process and feel I am doing a good thing and will continue to do so. This is the creative side that has developed and it has come about due to tragedy.

In the wake of my dad's unexpected suicide I felt this incredible pain and very sad void in my life. I needed to do something to explain what was going on in my mind and what I needed to do to go forward and take care of my family. I needed to come to terms with my dad's tragic death and my own internal struggles. I needed to explain what life is like for us in raising our son who is a wonder and a joy and how he is affected by autism and how we help him and cope with the challenges that autism brings. We are learning everyday and it is a road of endless possibilities with so many options. We are working together to bring out the best in our son with the aid of his teachers at school. We feel we can be doing more for him but we are doing what we can and also relying on our son to help us in finding things that interest him.

He seems to enjoy expressing himself through writing like I have and he also has started a blog which he writes and he feels good after he writes a story. I enjoy reading his posts and am very proud of him and I realize that though Matthew is autistic he has a very creative side to him and I believe this can be attributed to his asperger's. I do believe there is a link between autism and creativity. We will always encourage Matthew to challenge himself and to find things that interest him and draw upon his talents. It is nice to find interests in art, music, reading and writing and we are hopeful that Matthew will flourish and grow through his expressive and artistic side and we are delighted for him.

Edward D. Iannielli III

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Autism and competitive spirit.

The ability to compete is taught to us at an early age and we strive to out perform our competition as a measure of comparison and rating to our peers. In individualistic pursuits the competitive spirit is more crucial because we openly compete in a field to see where we place and we are ranked based on our performance. Sports where individualized achievement is encouraged is swimming, diving, figure skating, gymnastics, bicycling, cross country, track, boxing, bowling and certain team sports where your position is pivotal to the team's success such as a pitcher in baseball or a quarterback in football or a goalie in hockey or soccer. Most children are introduced to sports early on and are taught to have fun and enjoy the experience.

As a child learns and becomes more interested in the sport and grows the level of competition becomes more evident and their level of achievement and success depends on how they perform in relation to the competition. In a team setting the pressure is not as noticeable unless it comes to a situation where you are in a critical role such as a pitcher in baseball and your team's winning or losing is based on your pitching performance. It can also be a situation where you come up to the plate with runners on base and the coach asks you to bunt the runners over or swing away depending on how many outs there are. If you are down by a run or 2 and there are 2 outs and it is late in the game then you know you are trying to prolong the inning by drawing a walk or getting a base hit. You certainly do not want to strike out in that situation. That is legitimate pressure and the more you come through and achieve success the more chance you will draw attention and be respected and loved by your teammates and coach.

It takes a lot of discipline, dedication, hard work and a lot of ambition to excel and perform well in sport's and in those pressure situations. If you are autistic then it takes a lot more to get to that level of success and if you are lucky enough to have people in your court who care and want to see you achieve success and are willing to stick by you then you may if you are lucky enough to have the talent and the discipline to enjoy the achievements and success that come with your drive and ambition. It certainly does not happen overnight and a lot of pain and frustration usually is par for the course in developing and maturing to that level of proficiency. We are always encouraged to do our very best and there are usually rewards that are given in recognition of our effort and our achievement.

On a personal level when I played little league baseball I was very keen on performing at my best and enjoyed when I came through for the team. I was a very adept short stop and could turn a double play and catch a runner off guard to pick them off. I quite enjoyed that and I was also pretty good at the plate where I was instrumental in getting some key base hits that enabled us to either tie in a game or take the lead. I used to get nervous in those situations but as I came up and encountered success I started to enjoy being in those situations. This is what practice and dedication is all about and autistic children can succeed in sport and enjoy healthy competition and draw from themselves the talent and drive they have and that is truly a wonderful thing.

I always encourage my son to bring out his best and to not be afraid. He has not yet found a sport that interests him and he still has some difficulty with conducting himself in a structured setting so I believe team sports would be more difficult for him to participate in but feel he could certainly benefit from a discipline oriented sport such as track or swimming where he can compete for merit and also have fun doing so. I know he likes bowling but his attention span is very limited and he has been known to be distracted when it was his turn. I never would push my son into something he has no interest in but certainly would encourage him to participate in a sport that he does like and I would help him achieve all he wishes if he does find a sport he has an interest in.

