Saturday, January 30, 2010

Life Lessons: A son's insight into life

Did you ever wonder why it seems our children seem to know a lot more today than we did as kids "yesterday"? I see my son as a lot more mature for his age than I was way back when. It has to be that way because our kids are exposed to so much more today and at such a younger age. Take for instance the computer. I first learned to use a computer in my 2nd year of college while my son started using a PC in preschool and uses it regularly at home. I am so amazed at how much he has learned in his first decade of life and how he has a hunger to learn and question things. I am happy that he has the need and desire to learn and understand. Matty also surprises me with his philosophical view of life. He seems years ahead with his ideas and wishes. He is a very sensitive boy with vision and concern for the world to be a better place. Matty was only 3 months shy of 3 years old when the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 occurred and he was very aware of the disturbing images and he cried and asked us how 2 big aircraft could hit a city building in the same day within 20 or so minutes of each other and why it happened? I was trying to comprehend the shocking reality myself of what happened and I could not answer my son's inquisitive question as I was disturbed and puzzled by what happened that fateful day.

This event in our lives has caused a lot of anguish and I know personally it has affected my thinking and made me realize the brutal nature of some people who live to terrify others. My son also has been affected by it and he has a feeling that there is so much uncertainty and hatred in our world. He represses the reality and blocks the events that happened that fateful day to envision a more peaceful and happier place. I just feel sad that our kids have to be exposed to such nightmarish realities. We try our best to shield our kids from such awful happenings but it is not so easy and the damage has already been done and the images that play over year after year only reinforces the horror of that awful day and the tragedy of such a horrific event. I will never understand the "why this happened?" to explain to my son but I know it is important to let my son express his feelings and ask these tough questions when they are on his mind. I have to understand that kids are very perceptive and they formulate their own ideas and opinions and it is very important that they be heard and talk their feelings out. As responsible parents we should never discount our children's feelings.

I am quite impressed with my son's love of helping others and wanting to make life better for those who need a helping hand. Matty has a good heart and he always wants to do his part and be there to help. I love this part of my son's personality and I believe he will do fine things in his life because he truly understands that there are a lot of people hurting and he wants to end the hurt and make people feel better. Maybe Matty may wish to help in humanitarian relief efforts one day. He also was deeply affected when he learned of the pain and suffering the poor people in Haiti are going through as a result of the devastating earthquake. He feels empathy for these people and he truly cares. I also have wanted to help the needy in my own small way but I never feel I am doing enough. My obvious main concern is providing for my family and teaching my son to have faith and confidence and to always utilize his God given skills and always put forth his best effort.

Maria and I feel truly blessed by having Matthew in our lives and he has such a way about him that we just feel so happy and complete. Our lives are so much more meaningful and full of purpose and although we are not perfect we certainly wish our son could be. I know that is every parent's wish but the reality is we will fore go perfection and wish for our son to have good health, happiness and a life full of meaning, accomplishment and friendships. Matthew has a wonderful insight into life and being a kid and wanting everything to be perfect. He has the right ideas and I am amazed at how he loves to write and express himself and we encourage this of him because it is wonderful when you can express your feelings and connect with others. Matthew certainly has a wonderful ideal of what life should be like and he has a special quality of being such a good kid who has a youthful innocence and a wonderful way about himself. Thank you Matthew for teaching us and showing us what is most important in life. Your courage and your compassion shine and we are so privileged to be a part of your life and are so joyous that you are a part of our lives. May God always bless you and protect you.

Edward D. Iannielli III

Friday, January 29, 2010

Life Lessons: A father's insight into autism

I could never have imagined I would do as much research and learn as much about autism or have envisioned that I would even have a page that centers around it. How could I know? If my son was not diagnosed with Asperger's I would probably know of Autism but would not feel so connected to it as I do. I truly believe there is a reason for everything and by having a son with autism and epilepsy it makes me realize how I need to learn and research about it quite regularly. It seems that autism is becoming more and more prevalent and it seems quite a mystery as to why this is. I as a father know I would do anything for my son to help him and provide him the proper medical attention required in dealing with all his needs. I am very concerned for my son's future and his continued development. We have to always make sure Matty is challenged and continues to make progress. I know he will have challenges like most everyone but as an autistic child with epilepsy the challenges can be life threatening and that is my biggest concern for him. We need to make sure he is protected and all consideration be given to his future. It is always a parent's hope that their child will grow up to face the world and have a smooth transition into adulthood. My goal for my son is that he also have a smooth transition into early adulthood and that he gets a complete college education and he does well in all his pursuits and that he can have his conditions controlled with the proper medication so he can have a relatively normal life.

As a young adult working after facing family tragedy with the loss of my mother at a relatively young age I had to deal with emotional struggles and with seeing my dad have his share of struggles and times of loneliness. It was a very difficult period in my life dealing with all the sadness and emotional pain. I found myself on many occasions in the bookstore in the self help and motivational section and would look for books of inspiration to read and to try to learn from. There was one book I remember particularly as it stands out in my mind and it was written from a young Australian woman's perspective. The title of the book was Nobody, Nowhere and the author of the book was Donna Williams. The author was writing about her experiences as a young child and how she felt so isolated and alone and had difficulties on a regular basis because she suffered from a severe diagnosis of autism. Now that I think back to reading the book I find it prophetic that I found interest in reading the book and realize that was my first introduction to the world of autism. I believe God wanted me to learn about it and that is why he had me take an interest in reading Donna's story. In reading her book I was very compelled by her story and felt great sympathy towards her and realized the severity of autism. The happy part of Donna's story was that despite all her personal struggles as a young girl she managed to grow up and go on to college and become a successful writer and a teacher. She is truly an inspiration and I have a lot of hope for my son who is considered high functioning on the autistic spectrum.

In seeing my son grow into his preteen years I see he has an appetite for reading and is very intelligent and it is wonderful seeing him develop and grow and express his interests. It is a joy seeing that he enjoys reading and learning. Matthew has many interests and he is also my inspiration and I am very protective of him and want everything to work out OK for him because he is such a wonderful kid and Maria and I love him so very much. It is very scary when Matty has an epileptic seizure and he has no control over them. It is very distressing and all we can hope for is that he is always in a safe place when they occur and that the medication he takes for them helps to combat them and allows him to carry on in his normal everyday life. We also hope that as he grows and matures that he can overcome the seizures. Life is so precious and we want our son to be as protected as he can. We need to learn to be positive and always learn to have faith and hope and trust in our son. As a young man we trust he will experience success and happiness and learn the skills he needs to mature and take on responsibility and to express himself and develop meaningful relationships and friendships.

I have learned as a child from my parents, my teachers, my friends and my experiences. I have learned as a young man from my parents, my teachers, my friends and my experiences. I continue to learn everyday and as I get older and I am also realizing that I am learning a lot from my son who inspires me everyday and gives me hope and makes me smile. I love Matthew with all my heart and Maria and I realize how important our role is in helping him. We always need to reassure him and give him the love and nurturing and proper guidance he needs so he can face all his challenges and rise above them. He has a family that loves him and teachers who also love him and care for him and he is now starting to develop friendships and learning valuable life lessons as am I, Matthew's proud father.

Edward D. Iannielli III

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Life Lessons: Autism and friendships

We all need to feel acceptance and develop lasting friendships with others so we can find happiness and develop naturally and experience joy, laughter, bonding, sharing, working together and finding out what we like and dislike. Our lives would feel incomplete if we did not have friendships and social interaction. For most kids growing up the ability to make friendships and develop interests seems natural and is relatively an easy undertaking. For others it is not so easy and certainly can lead to periods of isolation and frustration. Throughout our childhood we are gradually eased into life situations and our first venture into the real world is when we start our school days and that is a very important and exciting time in our life as we learn and mature and experience a great deal during those years. We learn responsibility at this time in our young lives because we need to always complete our assignments, study for scheduled tests and be prepared for unannounced quizzes. We also need to conduct ourselves in a mature fashion and respect our teachers and our fellow classmates.

