Monday, May 31, 2010

Autism and mentoring

It is always nice to have time to spend with our children. It is difficult during the week so that leaves the weekend. I have been meaning to get my son involved in social activities on the weekends to help him in expanding his social development and in enabling him to make friends. It seems that it is not as easy to do and everything comes with a price tag. I realize he needs to have that and I wish to provide it for him. We toss around ideas for him like the boy scouts or martial arts or youth basketball or youth soccer but he does not seem to be all that interested so it leaves me scratching my head trying to figure out what we can direct him towards. He is a very bright boy, now 11 years old and has a wonderful personality. I know when I was 11 years old I was in little league and that was a big part of my life then. I really enjoyed it and I found an identity with it. I loved going to baseball practice and I loved the opportunity of playing. It really helped me develop my confidence and taught me important lessons.

This is what I would like to see with my son. I don't want to force him into something. I just want to help direct him in an area of interest he has where he can learn, develop his skills, be challenged, make friends and develop self confidence. My son needs a mentor that will spend time with him and teach him valuable lessons. I think of the movie the Karate kid with Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita where an old man took a young kid under his wings and taught him martial arts and important life lessons. We all need someone to take an interest in our development and inspire us. I wish to fill those shoes sometimes with my son but I feel he also needs to learn from someone who can teach him valuable skills whether it's a coach, a teacher or a camp counselor. For me as his father I am his biggest advocate and I wish to help him along with Maria but I feel he needs to have others in his corner as well. I have heard the phrase "It takes a village to raise a child." I believe the reality is that it takes responsible parents, a mother and a father to raise their child with love, support, nurturing and encouragement. They also need to work in conjunction with the schools their child attends to ascertain how their child is developing and with the child's coaches, mentors and advisers.

I enjoy spending the weekend taking my son out and seeing a movie or going to the beach like we did this weekend. We had a wonderful weekend going to the beach, going to see Shrek 4 in 3D and eating pizza and going to Friendly's. I look forward to the weekends for this reason but I also realize my son needs socialization opportunities that I simply can not provide to him and the opportunity to be with kids his age. I want him to have these experiences and I get frustrated sometimes because the social groups we did try did not appeal to him and he wound up not deriving much benefit from them. I'm not being critical of the groups but it just seems that they were not the right fit for my son. I know we have to be flexible but we also need to find something our son will enjoy and make a connection with. It seems the only real thing he has made a connection with is Camp Kehilia where he has a lot of fun for part of the summer but the camp is increasingly becoming more costly and the reality is it has become difficult to swing the cost. I would love to send him and if I am not able to then I will work with the school district in helping my son be placed in a school program that he can learn from and have continuity with his education and social development needs and have fun activities to participate in as well.

I always want to do the best for my son and will always be there for him and help teach him important life lessons and be a mentor for him. It is particularly important at this age before he becomes a teenager because this is the time he is growing and developing his personality and his experiences are helping in shaping him and helping him in dealing with life situations. It seems our children are having to grow up much quicker today then we did. My son is much more mature then I was when I was his age and he seems to know more and his views are more expressive with much more insight.

It is so important that autistic children not be left behind. We have to really find it in our hearts to take a sincere interest in their development and help inspire them to do their best and to believe in themselves. We have to try our best to help understand them and dedicate ourself to helping them. I remember reading as a young boy the Helen Keller story and I was very touched by Anne Sullivan who devoted her life to helping Helen Keller overcome her struggles as a deaf,blind and mute girl. Anne had a tough life and she learned early on in her life tragedy and hardship. She never gave up though and she became a tremendous influence in young Helen Keller's life that was truly inspiring. She even attended college with Helen to be by her side every step of the way and helped her achieve a college education and shape her as a person who also inspired others. The story of both women's lives is truly remarkable and touches my heart. I have shared their stories with my son and draw upon their strength and dedication to help my son as they are special in every way and their stories should be taught to everyone.

It is critical that we help each and every autistic child early in their lives so they will have the same chances that all other children have. We can not afford to leave them behind. We have to make it a priority that these children get the proper socialization and educational training they need and the dedication and mentoring from parents, teachers, advisers, coaches and all who touch an autistic child's life. This certainly will make a difference in their young lives and help them grow into responsible adults able to live independent lives.

