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

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Please feel free to read my writings and leave a kind message or suggestion. Thank you. Emily