In going to school we are certainly in situations that enable us to learn how to communicate with others and develop friendships. Most children are able to conduct themselves in a mature way and behave in an appropriate manner. In dealing with autistic children it is not always so clear cut but it is well established that autistic children do have difficulties in social situations and in self expression. The autistic child is a child with so much potential and so much promise and it is so important to provide them with support and encouragement. I feel that our son who has had his fair share of struggles with dealing with his autism and epilepsy has made strides and still needs to continue to make progress. We encourage him and give him support and guidance and are now being more proactive in arranging play dates for him. He needs to have contact with classmates outside of school so he can develop friendships and learn how to interact and consider others feelings also.

I would love to teach Matthew how to learn to appreciate life and to do as much as his heart desires because life is special and we don't know how long we have so we must try to make each and every day a day of great joy and happiness. In relating to others we need to develop interests in many areas so we can have more opportunities and have more contact with other children. I was very shy as a young kid but I had a love for the game of baseball and I was good at it. This was my way of proving myself and it made it easier for me to make friends because I could contribute to my team's success and earn respect from my peers. This is so important and this is something I speak to Matthew about so he understands that it is important to find something of interest to him that also provides him the opportunity of meeting other children around his age. I have taken him to open bowling where he has the opportunity of participating with other autistic children and learns to play with other kids and await his turn. He looks forward to bowling and I believe he has fun and enjoys the company of other children.

Usually Matthew is home alone with grandma after school so on the weekends when I am available I try to do things with him and get him out of the house. He does not know any kids his age in the neighborhood and to have contact with classmates it has to be arranged with his teachers, us and the parents of his classmates for play dates. We wish for him to have more play dates so he can have more social contact and develop good friendships. When Matthew is alone on the weekend I try to take him out for the day when I am available and we usually go to the movies in the winter and to baseball games, the beach, the pool or amusement parks in the summer. I wish I could do more for my son and sometimes I feel like I am letting him down. I want to always be there for him and to help him and to listen to him and let him know that he is the centerpiece of our life and he is what makes life so good. We always derive great joy from our children and feel like we can always do more for them. I am a working professional and have work and financial responsibilities so I am usually not able to do things with my son during the work week. That is why spending time with him on the weekend is very important.

The ability to make friendships is a wonderful quality and when we learn to love and respect ourselves we then can have the pleasure of making friends and for all children no matter what their backgrounds are they all should be given that opportunity to make a friend. For our lives become more fulfilling and richer when we have friends. An autistic child deserves friends too! When I learned my son had a play date and he had a fun time with his classmate I was so happy for Matthew and his friend. It was so wonderful to hear Matthew speak of the fun day he had and it made me feel so emotional because I know how alone he is and when he spoke with so much excitement about his new friend it made me cry tears of joy for him and I was so happy. That a boy Matthew!

With Love and Joy

Mommy and Daddy

Edward D. Iannielli III

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Life Lessons: Learning from my autistic son

If I could speak in front of an audience about how I have learned a lot about life from my autistic son I would welcome it with open arms and I would not have any stage fright at all because the love I have for my son is abundant and it is everlasting and the things I learned from my son have made me a better person. My son helps me get through difficult days and helps me manage a smile each and every day. It is my son who gives me strength and courage and allows me to do my very best because I want to provide a good example and teach my son all that my mom and dad taught me about being responsible, dedicated and respectful. It is with great joy and honor I talk of my son and share how life is so much more meaningful and pleasant with both my wife and son in my life. There is a very special quality about Matthew that I have grown to see and experience and am so proud of him in how he is developing. He has some challenges in his life but he does not seem to be deterred by them. In fact he seems to go about his life as if everything is fine. Occasionally he will have a difficult day and react in a way that is not appropriate but for the most part he is a very happy kid and he has a heart and spirit that truly inspires.

I owe a lot to my son who has inspired me to write and create a page devoted to Autism so I can reach out to him, my family and all who are affected in some way by it. I believe that he has an internal drive that will enable him to get through his challenges and make him stronger and wiser. He certainly has a maturity and a presence about himself that is quite remarkable and I feel very confident in his abilities and his coping skills. I know at times he can get easily frustrated and I find that is not an uncommon feeling for most of us. I find that it is easy to get frustrated but hopefully as we get older we know that we should not let our emotions control how we should act and behave. We all have to go through the growing pains of maturing and controlling our emotions, thoughts and desires.

The importance of fatherhood is bonding with your child and I have bonded with my son since day one. It is a wonder and a dream for me having a son. Matthew is such a wonderful kid and I always feel emotion when I talk of him. I have very legitimate concerns for my son as I know epilepsy and autism have such a hold on him and he has to take medication but he still lives his life as a free spirit and I know in my heart that he truly understands his situation and he takes it in stride and tries to not let it control him. I find this a very admirable trait and it just inspires me to get past my own insecurities. I feel that God presents us with challenges because he knows we can handle them and it helps us become stronger and helps us in developing confidence and provides us with a level of maturity which is essential today. Matthew may look at the world a little differently than most kids his age but his youthful spirit and innocence is what makes knowing him a privilege and a joy.

It is a nice feeling when you make a positive impression and you have the ability to open up and express how you feel to others. The key for most autistic children is their socialization skills and their ability to express themselves through interaction and communication. My wish for my son is that he overcomes his challenges posed by autism and that his inner spirit helps guide him and gives him hope and desire to always face those challenges. I also ask that he is blessed with a strength and courage that will always help him get through difficult days. I wish for my son to also develop social skills that will take him anywhere in his life and help him achieve his goals and help him in developing many friends throughout the years.

I know from my own experiences in growing up how life can sometimes be intimidating and we have periods where we feel alone and have many uncertainties. As I see my son deal with his challenges and knowing that he has had seizures and has had autistic meltdowns and despite it all he seems to come through them and continue with his daily life and not let it get in his way of living his life. To me this is the ultimate test of bravery and I am such a proud father. I would speak about my son and his tremendous spirit any time and any day and in a gathering of close family and friends or a major auditorium of thousands because it makes me realize how special my son is and how much I love him.

Edward D. Iannielli III

Monday, January 25, 2010

Life Lessons: Autism and the questions we face as parents

It's a joyous moment for the new parents when they see their baby for the first time. We all know this feeling as parents when we saw our precious baby delivered and placed in the mother's arms. It is one of the precious miracles of life that we cherish. As new parents we are learning for the first time all the needs of our baby and we are regularly in touch with the pediatrician at this time in our young baby's life. In the first few months after birth the mother is very attentive to her baby and is adapting to the schedule for feedings and changes. The first year of development is a very important time and it is imperative that the parents adhere to the schedules for immunizations and baby weigh ins. We also need to inform the pediatrician of things that we may be concerned about such as delayed reactions to sound and light. As a young parent you should never take any thing for granted when it comes to developmental delays. You will find that the sooner you identify these delays the better able you will be in helping your child later on if the delays continue.

I remember when Maria was home with Matthew for the first 2 years she was starting to worry that Matthew was not responsive to her voice and he was not able to connect with her with his eyes. This was a big worry and when we finally discussed it with his pediatrician it was determined that he should have his ears tested. Upon bringing him to an Ear, Eye and Throat specialist for children it was determined that he had fluid in his ears and he needed tubes to drain the fluids. This explained why he was not responsive to her voice. Upon successful surgery we noticed almost immediately that he was now becoming responsive to sound and we were very encouraged. Maria was delighted when she said Matthew's name and he finally responded to her voice. She felt such relief and I was happy that he was fine with his hearing. There are so many fears new parents go through when they realize their child is encountering difficulties and so many things run through your mind.

As Matthew entered his toddler years we still noticed that he was not making eye contact but his hearing was fine. In reaching out to his pediatrician we decided it was necessary to avail ourselves of the early intervention program as she recommended it. We were very fortunate that we did and that he was approved for it because it made a big difference in his life as he was entitled to all the state funded therapies that helped him with speech and physical development. It is a very emotional time as a parent when you start to realize your child is encountering difficulties and it is very important to act quickly in addressing these concerns because with a young child you can't afford to let too much time go by. The earlier you start therapies for an autistic child the better chance the child will have in overcoming some of the challenges posed by autism.