Dedicated for my son Matthew.
Edward D. Iannielli III

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Autism and financial need

As the parent of a special needs child I know how important it is to provide our son with positive summertime experiences. I know that summer camp is very special to my son because that is all he talks about when the school year approaches the summer break. We have been sending our son to the Camp Kehilia day camp program since he was 5 years old. I do find though that the financial commitment becomes a little more expensive each year and now the cost to send my son for 4 weeks of day camp is over $5,000. I find that it is becoming increasingly more difficult to send my son and that to me is very frustrating because I know how much he loves to go and it would break my heart if I was unable to send him as this is all he talks about. I have to find a way to send him or find an alternative that would satisfy my son's needs.

I have discussed other options at the school district meeting with my wife and the school representatives and they informed us of a program offered by a private school that offers a 6 week program that is paid by the school district and it is a continuation of school combined with activities. I am not sure if my son would want to be in a school setting in the summertime so I really have to discuss it with him and determine the best option. To me it would be a much needed relief financially to have the help from the school district and send him to the 6 week program at the school and I feel my son would benefit from the stimulation and the continuity of having classes and studying math, english, computers and writing in addition to occasional day trips.

I wish I could find a way of helping families that struggle find a way to send their kids to summer day camp. I know that we all want to do the best for our children and sometimes we have to be realistic in what we can and can not afford. This is what makes great minds work to find solutions. There are so many families that wish to find a way to send their kids to camp but need the financial assistance. I also believe that there are many major and local companies that would gladly contribute monies to these camps for providing assistance to these needy families. The problem however is there are so many applicants for the financial aid and there is only a finite source of funds available and the application forms are so very detailed and complicated to complete.

I would love to find a way to develop a website that would serve as an intermediary between camps, needy families and corporate sponsors and generate revenue from advertising so that monies could circulate to the families and the camp financial assistance funds benefitting and providing kids the opportunity to go to camp and providing the corporations a tax deductible contribution. The website would have to be approved as a charitable organization under IRS regulations. This to me would be a direct way of helping in some small way to champion the cause for autistic children and special needs children.

Sometimes it seems so logical and sometimes it seems so difficult but if you have an idea and you can implement it so you can help people then it truly is worth the effort and hard work. I'm sure there are so many websites that serve as foundations and help fund camp, education, medical assistance, food supplies for the hungry, shelters for the homeless and christmas gifts for sick children. If I could develop a website that could serve families, camps and other organizations and be able to make it possible to send a needy child to camp then I feel my life would be more meaningful and I would feel so happy knowing I can make a difference and also send my son and someone else's child to day camp. I already have an idea for the name of my website. I just need to know how to put my good intentions to the test to make it work the way I wish it could.

As a working parent I know we all wish to provide our children with all we can. I am certain that the most important thing we can provide our children with is love. Money is important but it can only go so far. Love, however is forever!

Dedicated to you, Matty!

Edward D. Iannielli III

Monday, May 24, 2010

Autism and answering my son's tough questions

I would have to say that one of the hardest things in raising an autistic child is answering their perceptive and sometimes rather difficult questions. I sometimes have to really think it over before I volunteer an answer to one of my son's unexpected questions. I also need to shield my son from the news because he is very sensitive and he easily expresses his feelings relating to sad and difficult situations and gets very emotional and very upset. I remember one such question which to this day still haunts me because I really struggled in finding the right words in answering this specific question and I had to make it understandable to him.

I will share some of his questions just to give insight into a young child's mind who is inquisitive, autistic and very sensitive. To start this writing exercise I will have to take you back to the time of my childhood as a 2 year old and then advance to my son's early childhood when he was a 2 year old to give some perspective.

Back in 1963 when I was a 2 year old I have no real recollection of the events or memories of the day specifically but I do have a collection of articles and books which were collected by my mom and dad regarding the tragic day in question. The day was November 22, 1963 which was a very sad day for our country and for the Kennedy family. I remember my mom telling me she was heartbroken when she heard the news and she cried and was in total shock but she still had to make sure I was fed and changed. In a way I took her mind off of that sad event for a short time.

My dad was very interested in reading about John F. Kennedy and his acts of heroism during the war and his duties as commander of the PT-109 and his days studying at Harvard University. I was born 2 days before John F. Kennedy took the oath of office as the 35th president of the United States. On that day when our president was assassinated it was the so called "end of innocence" for our country and my dad shared with me his experiences when he first heard the tragic news and what he said was that he and his fellow ironworkers stood in stunned silence when word got out and they just cried and embraced each other. They ceased work for the day and my dad was so upset about it that he just drove for miles in total silence not wanting to hear the news heading home to comfort mom and me.