I believe it is very important to have a healthy balance between school work, sports, music and art. It is nice to develop talents in many areas and it helps in making a complete person. When a child has an interest in many areas they find that they have so much more opportunity and they derive so much more pleasure in their pursuits. This is what I would like to instill in my son and help him to develop those talents as they are well worth finding and can help him appreciate all the great things that we seek in our life.

Edward D. Iannielli III

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Autism - A blessing and a disappointment.

I am touched by autism because I have a son who is on the autistic spectrum and is diagnosed as having asperger's. He is high functioning and is a joy. He is our only child and I wish we had another child so our son would have companionship but my wife is fearful of having another child with autism. For me I would gladly welcome another child with autism because my son is special and he is the love of my life and I gladly accept him with his autism. I realize autism is a disorder that affects the brain and impairs social interaction and communication making it difficult for establishing normal relationships and causing disturbances in behavior. There are more and more incidences of autism and there are few answers as to why. The odds of autistic births are increasing and it is alarming with no known evidence as to why it has increased so much and that there is no foreseeable cure. Autism is a puzzle and there are many pieces to that puzzle and it is very difficult to piece it all together. It would take a lifetime to understand all that an autistic child experiences and feels as they encounter the myriad of choices and challenges in their own life.

I can certainly see how my son is affected by autism and I realize that he is acting out or reacting in a way that he feels in his own mind is appropriate. He does not see things exactly the same way as we may and his sensory perceptions are more sensitive and easily distracted. He has many sensitivities specifically related to smell, texture and taste. His eating habits are based on his reactions to his sensitivities to these three senses and it can be very frustrating because when it comes to his choices for meals they are very limited and not well representative of all the necessary food groups. He has never eaten home cooking as he opts for store bought packaged foods like mac and cheese, chicken nuggets, french fries, mashed potatoes, english muffins, eggs, fruit yogurt, pudding snacks, oreos, chocolate chip cookies, milk, sugary juices and pizza. He has never really given Maria the opportunity to make him a delicious home cooked meal as she has tried many many times and he has usually left the plate untouched. She has tried to make him a nice chicken dish with rice or real mashed potatoes and he has picked at it but just leaves it never really eating it. It has taken Maria a long time to get past this as she always felt hurt by his constant turning down of her home cooking and it is very emotional to her but raising an autistic child does have its challenges and this obviously is one of the major ones.

I look at autism as a blessing and a disappointment because there are so many ups and downs and I am very much affected by it on a daily basis and it is sometimes moments of great happiness when we encounter the positive side of autism and see Matthew have good days and fine accomplishments. It is also a time of great pain and sadness when I see my son all alone and experiencing great difficulty relating to others and opts to be alone. It is hard to see this and try to provide proper advice because I have my own challenges in life and may not always know what to say or do. All I know is I love my son very much and I am very emotional as a person and wish for Matthew to have fulfilling experiences and life long friendships. I want him to learn to have poise and feel happy and always feel confident in all he does and all he attempts to do. I want him to have a proper balance between school and sports. I want him to prove himself and to enjoy the experience in doing so.

A child is so innocent in their development and they are so impressionable and they learn early and a lot of what they experience in their childhood affects them as they grow and mature and become adults. I want my son to have all the opportunities and experiences that his peers have and want him to feel no different from them. Yes my son is autistic and has challenges and may not behave appropriately at times and may not know how to fit in all the time but he is a young boy experiencing life and trying his best and I know he is a great kid not because he is my son but because I have grown to know him as a person and see what his feelings, emotions, thoughts, ideas, visions, dreams, ideals, goals and talents are all about and the more I see them through him the more I realize how special and caring Matthew is. I am so proud of him and realize he is light years ahead of me when I was his age. He has such an appetite for knowledge and he is very cerebral in how he talks and conducts himself and he has similar traits to me in his sensitivities. I am so lucky to have Matthew as my son and every day I feel so privileged. Maria and I know that we are fortunate for being blessed with Matthew and realize that not everything can be perfect. Our son is wonderful, bright, sensitive, caring and he is autistic and we know he has some limitations but we know he can and will rise above it.

The world we live in is a wonderful place for the most part but it is not a perfect place and we are witness to the great and wonderful things and also the very sad and tragic and truly disturbing things. This is the same of autism. There are many wonderful things that autism brings and also the setbacks that sometimes takes away from the good and cause emotional pain. We must try to find a balance between the good and the not so good of autism and find strength and determination and have love in our heart to give the emotional support and caring that all autistic children need. I am very supportive and loving as a parent and this is what helps me deal with the disappointments and appreciate the blessings of autism. I can hold on to hope that Matthew will overcome the challenges that autism poses and will live a life of tremendous potential and promise and will succeed because he is so very special and deserves true success in his life as two loving parents always wish for their child.