The questions that went through our minds when we noticed Matthew was having difficulties were continuous and with great concern. At one point we questioned if he may be deaf. Another time we questioned if he was unable to speak. We just were burdened with all these questions and we were worried for our son and wanted to do all we could to help him and get him the support he needs. It is every parent's wish to do all they can to help their child and Maria and I were no different. We wanted to get all the best help we could for our son. We are very thankful for all the speech therapists and occupational therapists that have come into Matthew's life to help him. We are grateful for all the doctor's that contributed to his improvements along the way and his pediatrician who he still goes to as an 11 year old.

For all the parents of young babies who are worried because they are noticing developmental delays with them the best advice I can offer from my own personal experiences is that you should be proactive if you feel that the child is delayed with speech or response to sound or movement. Do not pass it off. You need to speak to a doctor immediately if you are noticing delays even at 18 months old. The younger you report these delays the better it will be for your child in getting the proper services they may require. Never be intimidated. You need to let the system work for you and your child and believe me when I say you will feel much better when you see your child making progress.

As my son is now in middle school and is now a very mature 11 year old we have been riding a roller coaster ride all throughout his young life with his autism and epilepsy diagnosis and we take one day at a time and see that he takes his medication, does his homework and lives his life as any other kid does and we address his needs and wishes and provide him all the love and nurturing he needs and we listen to him and let him express himself and most of all we let him enjoy the things he has interest in and we try with all our best efforts to continually get him the necessary medical and social support he needs because he will have his good days and his not so good days and we just want him to know that we will always be there for him because we love him.

Edward D. Iannielli III

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Life Lessons: The financial challenges of raising an autistic child

It is without question that raising a child today is a major undertaking and we look upon it as something we feel privileged to do and we welcome it with open arms. The reality though is we have to make sure we are prepared for raising a child because it requires our complete attention and devotion. We also need to be aware of the financial implications in raising a child from the most joyous day of their birth through the time of their college graduation. It is something we know we need to be aware of but most of us live in the moment and confront these matters when we encounter them. We do have to plan and try and save for our children's future because the costs are only increasing and medical costs alone are skyrocketing as well as the cost of education.

When you bring a child into the world you expect everything to be perfect but obviously this is sometimes just a dream as we are confronted with the reality that not everything is perfect. We never get discouraged though because we feel the love for our child and we realize our love is strong and gets stronger each and every day. When we learn that our child is considered special needs we are confronted with many feelings and are uncertain about what we need to do. We therefore need to reach out and speak with doctors, therapists and professionals who know best. It is very important to know there are answers to our questions and there are choices for us to make. One of the most important things we will need to consider for our special needs child is the early intervention program and the necessary therapies they need to help them. For autistic children speech therapy is very important as well as occupational therapy and direct one on one interaction. Music and playtime is fundamental in a young autistic child's development.

As the years go by and your little baby becomes a toddler and now a student in school you will need to make sure your autistic child is provided with the proper support and understanding as they progress during their schooling years. You will always need to be proactive and seek the proper therapies and teaching surroundings. A major area of development an autistic child needs continued concentration with is in socialization and behavioral development. It is sometimes frustrating as working parents that we can not always provide our son with everything he needs. As a young kid growing up it is very important that he has friends visit so he can have positive interaction and a basis for building a friendship. The reality is we are not home to provide the proper supervision for play dates because of our need in making a living. It seems so much more difficult for young children to have play dates with two working parents. We can not leave that responsibility to grandma as she has her hands full in watching our son and we can not ask her to be responsible for watching other children.

As our son's needs become more pronounced the financial costs also become more pronounced as well and we have been inundated with medical bills throughout the years given our son's condition of autism and epilepsy. It can be a very serious issue and we are always working with the doctors and medical facilities to work out a payment arrangement but we feel that the insurance companies should be more helpful and not pass these burdens unto us as we have so many other financial concerns and it seems very unfair and very stressful. We try to provide our son with the best we can but when insurance does not always cover his medical needs and therapies we are forced to scale back on some of his therapies and we feel very guilty but unfortunately we don't have the financial resources to pay for everything. We need to send our son to a special camp every summer so he can have a fun summer and positive interaction with other autistic children and we have been providing this to him out of pocket for the last 6 years since he was 5 years old and it costs between 5-6 k per summer which is one of the things I proudly do for him and wish I could do more for him.

I know when you bring a child into the world you are completely responsible for them and I welcome my responsibility as a concerned and loving parent. My biggest concern though in raising an autistic child is the financial costs involved in providing him with all of his medical needs. The fact that we are largely responsible for covering our son's medical needs and the large insurance companies that have deep pockets don't want to cover most of these kids needs seems very unfair and irresponsible. There are many middle class families who are struggling today with autistic or other special needs children to raise and it seem very unfair that the burdens rest mainly with us in providing the proper care for our children.

I make the promise to my son that I will do all I can to help him and give him the proper education he deserves and will make sure he gets all his essential medical and therapeutic needs because my son means everything to me and I will do whatever it takes to help him. My wife and I love our son with all our heart.

Edward D. Iannielli III

The incredible gift of speaking from your heart.

I have been a very emotional person all throughout my life and always felt that we should always consider others feelings and to never discount them as we always wish to be considered and heard and respected and we should always respect others and treat them well. Occasionally we will have misunderstandings but I would never do anything to hurt or make one upset. I have always tried to be agreeable, polite and respectful in all my dealings with people. I believe life is complicated enough and we all should reach out and try to work together with others and do our best. I certainly wish I could do more in my life and certainly would love to but I feel limited at times in what I can do to make the world a better place because we have our own family responsibilities and financial commitments which can cause stress in our everyday lives. I was always taught by my parents that we need to help ourselves out first before we can help others. Charity always begins at home. Once we have made successful efforts in dealing with all our financial commitments and family needs then we should consider in some way reaching out and helping others.

Having an autistic son gives me a great deal of challenges as my love for my son is limitless. I would do anything for my son to help him and provide him the guidance, love and support he needs. He is super sensitive and easily gets upset and very frustrated and I need to help him overcome these difficulties so he can enjoy his life and feel like he belongs. It has always been my wish to help him develop his sense of self and to feel confident and happy. It is not always easy to teach confidence as we all have to learn through experiences and sometimes disappointments. Children all start out pretty much the same with a clean slate and as they grow they will develop certain skills at different ages and some kids will develop faster than others and will seemingly learn to interact and establish friendships. Once a child learns love of self and acceptance by others and they learn how to accept then they start to learn the lessons of life and friendships.

In learning about my son I have realized that he is very compassionate and wishes to always help someone whether it is his mommy in the kitchen making dinner or grandma washing clothes or daddy working on the computer or a little baby or a kid crying at the mall. He has a kind and caring heart and he wishes to do his part and wants to belong and feel like he is helping. Matty is almost a teenager and he seems very mature for his age and is considered very intelligent by all who meet him as we always recognized this in him as has his teachers. The one area that he needs intensive help and support is in socialization. He needs to feel comfortable and happy and like he belongs. When we go out to the movies where there is a play area he seems at home and loves to play with the kids and run around and establish a bond. He will seemingly have a fun time and all the kids he bonds with seem to enjoy his company and they all run after him and love to have Matty's attention.

I have always felt a connection to my son and my wife and feel very committed to helping him and I am also a sensitive and compassionate person and have dealt with shyness and certainly know what it can be like to feel alone at times. Therefore it is my desire, hope and goal to always be a big part of my son's life and give him my complete attention and love and the best support system I can to help him make strides in his life. I also need to let him learn on his own as part of growing up is learning for yourself because I can never guarantee that I can always be there but I will always try my best to be there. I have learned a lot about life and growing up and feeling both happy and sad. When we grow we have to deal with a lot of things in life and sometimes they can affect us and we have to sometimes learn to distance ourselves from our feelings and try to come to terms with the sad things in our lives. It is the struggles we encounter that make us stronger but also make us realize we are human and do have feelings.

As a parent of a special needs child I have come to learn how a child can touch your heart and soul and my son has certainly touched Maria's and my life and I am so very blessed by God to have Matty in our lives. I speak from my heart glowingly about my son because he has taught me so much about love and life and courage and true spirit and compassion. Matty has taught me more about life than I can ever imagine and by learning from both my parents and my son I can truly say they have made me a better person and have taught me what love truly is all about. I thank both my parents, my wife and my son for this and God for blessing me with Maria, Matty and wonderful parents and of course my mother-in-law.