Now I advance to when my son was a two year old and his mom was taking him to the dentist for an appointment. The date was September 11, 2001 and it seemed like any typical pre-fall day as it was sunny and very mild. But when the planes hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and the vision of the horror from the news reports became reality I was in total shock viewing the images on the internet and I was unable to comprehend the events and what transpired that day. All I could think of was getting home to my wife and son just like my dad felt back in 1963. It was surreal watching the news and seeing clips of those planes exploding into those buildings literally every 5 minutes it seemed as they kept rerunning those haunting images. All I could think of was those poor people on the planes and the ones trapped in the buildings. My son was too young to understand what was happening but now each year when he hears the dates November 22, 1963 and September 11, 2001 he gets very upset because he knows what happened on both those days.

My son learned of John F. Kennedy from seeing the books my parents shared with me and a book I picked up for my son of his autobiography geared for a young student. He knew President Kennedy was assassinated as well as Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy from learning it in school like I did and reading about them in his textbooks. He asked me a question so innocently and with real concern and I know he was very upset about it. The question as he asked it was like this. Upon seeing the story of his life and learning how he died he asked me "Why would someone kill our president and a daddy when he has such young children and a wife?" I was trying to answer him in a way that explained the truth but it was very hard because I could see my son very upset about it.

It reminds me of the time in my childhood when I learned of the plight of the Jews during WW II and the tragic loss of life at the hands of a brutal dictator. I dread the day when my son learns of this and sometimes I know we have to discuss events such as these but it is so very difficult to do so. My son has a very sensitive side about him and it really pains me to talk about these sad realities. Sometimes I wonder how the teachers approach such difficult subjects. We can not deny the truth but we also need to know how to present the facts in a way that is not damaging to a young child's mind.

When my son realized what happened on September 11, 2001 from the yearly anniversaries and seeing the replayed images he really was very disturbed about it just like we were. He kind of understands the tragic loss of life and the total collapse of the buildings and the deliberate acts of using planes as bombs. He denies it ever happened in his mind and refuses to accept that the buildings and people who perished that fateful day are gone. A question he asked me about that fateful day was also a very sad but very perceptive question which made me have to really think long and hard in how to answer it. His question very innocently was "Why could this happen and why do people hate each other like this? I really had a difficult time answering this and I see how young children are affected by it. We brought Matty to see a psychologist to help him with his autism and when he has questions like this we encourage him to ask us or an adult such as his psychologist. We don't like to see him thinking so much about these sad events but we also realize it is equally important for a child to express themselves and the feelings they are experiencing.

We all wish life was perfect and that everything was a happy occurrence but the reality is that life although wonderful also has sad times and painful realities that we all must experience. A sad event that hit close to home for us and for our son was the loss of my dad, Matty's grandfather last year. The happy and memorable reality was that Matty loved his grandfather and shared many happy times with him. He remembers him and clearly has a visual picture of him in his mind. Matty and grandpa (Pop) really understood each other and they enjoyed each other's company. Pop and Matty would always enjoy building lego towers and Pop loved to help Matty with his domino chains and with arranging his cars on the race track. They shared many happy times together and so now there clearly is a void where we truly miss him, especially Matty. One day when we were driving in the neighborhood where Pop used to live my son knowing Pop was gone asked me why we don't go and visit him at his apartment anymore and I could sense that he missed Pop very much. I explained to him that we still have a place to visit where we can pray and express our feelings.

Another sad question Matty asked me concerning Pop was why we didn't buy him a birthday cake for his birthday. He was so upset about it that I went out and bought a cake to celebrate his memory with Matty and the family. Matty was happy about it and he made me realize something very important about always remembering the ones we love.

I always am concerned for my son and how he views the world and I feel that we need to try to always hold on to the positive things and always look at the good things and not the sad and tragic things. My son and I enjoyed the Walt Disney movie Oceans and he was upset when he learned that sometimes we as careless in our actions harm sea life by pollution and disregard for nature. When he heard about the recent events causing such devastation of sealife as a result of the major ecological disaster resulting from the oil leak taking place now and the images of dead sealife he asks "Why things like this happen and how come we can't stop it?" I feel it is important that he knows and understands but it is very upsetting knowing how much it affects him. Children can be so aware and perceptive and it is so important that we give them a voice to express what they are feeling and we truly listen to them and try to answer their questions as best we can and with sincerity and with great effort in being delicate about it.

It is not always so clear cut how we answer our children's question but it is important that we do so they know we are listening to them and that we care about what they are feeling.

Edward D. Iannielli III

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

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Autism - Accept Unite Trust Inspire Smile Mend

Autism is many things to many people. We all have some connection to Autism whether it is knowing that someone is affected by it such as a family member, a relative, a friend, a colleague, a child, a son, a daughter or just a knowledge that it has become a major health concern today. Autism has become more publicized today and even celebrities have been touched by autism whether through their own child's diagnosis or through dedicated activism. There is no getting around it as we see more and more children diagnosed with it and the numbers are only increasing. It is very alarming and the reasons why so many more children are diagnosed with autism are very unclear and very disturbing.

