Saturday, May 15, 2010
Autism and communication
Autism is a complex condition that affects an individuals ability to communicate and establish relationships with others. In the autistic child's early years of development there are many factors that come into play in how they view things and how they interact with one another. Children on the autistic spectrum will react and interact based on the mildness or severity of their condition. The low functioning end of the spectrum serves those children who have great difficulty in speaking and relating to others. When you see a child who gets easily frustrated and can not speak and typically causes themselves harm because their only way to get attention is to throw themselves to the ground or bang their head against the wall you will come to realize that this is a form of low functioning autism and it is severe.
It is heartbreaking to witness these poor children who really struggle each and every day because they are not equipped to speak or express themselves the way most of us do which we all take for granted. Life for these children is a very challenging undertaking and the families are deeply affected and they struggle also. It is the love the parents hold for their child that keeps them going but it is a very painful and sad experience seeing your child struggle and unable to show emotion or speak to ask for the basics such as to be fed or to go to the bathroom. They are essentially all alone though they have family surrounding them with care and love and they have to be monitored for their own protection 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for the rest of their lives.
There are some low functioning autistic children that can exhibit some patterns of speech but typically it is more like a grunt or cry and they are prone to be as frustrated as the low functioning autistic children who can not speak at all. The basis of life for most of us is through communicating and establishing relationships so for an autistic child it is a lonely and frightening place because they are disconnected from that and it takes a great deal of commitment on the parents and family's end to help these children and the schools need to be equipped to meet the demands and challenges in breaking through to these children. Autism is becoming a major health crisis and it seems that we are not prepared for the continual rise in diagnosis of these children who deserve to be treated just like us.
On the opposite side of the spectrum are the high functioning and Asperger children who are able to speak though they had delays in their development. These children seem typical in appearance yet they also have difficulty in communicating and in establishing relationships. Most autistic children tend to have their peculiarities and are repetitive in their behaviors. They seem very compulsive and the simplest of things seem to intrigue them. Autistic children can spend hours doing routine tasks that they seem to find comfort in.
Making eye contact for you and me seems relatively easy unless it is with someone you have a crush on. For an autistic child making eye contact is virtually non existent. In fact one of the tell tale signs of determining if your child may be autistic is their inability to make eye contact. If a child does not make eye contact and they seem to exhibit repetitive behavior and difficulties in self expression then it is most likely that they will be diagnosed as autistic.
Another recognizable trait of autism that is common for most children on the spectrum and is behavioral in nature are tantrums. When an autistic child is having a difficult time or feels overwhelmed they will react and typically they will scream and fight and fall to the ground causing concern and worry. They will tend to kick their legs and will become uncontrollable and very enraged. It is difficult to witness it as it unfolds and it is equally difficult to calm the child when they are going through it. You really have to speak calmly and reassuringly to the child and try to get them to forget what it is that led up to it. You have to know how to restore sanity in a very trying and difficult moment and get the child back so they can once again function normally. It is not easy dealing with these difficulties but it is essential that as the parent you need to really understand your child and help them through these trying times.
As the father of an autistic son I have seen my fair share of tantrums and it is rather troubling and disturbing and in the back of my mind I am always worried that the tantrum can trigger an epileptic seizure which really worries me because it puts my son into a vulnerable position and he can get hurt and I am always concerned that he can suffer a head injury. It is not easy raising a child with autism and epilepsy but I have come to accept my son's condition and I am willing to do all I can to help him. I sometimes need to lean on others because I am also human and I have suffered sad and difficult moments in my life which have affected me and made me aware of life's hardships.
Realizing the difficulties and challenges my son may have ahead of him makes it a necessity for my wife and I to put a plan in place to help assure his financial needs and protect him in his future and this is always in the back of my mind. I am constantly worrying for his safety and the only time I truly feel safe is when I see him sleeping peacefully at night but then again I have seen my son have an epileptic seizure during a peaceful sleep. At these times I put my faith and trust in God to help guide me and give me the courage and strength to advise and help my son and be his biggest advocate.
I see my son who is high functioning, Asperger's as a child with so much to offer and so much potential and I know he is really trying his best and he is a great kid who has a big heart. He is getting better in expressing himself and we are very proud of him. He enjoys playing on the computer and building lego structures and lining up our dvds in alphabetical order and sorting his baseball cards by team like most autistic children do. He is getting better in the classroom but still has his difficulties. It will take time and patience but we are working with him and his teachers to get him on track. He also enjoys writing his own blog and I think that is wonderful because that is a good way for him to express himself.
For those who have an autistic child I just wish to say I know what you are going through and I know it is difficult at times and you feel like you want to get away but the reality is you and your child need each other and that to me is the most incredible gift there is. I have been touched by my son and I ask God to give my wife and I the courage and the strength to be there for our son and help him so he can find happiness, joy, love and success in his life.
Mommy and Daddy
Edward D. Iannielli III