Edward D. Iannielli III

Saturday, January 23, 2010

My son is almost a teenager!

I remember when I first learned my son was autistic in the year 2000 he was 1 year old and I was 39 years old. Now my son is 11 years old and although Maria and I are 9 years older we still feel the same as we did when our son was first born. Well maybe Maria feels a little different as I do remember she was experiencing quite a bit of pain throughout the birth of our son and for a little while after though the joy of her holding our baby boy eased her pain. The reality though that really hits me is that our son is growing and is now in middle school. It is a real wake up call as Matthew is approaching his teenage years and Maria and I need to prepare ourselves for that time in his life as I'm sure he will have many questions and feelings that kids his age experience. I will defer his questions about the girls to my wife. It is exciting seeing our son grow and mature but a bit sad that his time as a baby is just a distant memory and it is hard to believe how fast the years have gone by.

As my son approaches his teenage years I am thinking back to the time when I was approaching my teenage years and how I was dealing with the changes and feelings I had. We all go through it and we learn as we grow and experience life. I was a bit on the shy side growing up so I was more studious and into sports like baseball. When I started to find girls more appealing I would have long talks with my mom on how I should start conversations and interact with them. Both my parents always gave me sound and helpful advice and that is what I wish to provide for our son when the time comes and he has his questions to ask.

My biggest concern for Matthew as an autistic child is how he can grow and keep his feelings and emotions in check and be able to relate with his peers both boys and girls. We want Matthew to always feel comfortable and to know that he is a wonderful child and should never be afraid to experience life and the joys of growing up. After all we all have to grow and adjust to changes in our life as that is a normal part of aging and developing. Life can be very complicated at times and sometimes we have to learn how to adjust and ride out the ups and downs we certainly will experience along the way.

One thing I know that will be a big issue in Matthew's life is his seizure disorder. As a teenager approaches his or her final years of high school and is preparing for college they start to find a need and desire to learn to drive so they can be more independent and learning how to drive for most young adults seems to be a rite of passage. For Matthew that privilege of driving may not be available because of his epilepsy and that would be something he would have to adjust to and I would certainly feel for him because it seems driving is a necessity for entering the working world today unless you work in the city. For most people today driving is a necessity as opposed to a luxury. I want my son to have every chance and opportunity that everyone else has and we will confront that issue of driving as a family and will help Matthew every step of the way.

As a father looking to be there for his son I want him to learn to have confidence in his abilities and to never back down from a challenge. I want him to be happy and to have a sense of humor in life so he can learn to deal with all aspects of growing and dealing with life circumstances. I want my son to never be afraid and to always have faith and trust and an insatiable desire to learn and grow and become a mature, confident and respectable young man. Maria and I love our son very much and are grateful for being blessed with such a wonderful gift. Our son is our life and our world and he is what makes us appreciate life for we have someone very special to us who provides us with great joy and teaches us responsibility and true unconditional love.

So as I see my son growing I tend to think back to the time when he was so tiny and I would peer over him in his crib and just taking in the moment of feeling so emotionally inspired and just loving him, my wife and that moment knowing how much he needs us and how much we need him. For as we experience our child grow into their teenage years and become more independent and then further grow into their adult life we tend to feel a bit sad because we then realize our baby is now at a point in their life now where they are now in a position to start taking care of themselves and we feel the time has gone by to fast and at a loss because our baby is no longer a baby anymore.

We love you Matthew! You will always be our baby!

Edward D. Iannielli III

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Reaching out for Autism

It has been a very important issue for me since I learned of my son's diagnosis at age 2 and when my wife and I discovered this painful truth we were first in a state of confusion as to why our son had been affected and wondered how we would work to help him through his condition. I had gone through a range of emotions and feelings and just asked God to help guide me and give me inspiration to face the difficulties ahead. We must all be brave in the face of adversity and realize that sometimes we have to face challenges so we can learn and grow from the experience. It is heartbreaking to know that your child will have challenges that most kids don't have and we were worried for our son since we really didn't know much about autism. It is very puzzling and as of now there are so many questions and very little in the way of answers. The medical community has debated the causes of autism but for most the causes are still an open ended question because the experts just don't have conclusive evidence. My personal feelings of the causes may have to do with environmental factors, possibly the preservatives used in the vaccines administered to our children and possibly diet.

I see my son as a happy child who is very bright and is such a kind and caring child who wants to help and show affection. His difficulties are in expressing himself and learning how to conduct himself in social settings. He has very little patience and easily gets frustrated and upset and generally is unable to contain his emotions. He is improving since he started in middle school and we are very encouraged by his improvement. It is a one day at a time approach and we appreciate the little accomplishments he makes. When you are trying to learn everything you can about autism and also learn how to support your child the best way you can it is very important to reach out and seek guidance and support. There are a lot of support groups out there since autism has become so prevalent. Each day that goes by there are more babies diagnosed on the autism spectrum and this is quite alarming. It is our hope that we can establish the reasons why autism is becoming so prevalent and then find ways to help bring it under control and also hopefully find a possible cure.

I have been very concerned about the alarming increase in autism and am trying to understand the best ways of treating it for our son so he can have a life full of promise and potential. He is very capable and is very bright. His interests vary and he has a real appreciation of music which seems to help calm him and make him feel comfortable and happy. It is our responsibility to learn our son's needs and address them and help provide him with our full attention and love him for who he is and let him know that we love him and will always love him and support him through all of his childhood years into his adulthood. When you show your child your love and devotion it will truly empower them and will help you as you see the bond strengthen and grow. We all want to be close with our children all throughout their years of growing and want them to know that they can always come to us for anything they may be experiencing. Especially with autistic children we want everything to be nonthreatening and we want our son to always feel comfortable.

There are many ways people can reach out for the cause in helping autistic children and they should always consider doing their part for the cause. We wish to help each and every autistic child there is and realize we need a great commitment from everyone and if we can do our part then we have done a good thing. That essentially is what life is all about which is helping others and who better than the precious children who are affected by autism. I will always reach out to help my son and in helping him we will feel more in control. We want the absolute best for our son and for his treatment to help him live a happy and full life.

Edward D. Iannielli III

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Picking up the pieces

No one said it would be easy. We are far from perfect and we all must learn from experience and sometimes we make choices although they are for good intentions they may be very difficult to make but they may also be for necessity. When we encounter a period where we feel the rug has been pulled out from under us we have to regroup and forge ahead for that is how we learn and deal with adversity. We all will encounter this sometime in our life as we can not always have a perfect life. No matter how hard we try we will experience heartbreak and difficulty and we must rise above it. I am trying to stay committed to helping my son with his needs and want to spend as much time with him as I can due to his autistic diagnosis and his personal needs. I have to find a way to make a living and balance that with the responsibilities of maintaining a household and taking care of a special needs child. I want to provide a comfortable living for us as a family including my wife, son, mother-in-law and myself and also be able to spend the necessary time with my son and work in a fulfilling job that promotes promise for a bright future.

Sometimes we have to reassess where we are and decide how we can have a proper balance between work, family and personal fulfillment. We only have one life and we need to make the most of it. Our lives today seem to be filled with stress and we must learn to effectively deal with it and maintain inner peace and happiness. We all have to learn things as we go and meet people along the way. I have been very fortunate to meet so many kind and caring people in my life and it is very important that we recognize that because we all learn from one another and we find that our lives become more complete. In raising a family we are very lucky because we have found a bond with our spouse and when you add a child to the picture it makes our lives so much more fulfilling and complete. We always have to be positive in our outlook especially in front of our children. We teach our children through our actions and we must always be aware of that.

I am not always sure how we make things right for we do have to experience making mistakes along the way. As we experience success we also must experience disappointment and raising a child you need to teach them about life and the big picture. As we get older we also tend to become a bit more reflective and tend to think more and think back to how things used to be. There were times if I was having a difficult moment I could pick up the phone and call my dad. I don't have that opportunity any more and I miss those times but I try to think back to the times when I could and it brings a smile to my face. My dad always had a way to make me smile and he was a very kind and gentle person who had a lot of love in his heart and I truly miss that. The same goes for my mom as she was my inspiration as a young child and I looked up to her and my dad.