There are so many things that go through your mind when you learn someone you love is diagnosed autistic. It is not easy to deal with initially as you start to understand what it all means. No two autistic children are the same but they do have similarities in their sensitivities and their behavioral difficulties. It is very trying at times to see a child struggle socially and live in self imposed isolation. I do believe we all at times isolate ourselves but it seems that autistic children prefer to be alone and have great propensity to being loners. This is why it is so important to try and reach these children when they are young with an autism diagnosis. Introducing them to speech therapy and socialization skills by 2-3 years old will help in improving their chances of opening up and forming much needed friendships.

When I think of Autism I see both the worrisome side and the good side of the diagnosis. I always hope the good side will overshadow the worrisome side with regard to my son and all children diagnosed on the spectrum. There is so much we need to learn about autism and how to help the ones affected by it. As we learn we have to sooner or later grow to accept the diagnosis and do all we can to help our child and encourage them to always try their best and to never give up or lose hope.

Once we have learned to accept the diagnosis which will take some time then we must unite to seek all the help and guidance we can to help our child. There is always strength in numbers and if we seek support and unity we can get to the next level with our child which is so important in their development and our outlook for their future. We must always trust in our instincts in helping our child and we must trust all the medical staff and teachers who come into our autistic child's life to help and guide him. We all are trusting of each other in the common purpose of helping the autistic child to learn, grow and prosper.

My son inspires me with his knowledge and his talents. I also see that he is inspired by great people such as Walt Disney, Martin Luther King, President John F. Kennedy, Steve Hillenburg and Elvis Presley as well as my dad, Pop who taught me and my son so much about life. We also try to find ways to guide our son and inspire him to strive for all the right things in life. My biggest joy is seeing my son smile and displaying his happiness and good feelings. We want all the best for our son and when we see him smiling and happy it makes our day and gives us a wonderful feeling. We hope to see him happy as often as possible.

As we show our concerns for our child and their autism diagnosis we always want what is best for them and we are always seeking the proper help and support so both our child and us as parents can mend and put the diagnosis in the proper perspective. We are always trying to help and dedicate our lives to our son's happiness and success and will do whatever it takes for we love our son and we accept him, we are united for him, we trust in him, we inspire him and he inspires us, we love to see him smile and we always wish to see him mend so he can live a full and exciting life that goes beyond his autism.

Always remember this Matty:
AUTISM - Accept, Unite, Trust, Inspire, Smile, Mend

I dedicate this to you, Matty to have a wonderful and rewarding life and continued progress in all you do! May you always be blessed and know love, joy and confidence.
Thank you!

Edward D. Iannielli III

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Autism stories: The little professor

In some cases you will find brilliance in the deep dark recesses of the autistic mind. It is incredible to see some asperger kids display their incredible talent and just do it so naturally and so innocently. I always wondered how someone could recall from memory landscape scenes from the mental photographs they envisioned in their mind and draw the images as close to perfection as humanly possible with their hands on canvas creating life like replicas of the scenes upon viewing and studying them. It is truly amazing and inspiring. Another amazing feat that autistic savants seem to take to that is equally impressive and purely mathematical in nature is the ability to multiply large numbers in their minds and calculate with such precision. There are autistic individuals who can recite pi out to over 22,000 digits with pinpoint accuracy. It just amazes me what autistic individuals can do and how it seems so natural to them as if anyone could do it in their eyes.

If you were to observe an autistic child you would see over time how they view things and how they relate to their surroundings and to others. The most significant thing that is common with most asperger kids is the repetitive behavior and the fixation on something that interests the child. I have vivid memories of my son when he was a toddler having an interest in naming the make and model of all the vehicles on the road. He would have an accuracy rate of approximately 90 % and he really took great pride in identifying the vehicles correctly. To this day he also is fixated on ordering things in proper sequence and also having to know how many pages their are in books he is drawn to. I remember when we were at the mall with my son and a friend and he was about 4-5 years old he ran to the automotive section of the book store and was interested in looking at the pictures of the cars and studying them for name, year and model. I was quite amazed that at such a young age he would even know where to go to find the automotive section.

