Monday, May 24, 2010
Unlocking the mysteries of Autism
There are many questions surrounding autism that many doctors, educators, parents, families and those who are on the spectrum have which are still unanswered and may be for some time. We are not sure why autism is so prevalent today but we know that the rise in diagnosed cases amongst young children are continuing to rise and it seems likely that the numbers will continue to rise for many years. When autism was first discovered it was very rare to diagnose a child with such a condition back in the 1930s and 1940s. It seems back then that autism was a medical condition associated with mental psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia until the 1960s when the condition was identified in a separate class with separate symptoms.
The research started by medical doctors Hans Asperger and Leo Kanner working independent of each other in the 1930s and 1940s and during their medical careers made a significant impact in recognizing and identifying the autism condition affecting mostly young boys who were having difficulties with social communication skills though they were considered very intelligent. Hans Asperger's studies contributed greatly to helping the kids affected in his study and gave the parents and those affected hope and a medical diagnosis that was tangible and explainable.
The questions to which there are answers does help to unlock part of the mystery and gives some clarity to what autism is and how it affects children. We do know that most autistic children are now diagnosed on a spectrum as to the severity or mildness of the condition. For children who have speech delays and difficulties with self expression and socialization but exhibit intelligence and can be taught to speak usually fall into the high functioning part of the spectrum and are usually identified as Asperger kids. They usually have special skills and if encouraged and trained to make use of them they will thrive and make progress and learn self confidence and social acceptance.
The kids who struggle with self expression in every way and have no voice to speak with react out with great frustration and are prone to self inflicted harm because they have no other way to express what is going on. It is very disturbing to see a severely autistic child who's only way of expressing them self is by hitting or pounding objects or inflicting bodily harm by banging their own head to get their parent's attention. It is heartbreaking to witness the sheer frustration in the child's face and the helplessness expressed by the parents trying to help their child. I have cried many times seeing the pain these children experience and it really affects the parents and all the family members deeply and life for them is a day by day approach to make sure their severely autistic child's needs are met.
It is an all consuming lifetime commitment that really brings out the caretaker in all of us out of that child's total and complete dependence on their parents and siblings. We all know that we have this instinctively because raising a baby demands our everyday commitment. The difference is that babies grow and develop and go through the normal stages of development whereas the severely autistic child does not develop like normal children or mildly autistic children do. They need round the clock care even as they grow into childhood and young adulthood.
It is every parent's hope that their child will grow and develop and smile and find joy and develop as young children and learn and grow continuing to develop and gain self confidence as they grow into young adulthood. Raising a child is a lifetime commitment and a gift that teaches us and gives us great joy in our lives. Our hopes and dreams for our children are very real and we envision the very best for our children and we live for our children and strive to do everything within our power for them.
As I see my son grow and develop I see a boy who is talented and has a great potential to do positive and great things in his life. I see a young boy who has a heart who wishes to help others and is very compassionate and caring. I remember he would comfort a crying child as a 7 year old and to this day as an 11 year old whenever he hears a crying baby his first reaction is to calm them and say "It's ok, everything will be alright!" He just is a kind and caring child and shows this beautiful side always. I would love to see my son learn to participate more and find an activity that enables him to make friends and to develop a skill and to learn healthy competitive skills and social skills. He deserves to be with other kids in healthy play activities that will help him develop and come out of himself.
To me the biggest mystery of autism that needs to be unlocked is the one that causes the child to withdraw and prefer to be alone as to developing healthy friendships. I am not sure why autistic children are so isolated and feel such anxiety and stress in social situations and withdraw. In some ways I do understand because I see a lot of parallels with autism and shyness. It all comes down to self esteem and developing confidence. That is why it is so important to teach the child to integrate with others and to learn to participate to the best of their abilities. If I can unlock this mystery with my son and help him to integrate, develop useful life skills, learn self confidence, find inner joy and peace and make friends one friend at a time then I feel I will be helping him to grow and he will learn so much with these new positive experiences.
Even with an autism diagnosis a child can develop and find joy and happiness and do so much in life. I tell this to my son all the time but need to help him implement it so he can believe it as I do. We will help him in every way we can and provide him all our love, support and guidance to the best of our abilities in addressing these concerns.
For you Matty with a father's hopes and dreams for his son.
Edward D. Iannielli III