In life when we encounter these times of challenge we need to be strong and positive and find a way to look at the good in everything. It may not be so easy but if we can change the way we think to a more positive one we will be able to ride out the difficult times and learn how to bounce back and pick up the pieces. In picking up the pieces we are making a choice to remedy the situation and move forward. We all will have to make this choice sometime in our life and when we do we should always be prepared and willing to make it right.

To truly experience life you have to share it with others, you have to be able to say you took on the challenges and gave your best effort and you have to feel for living is having feelings and emotions. In life we will learn so much and we will always have chances and opportunities and we will always have to avail ourselves of those chances and opportunities.

Edward D. Iannielli III

Monday, January 18, 2010

Listening to your child

Did you ever feel that you are not always in tune with your child and what they are thinking or trying to say to you? I sometimes feel I disappoint my son but it is not intentional. I just feel we live such busy lives and we are so preoccupied with all the day to day things that we sometimes are not always there to give the necessary attention to our child that they need. This really makes me concerned because as a father I want to always be there for my son and to help him when he has difficulties or anxieties. I don't want him to feel all alone and have to work through it on his own. I want him to know that I will always be there for him in my lifetime and welcome him to talk to me whenever he needs to.

I know I felt alone as a child on occasion because my dad, who I loved and respected very much worked very hard in his line of work which was physically demanding and he suffered injury and close calls. I know he loved me and the times we did have together were special even if we didn't talk all that much. Dad was old school in his approach to life and he was a very kind, caring, compassionate and humble man. He had one of the best work ethics and he always was there for mom and us. I was very close to my mom growing up and she was wonderful. I could talk to her about my day at school or my frustration in a baseball game or my first crush on a girl. She was my sounding board and she was always there for me. I always appreciated that with my mom and we also had wonderful times cheering our NY Mets.

With my son I find it very important to bond with him and help him to open up and to express himself. My wife and I want our son to start to get more involved with classmates in his school after class and we need to try to arrange play dates for him so he can have a chance to make friends. It is so important to establish friendships because we can learn from each other and we can see that we don't always have to be alone. It is a difficult thing to feel like you are alone all the time and it breaks my heart to see my son doing things alone most of the time. It is so important to get involved in activities, organizations, clubs, sports, music, art or whatever interests you and to connect with others so you can open up and grow as a person. The only way we can truly grow is if we interact with one another and start to feel accepted.

Autistic children do tend to find difficulty in socializing and also tend to find comfort in doing things they are accustomed to as that is a safe place for them and they can occupy themselves for hours if they enjoy the activity. If it is something that they can learn from and develop a skill it will be beneficial to them but it is also important if they have diversity. I always felt too much of the same thing is not good. You need to expand and learn new things so you can grow and develop new skills. I am trying to help encourage my son in things he likes and he does enjoy singing so whenever we have get togethers we always give Matthew the opportunity to sing and share his enjoyment with others. He does not like to be commended on a good performance so we try to be restrained and low key but deep down we are very proud of him when he sings well.

I need to have a great amount of patience with my son and a great deal of understanding because he has a completely different way of perceiving things and reacts sometimes in ways that are not always proper and we need to teach him the right way and have him learn and understand. He sometimes gets easily frustrated and this is what I am trying so hard to work on with him. I am trying to teach him to approach things with patience and to work through the difficult moments. They won't always be difficult and the more experience he gains the better he will be in adapting and coping. Coping skills are so important and you need to live a long time to learn how to cope. We all will encounter stresses and difficult times and if we can learn to be strong in our mindset and to have courage and confidence we will be able to ride the difficult times. It may not be easy but we all have to learn to cope and be optimistic in our approach to life.

My wife is also preoccupied with her work and it is very important that she finds time to spend with Matthew just like I need to spend time with him as well. When you have a child you want to always do the right things for them and to give them all the support and guidance they need and the most important thing to provide to them is an ear to listen to them because that is where we sometimes fall short. We always have to give them time to talk and tell us what they are feeling and how things are with them. Children are very smart and they also are very fragile and they need to be heard and to be loved.

Edward D. Iannielli III

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Hearing the cries of autism

Raising a child with autism poses many challenges and can lead to feelings of frustration and helplessness. We all know that our children are very special and we want them to always be comforted when they are upset and to feel loved and accepted and given the necessary encouragement they need to get past what is causing them to have their difficulties. As parents we are not always sure how to address an autistic child's regression but we know we have to try our best to help them through the rough times they experience and try to maintain our calm throughout the situation. Autistic children tend to get easily upset and will scream and cry if they are upset and generally will be very difficult to reach once they are going through a tantrum. I have learned that the best way to help my son when he is having a bad tantrum is to keep him in my reach and to speak with authority but in a calm manner. It is not easy getting their attention when they are distracted but you have to try to get them to calm down and to listen. It is always a good idea to have something they like available but that will not work if the tantrum is severe. The major concern a parent has if their child throws themself to the ground in a tantrum is their safety. You need to make sure they are protected so they won't suffer an injury because thay are unaware what can happen in their tantrum fit.

We have been through many tantrums with our son and in many places and it seems with each tantrum we should be better prepared for the next one but that is not the case because each tantrum is unique. The most important thing to know what to do is always maintain calmness and always make sure your child is protected. I learned that getting upset is not the right approach. In helping an autistic child you have to understand their sensitivities and you need to respect that about an autistic child. Autistic children can have difficulty in expressing themselves and may easily get frustrated and can cause themselves harm if they start reacting physically in trying to express what they are feeling. Understanding an autistic child is not so easy and even trained professionals have to do their homework in effective communication and strategies.

Our son is making progress as he gets older and he is learning to mature and is becoming more aware of things which is very encouraging to us and we are always learning each day as he grows and develops. We are proud of his achievements and his steady improvement. As an Asperger's child our son is intelligent and has an appetite for reading and learning and when he is interested in something he can spend all his time exploring and learning about it. He has the desire and the skills to learn and he is a wonderful child. He just needs consistency in how he reacts in social settings. He does not have that much involvement outside of school and that is what we are working on in improving in his life.

As I learn of the challenges my son faces with asperger's I also am encouraged that he will be fine and will learn to deal with his feelings and will grow and mature as all kids do and he will accomplish wonderful things. I speak as a proud dad and that is coming from my heart and in knowing my son who is a very special boy and our precious gift.

It is very alarming learning the prevalence of autism and seeing the rates increase in incomprehensible proportions. I believe the current quoted rate is 1:155 children being diagnosed with some form of autism on the spectrum and that is very scary because there is no real clues as to why it is so prevalent and why their are no known cures. We must learn to hear the cries of all autistic children and try our very best to help them learn and develop so they too can meet the challenges of life and accomplish and be all they can be. Autistic children need love and understanding and most of all they need to be heard and given a voice to express themselves.

Edward D. Iannielli III

Another birthday to celebrate and what it now means to me

I was 7 years old and I remember it like it was yesterday. It was January 18, 1968 and I was celebrating my 7th birthday with my family and I felt very happy and I enjoyed the attention despite my shyness. I always enjoyed having cake and a cold glass of milk and having it on my birthday was extra special. I remember my family would sing happy birthday which made me feel good and I remember this year, 1968 especially because my baby sister was now part of the family and she was 6 months old. We were a family of 5 now and it was a time now when I was in school and starting to learn about life.

Every year after that I became a year older and a year wiser and as a kid I would welcome my birthday and I would enjoy receiving gifts and good wishes from my family and friends. As a kid life seemed simpler and we always looked to our parents for guidance. They were happy times and the memories were everlasting. We seemed to enjoy celebrating our birthdays as kids more because we didn't mind getting older. We actually looked forward to growing up.