Edward D. Iannielli III

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Autism - Parenting and offering advice

I am no expert on parenting but I am knowledgeable on what it takes to raise an autistic child and try to provide them with love, understanding, compassion, empathy and hope. My wife and I are always thinking of all we can do to help our son and provide him with all he needs to grow and enjoy life. We love our precious son and will do all we can for him. When I look at my son at night as he is sleeping peacefully a feeling of calmness comes over me and I feel good for the moment. Usually when you spend time with an autistic child you realize how special it is to see them at peace and resting. My son generally is nonstop from the time he wakes to the time he goes to sleep. He is intense and just full of energy that is not always properly channeled. We try to properly channel his energies and guide him the best way we know. From the time Matthew was a little boy he had this intensity about him which was his way of dealing with his surroundings and he had some difficulties in containing it at times so he obviously would have behavioral issues that were evident at school so he had to be placed in a small class setting with several teachers and one on one instruction. I feel this is the best method of teaching him as he requires a lot of attention and if he were in a large classroom he would get lost in the crowd.

In understanding autism and how it affects our son there are many questions we do not have answers to but the one thing I know is that my son is like any other child growing up and going to school. He wants to do his best at school and we know that. The one thing I hear my son say over and over again is a question he poses as he gets frustrated and that is the following: "Why is it that my brain makes me do bad things?" and "I sometimes wish I could get a new brain!" When I hear him say this I am quite alarmed by it and the first thing I say to him is that he is fine and there is nothing wrong with his brain. I also express to him that we all experience frustration and we try to deal with it in a way so it doesn't bother us as much. I tell him to be easy on himself and not get so upset about things. Matthew is very bright and is very high functioning but he has a great deal of trouble in social settings and he tends to be uneasy and not comfortable. The littlest of things can set him off and he can go into a tantrum that will easily cause him distress and upset. We always try to minimize the stresses that can cause him to have tantrums.

Autistic children do seek comfort in continuity and repetition. Matthew always functions better when he is in a familiar setting and where he can do something he enjoys. At home he is very comfortable because he can settle into his normal routine and find comfort in that. When he is in a setting that is foreign to him that is when he has much more difficulty. It seems he has to be gradually eased into new things and if he finds it is something he likes then over time he will adapt well and then it will become second nature to him.

My wife and I also know that to learn how to deal with our son's tantrums and epileptic seizures as part of his autism we have to educate ourselves and attend support group meetings so we can hear from other people who have autistic children and learn from their experiences. We have met wonderful people who have shared their personal experiences and we have learned that we are not alone and we have been encouraged and feel hopeful. We realize that our concerns and fears for our son will always be part of our lives but if we can find some glimmer of hope for our son by listening to others who have similar situations and have found success in helping their child we can at least find a middle ground where we can also do the same for our son and this will help us in helping him. When we can support our son and guide him and help him through his difficult moments and get him on the right track then we will be able to feel like we are getting our son the help he needs so he can make the progress he needs to as he advances in school.

Now when we go to support group meetings I try to speak and relate our experiences as my wife listens. I tend to speak from the heart and show my emotion as my son's well being is uppermost in my mind. I feel we certainly can help others by revealing our own experiences with Matthew's setbacks as a result of autism and the successes he has made as well. By being involved and committed to our son's progress we are making it our life's mission to help our son lead as normal a life as he can and to foster his self confidence and self esteem. We are working to be the best we can in raising him, teaching him, learning from him and guiding him through the bumpy road of autism and being the best parents we can so Matthew can have a life full of opportunity and happiness. Our son deserves that!

Edward D. Iannielli III

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Life lessons

As we enter the world we are completely dependent on our parents and our very survival depends on it. Our instincts tell us when we are hungry, when we need to be changed and when we need our sleep. To convey these needs to our parents we were born with the ability to cry to get the attention we need. This is the start of the learning process as we are both learning in the days, weeks, months and years following our birth. Our parents learn how to care for us by our interaction with them and we learn how to communicate to them to get their attention. There is something very special about the bond established between a mother and her baby. Women are truly special in how they provide care for their baby and they are always very aware of their baby's needs and are very sensitive to them and they give all of themselves to caring for them. It all starts when a woman conceives and for the next nine months a woman goes through so many emotions and feelings as she carries her precious baby inside her body making sure everything goes right. It truly is a miracle the whole process and women are so courageous and so beautiful when they are going through their pregnancy.