Now as I celebrate my birthday my feelings are much more different as I feel like the time is flying by and I am at a point in my life now where I had to confront many sad things that made me realize that life is only for a brief period of time and when we lose someone close to us it really hurts and affects us in our lives. We must always put on a brave face and go about our lives as if everything is fine and that is not an easy thing to do. I find as a father of a young son I am always concerned for his well being and for his safety and for his future. I always want to be there for him and for Maria and I know we have so many uncertainties in life and we are always trying to be as prepared as we can to deal with all the things we have to encounter in our life. I am a very good hearted person and I owe that to my upbringing and my parents who taught us to always be grateful for the things we have because there are so many who have very little. They taught me to love and respect others and to treat them the way I would want to be treated. I always try to look at the good in everything but sometimes I do struggle with things I see in the world as there is so much sadness and suffering and it just seems so unfair that some have so much and others have so little.

I know what it is like to have fear and anxiety and to feel depressed and I find as I get older that I am dealing more with depression and I feel it is a major reason my parents had difficulties as they got older. Depression is not good as it robs you of all the good and makes you feel like you are not in control like you once were. I seen it with my mom and I seen it with my dad and I know when I have these feelings that I need to discuss them with my doctor because I have tremendous responsibilities with work and with my family life. I have an autistic son that needs to have the proper love and support and guidance. I always try to instill in my son all the good I learned and teach him so he understands how to live his life and to take on challenges and do his best. I want my son to have high self esteem and a feeling of inner confidence. As autistic children grow it is very important that you support them and encourage them and help them with their skills development especially in social settings.

My son gives me inspiration and he warms my heart every time I see him. The special part of life that gives us joy and happiness is our children and though I am getting older I am enjoying seeing my son grow and mature and develop as a person and I am so very proud of him. I look forward to seeing him achieve his milestones and that is what makes me happy nowadays. So I realize as the time goes by how important it is to spend the time with my wife and son and to never lose sight of what is most important which is seeing Matty experience true happiness and joy in his life and teach him what life is all about and prepare him for the future and discuss with him that we will experience many things in our life both happy and sad and we need to learn how to balance them both. I wish I could assure my son that I will always be there for him and that is my intention and my wish.

So as I celebrate another birthday I am just so happy to be sharing it with Maria, Matty and my mother-in-law, Terry because we all rely on each other and we all need each other and because my family gives me great joy and happiness and when I hear my son say "Dad, I miss you" or "Dad, Thank you", or "Dad, I love you", that is the best birthday present I could ever ask for.

Edward D. Iannielli III

A Love that was supposed to last

When we are kids we learn a lot from our family and especially from our parents. Our teachers play a major role in teaching us our ABCs, mathematics, geography, english, history, science, art, music, foreign languages, physical fitness and religion through our formative schooling years and our parents play a major role in teaching us about life. It is our parents that help shape us and give us the support and encouragement to take on the many challenges of life. As a young boy growing up I saw something very special in how my parents raised my sisters and I and I saw that they had a strong bond together. My dad was a very hardworking ironworker and he gave all of his physical strength and talents to his job and would always be reliable and responsible and always put forth his best effort. He had a superior work ethic and was very dedicated to his work and very proud of what he did. He taught me how important it is to do your best and to take responsibility and to try your best to get along with everyone.

My mother was very special too and she was there for us to make sure we did our homework, had our breakfast before we went off to school, had a nutritious and delicious dinner waiting for us and dad when we came home from school and work and made sure we went to bed at a reasonable hour so we would be prepared and alert for our school day. She also made sure we brushed our teeth and washed our hands. Since dad worked so hard and had to be up at 4:00 am every day he would be in bed before 8:00 pm so we really didn't get to talk with him much so we enjoyed dinner at the table where we all would be gathered as a family.

I was very proud of my parents and I loved them so very much and I know my sisters felt the same. There is something very special about unconditional love and our parents loved us all and we loved them both so very much. As a child you learn how special love is and I saw my parents loved each other so very much and we always felt protected because of their unabiding love for each other. When I was a kid I felt my parents love for each other would last forever and that was how it was supposed to be. When they married they took on that sacred oath of love till death do us part and they really did honor it.

I saw that special quality in my dad when mom got sick and we all had to be strong and be there for both mom and dad during these difficult times. Mom was very strong and was a very beautiful and vibrant woman all throughout our childhood and into my early highschool years but then when she started to get sick and prescribed medication for her uneasiness she started to change and became more feeble and less independent and we were very concerned for her especially our dad. Dad was so very loyal to mom throughout this time and we were always there to visit her and encourage her. Dad worked very hard but made sure he was at the hospital to visit mom every day she was there. At times it was emotionally draining and difficult but dad had an inner strength and he never really opened up about his inner feelings. He kept them inside and dealt with them in his own private way.

Throughout the years encountering so many ups and downs and many visits to the hospital to see mom, our dad was always there and was very supportive and he always encouraged mom through words. We would always respect their privacy and I remember seeing my dad shed a tear which for him was not that often but I feel he was so in love with mom and wished he could help her in her state of mind and just felt a feeling of helplessness. It was sad to see him get discouraged but he would never admit it and he would always be by mom's side.

The hardest part of confronting my mother's death at 50 years old which I felt was far to young for her was seeing my dad's gradual decline in the wake of her death and in the years following it. Dad was so loyal to mom and despite her being sick he was always there for her and would visit her every day. So when he lost her he no longer had a place to go to see her. There was a time when he would visit her at the cemetary but it was not the same and he was very lost. I felt sad for dad because he worked hard his whole life and was ready for retirement but he had nobody to share life with and he was so loyal and in love with mom that he had no desire to meet anyone else.

Dad was a very private man and not one to express his feelings and I respected that. Dad was a very kind and caring man and very compassionate and he was always there for my sisters and I and all our kids. Dad loved all his grandchildren and as he got older his time was occupied with visits with us and all his grandchildren which did bring joy to him and made him happy.

As the years went by and all the grandchildren were growing and starting to become independent dad felt his visits were not as necessary but they really were because all his grandchildren loved him and respected him very much. Dad was alone in his senior years and was always welcome at our homes. We felt very concerned for him and when he decided he could no longer live alone at his apartment he was welcome at my sister Kathy's house where he would stay. He would still visit his grandchildren and do his runs for coffee and donuts. Dad had pictures of mom by his bedside along with rosary beads and the bible. Dad was a religious man and I believe he was trying to find inner peace in the end as he felt tormented at times also and was hospitalized many times for depression.

In the end dad was so much in love with his grandchildren us and especially his wife who died 19 years earlier. The day, April 16th, 2009 started out as any day but it was special too because it was finally the end of a very busy tax season and I was looking forward to spending more time with my family and with dad. I was borrowing one of the partner's cars in the office because mine was in the repair shop. When I returned it and a friend from work dropped me off at home I was excited to be home at an early hour and looking forward to the days ahead. With in 2 hours of feeling happy my life changed and I was so sad as my brother-in-laws shared the tragic and incomprehensible news that dad had finally succumbed to his depression and was killed instantly by a speeding train and it was believed that he leaned into the train as it was speeding by. I cried and cried and cried and just could not believe this could happen. Dad gave all of himself to others and he was always there for us and for mom and all his grandchildren and he just felt all alone still and I knew he still was in love with mom after all these years and deep down I felt upon learning of his unexpected death was that he wanted to be with his wife again and that I could understand but I was very sad that we had to lose him this way. Mom and Dad's love is a special love and I will always remember that till the day I die and get to see them once again.

Edward D. Iannielli III

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Dealing with heartbreak

Sometimes I wonder why our lives have so many obstacles. Are we supposed to learn from the difficulties we encounter to become stronger? Is it that we have to be tested? I have seen pain and sadness in growing up as a child and there were times of uncertainty and a feeling of not having control. I saw times when my dad was in such pain and he was in the hospital after suffering from a fall on the job and mom would clearly be affected by this as she was the one who took on the worries and it truly wore her down. She had a healthy vitality and a spirited way about her that was slowly taken away with the harsh and painful realities she had to endure with the dangers of dad's work and the uncertainties of it. I was very aware that dad was in a very dangerous job and mom would always worry that he would be protected and be safe. I remember as a young boy praying for my dad that he would be safe and I would also pray for my mom that she wouldn't have to worry all the time. Despite all the worries and hospital stays my parents managed well to raise my sisters and I and provide us with all we needed.

I do remember vividly seeing my dad grimacing with pain quite regularly but he would get up every morning at 4:00 am because he had a responsibility towards his employer, himself and his family. We always came first in our parent's eyes. It was very comforting knowing that they loved each other and would be there for each other and for us. The hardest part of growing up was the lack of communication between my dad and I because he was always so exhausted and his body racked in pain. He always pushed himself and would never miss a day of work unless he had to go to the hospital. Mom held her feelings in most of the time but eventually it would come to a point where she could no longer do this.

I remember vividly when I was a sophomore in high school and 16 years old my mom had what you would call a mental break down. She had started back to work and had seemed like things were going well for her. She enjoyed what she was doing and felt great to be in the work force again. She just fell apart emotionally after a while and could no longer go on. It was a trying time as dad had the pressures of his work and I was now in my high school years. I remember the first time we had to summon the EMT to come to the house because mom was acting incoherently and was not able to make sense and she became a danger to herself and to us. I was very disturbed by her rants and her screams and seeing her regress to such a low point to where she was unaware of what was happening and she completely lost all control of her emotional well being. I remember losing my composure and I started to cry because it was very scary to see the torment she must have been going through. She was 37 at the time and seemed quite young to be experiencing such a breakdown.

I remember we as a family had to pull together and be strong and supportive but we were hurting seeing this happen. My sisters were 14 and 10 when we started to encounter the emotional breakdown of our mom. Dad was very strong at this time and he was very responsible with his work, with visiting mom and with seeing that we all did our homework and ate our dinner even if it was McDonalds.

It was this time in my life where I seemed to shut everyone out and I felt very alone and not sure why we had to endure this overwhelming feeling of sadness and witness such a difficult and emotionally painful situation with my mom. I give my dad a lot of credit for his internal strength and his loyalty and compassion. He was so instrumental in helping mom to come back and get back to herself. She managed to get through this difficult time in her life and was able to get back to work as well. We were happy once again and we were a family again even though we had our difficult moments.

My saving grace in high school was that I was recruited by the high school coach to run cross country and I became a member of the team and felt I belonged and had a healthy outlet and a way of making friends. I was shy but it was a very positive experience for me and my coach took a personal interest in my development and served as a good mentor as far as training for long distance running was concerned. I had a lot of emotional pain and my running was very helpful to me and it helped me through the rough times. As time went by mom would require more times in the hospital and we were always there for her especially our dad.

Sometimes I look back at these times and I wonder how we were able to get through them. We managed but there were tragedies along the way. I will never forget the time when mom was going through a very bad time where she had bouts with paranoia and thought everyone was plotting against her. She became irrational in her thinking and she became very violent. I was now working in the accounting field and I was now 28 and my sisters 26 and 22. It was Thanksgiving day 1989 and mom completely fell apart and was reacting very violently and she tried to punch dad and I as we were trying to restrain her. We needed to have the EMT restrain her and calm her down. It was very hard having to hold my mom down as she kept saying "Why are you doing this to me?" I completely lost it when they strapped her down and witnessed her screaming and not making sense. It was a very heartbreaking thing to witness and I felt things would never be as they were. It was a very sad reality for me and I just cried that night and asked God why we have to suffer so much?

As they rushed her to the emergency room we followed behind and accompanied her to the hospital. She was admitted and we had to go over all the medications she was taking and give a rundown of her medical profile. She was admitted and we had to get in touch with her psychiatrist to let him know that she was admitted to the hospital. She was transferred back and forth between two hospitals and it was very difficult seeing her as she completely lost her will to live and she stopped eating. Her body became emaciated and I could no longer bear to see her in this condition but I had to continue because she was my mother and I loved her and my heart was breaking knowing that we were facing a grim reality that we were most likely going to lose her. I remember my last contact with her was a weeknight after work and I came up to visit her and she was non responsive. I stood by her side and I told her how I loved her and couldn't wait for her to be able to start to sit up and walk around. I was trying to be optimistic. As I told her I loved her and would be up to visit her again soon I felt her clench my hands and it made me feel good because I knew she was still holding on and I had tears streaming down my face as I kissed her goodnight. We all were very faithful to her and made a point to visit her. I remember the night before she passed I was watching Beaches with my 2 sisters a real tear jerker with Barbara Hershey and Bette Middler. I was touched by the movie and just felt something. I wasn't sure what but it was definitely something I felt in my heart.

I was walking off the train in Bellmore planning to go and visit my mom and I was heading for my car by my sisters house when my brother-in-law waved me to come to the house. My sisters were there and they asked me to sit and I had this terrible feeling but I now knew what I was feeling. I knew but they confirmed it and as I heard the words all I could do was cry and after I cried I asked how dad was and obviously he was very shaken by the loss as we all were. It seems that Life is painful at times and we all have to be strong because we just never know. My mom was only 50 years old when she passed and as I approach that age this does come across my mind as I have a wife and an autistic son that I need to be there for and I must be strong for them because I love them very much and they mean the world to me.

Edward D Iannielli III

Friday, January 15, 2010

Matty, How was your day?

It's true, I am a creature of habit. Even when I greet my wife and son when I am home at a reasonable hour and they are still up I usually ask the same question. It is true when we each go about our day we all have our own separate lives and we do our necessary routines. I go off to work so I can make a living, perform as a professional for my employer and their clients and pay the bills. Matty goes off to school so he can get a good education, learn and become responsible and make friends. Maria goes off to work so she can help the disabled who rely on her services. Grandma stays home so she can watch a friend's 4 year old daughter and our son when he gets home from school. We all have our responsibilities and we are preoccupied with our roles. It is sometimes difficult to be apart but the separation is good because it makes the times we are all together that much more special. So when I do get to share time with my wife and son and mother-in-law the first thing I always ask is So, How was your day? It is a simple question and it is also a boring question but it is how I try to initiate conversation with my wife and son. I truly do care how my wife and son did during the day and that is why I ask the question.

Sometimes I wish life could be more exciting but it is what it is and we have to get used to our ways. We can make changes in our lives to enhance and get more out of our lives but the realities of life dictate the things we must do and we all need to take responsibility in our lives and do all we can to get the most out of life. We hold the key and we control what we do. This is what we try to impress upon our son so he doesn't feel limited or get discouraged. When we are going about our lives we try not to lose sight of the things that are most important. We all know we are all individuals and we are all responsible for ourselves when we come of age. We are Matty's parents and we will always be his support system but we know one day he will have to grow into adulthood and we want this transition to be a smooth and successful one. We want our son to have every opportunity he deserves and to have fulfilling friendships and relationships.

I know that when I am working during the day I am very responsible and I am performing my role and I am also thinking about my wife and my son. Having a son who is autistic and epileptic does cause genuine concern when we are apart because we have our concerns for his health and safety. Our son's needs are more extensive and his class and education is structured in a way that suits his diagnosis and the teachers are very accommodating and supportive.

One thing I am noticing about my son which is a step in the right direction is that he is now starting to open up and express himself and that is a big step for an autistic child. He has even surprised me when he has initiated conversation with me. For the longest time he never did and I felt I literally had to pull the words out of him. He also enjoys music and singing and we are encouraged by this. I am happy when Matty comes up to me and tells me how his day was. Sometimes he is very animated and excited and that is my hope. I want Matty to find each day exciting and with positive experiences.

It seems the years go by in a flash as our son is now 11 years old and he is starting to speak his feelings and express his loneliness and boredom. I know as a kid growing up I too had moments when I also felt lonely and bored. I believe all kids go through this and it is a normal part of growing up but we want those times to be limited and we want our children to be happy and content most of the time. During the school year kids should be busy with their studies that they don't have time to be bored. I also realize it is essential that our son has exposure to activities outside of the classroom as well so he can become well rounded and make friendships. That is very important and I know that was a big part of my childhood.

So when I ask my son how his day was and my wife for that matter it is because I love them and I miss them and I want to know how things were for them. Life is hard enough when we are apart so when we are together that is the time when we must interact and ask these silly questions sometimes.

Edward D. Iannielli III

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Coping with news of disasters

I often wondered how those affected by disasters both natural and man made who survive the horrors and devastation and are now having to endure the pain and misery of losing loved ones and losing their homes and their possessions manage to go on with their lives. It seems so hard to comprehend how easy it is to lose everything in a split second of time. It takes years and even decades to build a life and to lose so much in the wake of disaster seems unreal. The sad reality is that it happens quite often and we have no control over it. Just reading today's news about the earthquake in Haiti was very very sad and learning of the loss of life estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands in one of the poorest countries in the world is unfathomable.