I remember when Matthew was born and how excited and grateful I was to be given this wonderful opportunity of fatherhood. I realized when our son was born and the nurse gently placed him in my wife's arms our lives were incredibly changed for the better and I was now realizing the tremendous responsibility I had ahead of me which I gladly accepted and I was so proud of my little boy. Our son's birth is the highlight of our lives and we are richer for having him in our lives.

I remember as I think back to my childhood how much my parents did for my sisters and I when we were young and how much they loved us. They always made personal sacrifices so that we would be provided for and so we would only know safety and comfort. They made us always feel protected. I learned a lot from my parents and I wish to share the same things I learned as a kid with my son. I call the most important things we should make a part of our everyday life, Life lessons and by following these ideals we will find our lives to be more fulfilling and our interactions with others more beneficial.

When I think of my son and how much we love him and wish to help him I will make it imperative that we coach him well with these Life lessons which I will list out and incorporate into our daily lives and they are as follows:

Life Lessons:

1)Make it a point to smile every day.
2)Love and respect your parents.
3)Love and respect yourself.
4)Respect your teachers.
5)Find the joy and goodness in every little thing.
6)Enjoy your school days and always strive to do your best.
7)Learn to listen well and always listen intently before you act.
8)Make it a point to read a book every chance you get.
9)Do your homework first thing before you play.
10)Always remain cool,calm and collected no matter what. (wisdom from my dad)
11)Bloom where you are planted. (wisdom from my dad)
12)Learn to go to bed early and to awake early.
13)Learn to appreciate everything and never take anything for granted.
14)Always learn to share with others.
15)Never be afraid to express yourself.
16)Always stay true to yourself.
17)Learn to take on challenges.
18)When things get difficult always take heart and never give up.
19)Learn to find things to do that make you happy and are suitable to your personality.
20)Always cherish the memories of your parents and your loved ones who have passed.
21)Always look at the positive side of things.
22)There will be times when you are feeling down and in need of help. Never refuse such help.
23)Always make yourself available to care for others.
24)Always remember proper hygiene.
25)Learn to forgive and always show compassion and understanding.
26)Learn to reach out and make friendships.
27)Learn to appreciate music and try to develop an interest in playing an instrument.
28)Learn to speak a second language.
29)Learn to compliment others.
30)Learn to appreciate math and science.
31)Always learn to follow the rules and always be safety conscious.
32)Learn to be responsible with your money.
33)Never refuse to help someone in need.
34)Always be polite.
35)Learn to appreciate art and try to develop the skill of drawing for it is a beautiful thing.
36)Learn to always treat everyone fairly and try never to play favorites.
37)Learn to find a sport you like and try your best to excel in it.
38)Learn always to be prepared.
39)Always put forth your best effort.
40)Learn to respect your employer.
41)Always try to develop an entrepreneurial spirit.
42)Learn to have faith in God and turn to him for strength and encouragement.
43)Learn to get in touch with nature.
44)When the time is right never be afraid to ask that special girl to be your bride.
45)Always learn to communicate with others.
46)Always make it a point to be honest and have integrity in everything you do.
47)Never allow yourself to be taken advantage of.
48)When the time is right and you and your spouse have talked it over always take it very seriously when planning a family.
49)Always be responsible for your actions.
50)Learn to live your life one day at a time.
51)Never learn hate and prejudice.
52)Learn to spend time with the ones you love.
53)Treasure your friendships.
54)Learn to say thank you.
55)Learn to always be productive and make your life purposeful.
56)Learn to have patience.
57)Learn first aid so you can assist someone in distress.
58)Teach your child how to ride a bicycle.
59)Learn to always be there for your spouse and children.
60)Learn to believe in yourself.
61)Never let your disabilities diminish your spirit.
62)Build upon your strengths and improve upon your weaknesses.
63)Always maintain a good healthy attitude.
64)Never be afraid to dream.
65)Treat everyday as if it is your last.

In establishing a bond with my son and my family these are some of the things I feel are important and worthy of discussion with my son. I wish to teach him and provide him the knowledge he needs to go forth into the world to live his life and be the best he can.

Edward D. Iannielli III