We are witnesses to these tragedies and we live our lives dealing with our own worries and concerns and we are fortunate not to be directly involved in these tragedies but after a while you do become affected. How can you not? It just seems like one disaster after another. I remember the day after Christmas of 2004 hearing about and seeing the coverage on CNN of the Tsunamis that hit Indonesia after an Earthquake took place in the Indian Ocean with one of the largest magnitudes on record of over 9.0. The result were these immense tsunamis that caused so much death and destruction and took everything away that was in their paths. It was very sad seeing the reports and seeing the death toll rise and seeing the helplessness and shock of those who survived. It is just so unfair for those hit by these devastating tragedies and witnessing it from our part of the world where for the most part we are shielded and safe from such occurrences.

Another tragedy that was very difficult to witness in the news was the Hurricane Katrina, a category 5 hitting New Orleans in August 2005 that wreaked havoc and destruction when the levies failed and flooding occurred in most of the surrounding areas including the French quarter causing so much death and property damage and trapping so many people where some could only hold on for so long before succumbing to the rising flood waters. The human toll and property damage is still felt today and will be felt for many years to come. There were communities that were completely wiped out and even to this day they have not been able to rebuild. There have been many volunteers throughout the years that have made personal sacrifices to come to the aid of these suffering people and their communities to lend their support and help rebuild with their time, their labor, their expertise and their humanity.

Another Hurricane I remember back in the early 1990s that caused so much death and destruction was Hurricane Andrew which completely devastated the community of Homestead, Florida. It is the harsh realities and sobering truth that many people have to confront and it just seems like we just never know what can happen as we can try our best to be as prepared as we possibly can and it still won't make a difference when nature clashes with uncontrollable force and people and property are at the epicenter.

I remember hearing of miracles within disasters such as the newborn babies at a hospital that survived a killer earthquake in Mexico City in 1985 after many days have passed and all were in good shape despite the death and destruction all around them. It was a happy moment in a very painful tragedy.

To be human is to have feelings and when you see tragic news reporting such devastation and loss of life just makes you realize how fragile we are as people and how vulnerable we are to nature's fury.

We are not only beset with natural disasters but we are also vulnerable to man made disasters and deliberate acts of terror that shakes you to the core. Such a notable tragic deliberate act of calculated terror was the bombing by a former American soldier of the federal governmental building the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City in 1994 where sadly hundreds of people perished including babies in the nursery.

Most notably was the terrorist attacks that took place on September 11, 2001 where we were taken by surprise as a collective people and shell shocked after what we witnessed on the tv as the news covered it as it was happening. We could not believe our eyes when we saw the after effect of a large commercial airliner hitting the first tower of the World Trade Center and news reports were first coming in. As the reports were coming in and the cameras rolling we saw a second plane heading straight for the second tower and our eyes seemed to deceive us as we thought this was videotape of the initial plane. When we realized this was live and it was the second tower we all as a nation were in shock and numb by what we just witnessed. All we could do was watch the unbelievable events unfold and just wonder why this was happening and who would cause such incomprehensible death and destruction. It was so tragic seeing people jumping from the burning buildings to their death and when we saw the towers start to fall it was such a sorrowful time as we looked in disbelief.

When we realized that the Pentagon was breached with a direct hit of an airliner also and we learned of a downed airliner in the fields of Pennsylvania too all we could do was to go home after witnessing something that we could never ever imagine and just hold our loved ones close to us and just cherish that we are alive and together. The news of these tragedies takes its toll and it does affect me and makes me worry for my family and the future for my son. When we brought our son into the world we wanted to assure him that he would grow up in a relatively safe place free from violence and uncertainty but that obviously is not reality given the times we live in.

Even my son knows of September 11 and he is affected by it and tunes out what happened that day but the news of it is all around us and every anniversary of the tragedy only reignites those painful images that we wish to forget but realize we never can and should never forget. We do however have to distance ourselves from it otherwise we will just be sad all the time and we can not live this way. We encounter our own losses within our families and that is painful enough.

We just have to try to pray and do whatever good we can and try our best to shield our children from these sad events and try to live our lives and never forget that life is unpredictable and anything can happen. We must live our lives to the fullest because we never know the future.

Edward D. Iannielli III

Matty singing on mommy's birthday 006.AVI

Matty singing on Mommy's birthday.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

My take on Harry Chapin's song

Harry Chapin was a favorite of mine and a song of his that most hard working fathers shutter at when they hear it is "Cat's in the Cradle" because when you hear the lyrics it makes you realize the importance of spending time with your son no matter how busy you are with your work. You need to realize it when your child is young when you still have time because as the years go by you will never get that time back. Life is forever moving and there is no going back as time only moves forward so as a working father I make it a point to spend as much quality time with my son as I can. Now that I am at my most busiest during these next 4 months I really have to try my best to be there for my son when I have some time and always make my self accessible. I know I have work responsibilities and I have to focus on my work as that is the source of my career and livelihood. I also realize I have to be the loving dad to my son too as I don't want to live the lyrics of Harry Chapin's classic song. It is a very emotional song with a powerful message.

Matthew enjoys our times together and I especially enjoy them as I am so happy to have such time with him and I am so very proud of him. I remember when I was a young boy and my dad would drive me to my little league games I enjoyed those times in the car with him and having father-son conversations and listening to the radio. I still have those vivid memories in my mind today as a father of a young son. I wish to provide my son with sound advice and all the love and encouragement he needs to conduct his own life when he is ready to venture out into the world. My dad always provided me with wisdom and a good work ethic and my mom provided me with nurturing and love like Maria provides for Matthew. Maria is the gentle influence in Matthew's life and she also is the disciplinarian. I am more easy going and try to provide Matthew with the knowledge and morals to conduct himself in a proper manner and to always be polite and helpful.

A son needs his mother for many things and that bond is a very important one and I am always happy when Maria and Matthew get to do things together. It is also crucial in a young boy's life to have a strong and healthy bond with his father as that is whom he learns from when he starts to grow into his own. A father must always be there to listen to his son and to provide a good example in how he conducts himself, how he takes on responsibility, how he respects others and how he handles matters. A father must be able to know how to deal with his feelings and take on all the necessary responsibilities and communicate this to his son in a way that his son understands and will be able to grow and mature to handle his own share of responsibilities and learn what life is all about and how he approaches relationships with girls as he becomes a young man. Life is a series of learning experiences over the years and it seems at times to be mundane but overall it is a wonderful thing and there are so many possibilities and this is what I try to help my son understand.

So when I am working late into the night I make it a point to call Maria and let her know how much I love her and also talk to Matthew to let him know his daddy is thinking of him and loves him very much. It is the Harry Chapin song that makes me realize that we must never lose sight of our family and our children when we are preoccupied with our work. We have to learn to balance the two and in life it seems learning to balance things is a necessity. Life is to enjoy with your family. It is not supposed to be an upsetting or frustrating existence. It is not supposed to be all work and no fun. It is not supposed to be an unsettling and uncertain existence. We all have to have confidence in our abilities so we can go out into the world to make a living so we can provide for our families and take on the financial burdens of a mortgage. We are supposed to live to work not work to live. I wish I could assure my son that the world he lives in will be a pleasurable and peaceful place and that he can accomplish all his hopes and dreams.

As I write this I just feel so blessed that I grew up in a family with wonderful parents and 2 wonderful sisters and now I am so fortunate and blessed again to have a wonderful and supportive wife and a wonderful and beautiful son who is the centerpiece of our life. I will always be there for you Matthew and I look forward to many days, weeks, month, years and decades with you and your mom and I wish only good things for you in your life.

Thank you Harry Chapin and your wife for such a beautiful and poignent song that makes you appreciate what you have as a husband and a father. We are sad we lost you so soon Mr. Chapin as I understand you were on your way to perform in concert when you were taken from us. We pray for you and appreciate your wonderful song.


Mommy and Daddy
Edward D. Iannielli III