Another thing I learned from seeing my son and what interests him is the need to know things. He loves compiling lists of just about anything. He can recite the names of all the states of the United States in alphabetical order and he can tell you if they are located on the east coast, west coast, north, south or central part of the country. I remember him also compiling a list of all the presidents of the United States from other lists he searched for on the internet. He loves to personalize his lists and attach his name to it such as Matty's list of Walt Disney movies or Matty's list of Pixar movies. He can spend hours at a time compiling lists. He also enjoys music and setting up music playlists with his favorite artists. One such artist is Elvis Presley and he has a wonderful playlist of all his songs. I enjoy listening to his music lists and when I was working late nights at the office his music playlists certainly came in handy helping me to continue my work with nice music playing to keep me going. I often thank him for compiling such lists and he seems to enjoy creating these lists.

I also noticed my son has a very sensitive side and is very aware of violence on television and will not watch the tv because of it. We are very fortunate that he tunes the bad aspects of tv out opting for educational programming and the weather channel. He could watch the traffic and weather channel every day without growing tired of it. When he wants a change of pace he will watch Sponge Bob Square Pants or the old Tom and Jerry cartoons. He also loves to watch his growing collection of Walt Disney and Pixar dvd movies. He can recite the lines in movies word for word and always know it ahead of when it is said. He can watch the movie once and recall it from only seeing it the one time. I am certain that he does have some aspects of a photographic memory.

After talking to my son and observing him I have come to view him as the little professor because of his desire to learn and accumulate knowledge and recite what he has learned. It can be the words in a story or the dialog in a movie or the lyrics in a song. He also has an appetite for reading books and just loves when his mom reads to him at night. He is old enough to read on his own but he also love to hold on to the precious time of his childhood when his mom would read a bedtime story and he still enjoys this time and so does Maria. It is a mother-son bonding time and I think it is wonderful that they have this time together.

I remember when I was an engineering student back in college and how I accumulated a fair amount of mathematical textbooks including my calculus textbooks. I remember when my son got a hold of them and he would enjoy knowing the number of pages there were in the book and then he would look at the sections of the book. I remember offering to teach him a little bit about differentiation and integration and its application in the real world. He seemed interested and contemplated the possibility of becoming a math professor one day.

Another love of my son is the world of maps and charting out streets and towns with houses and stores. Matty loves to draw maps with streets and draw on rolls of paper that seem never ending. He draws the names of the streets and strategically locates houses, stores and all the common buildings such as schools, hospitals, fire departments and police departments. He is always thorough with his maps. I saw his interest in these activities so I purchased the program Sim City for him where he can build entire cities on the computer.

I am amazed with autistic children and their abilities and potential and I see it with my son also. I try to always encourage my son to always strive to learn and explore and always maintain a desire to do his best in everything he tries. I believe my son has so much potential and he just has to be pointed in the right direction and encouraged and mentored just like any kid who has a desire to learn. Matty is our little professor.

Edward D. Iannielli III

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Autism stories: Making the team

Johnny has big dreams and his parents know how much he loves his favorite baseball team. During the week they will let him watch a few innings on tv before he goes to bed. When Johnny goes to bed his mom will sit with him and read one of his favorite baseball stories. She usually reads a chapter to him and this helps him sleep. Tonight's story Johnny requests she read the biography of Roberto Clemente who played baseball for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1955 through 1972. As she reads about Roberto's childhood and how he grew up in a large family he learns that Roberto did all he could to play even if he didn't have a mitt or bat. It was truly inspiring how Roberto would improvise. Roberto would make his way to the ball fields in his native Puerto Rico as a young boy just to savor the game and dream of one day becoming a ballplayer himself.

He came from a family of seven children. He was the youngest with 5 brothers and one sister. His father worked at a sugarcane plant and his mother was a big inspiration in his life. Roberto learned early in his youth about responsibility and hard work. He too had to work to make money if he wanted to afford a real baseball or bat to play with. His father worked hard and provided his family with the essentials. Roberto dreamed of the time when he could play baseball in San Juan for the National team at a stadium with crowds watching.

As she read of Roberto Clemente they both felt touched by the story of his childhood and his love of baseball. As Johnny drifted off to sleep his mom gently kissed him goodnight and placed the book on top of his dresser to continue for another night. She quietly walked past him and said sweet dreams, my love. Like her son she loves the game of baseball and they love cheering for their team and spending time together watching them play. She could sense by seeing the smile on her son's face that he was probably dreaming of something involving baseball.

Johnny always looks forward to having a catch with his father before dinnertime during the week so he can practice throwing the baseball and spending some quality time together with his dad. It is really the only time they get to spend together as they both are so busy during the week. Johnny pretends as he throws to his dad that he is playing in a real game which has been a dream of his since he was a small boy. Both his mom and dad are very supportive of him and they encourage him all the time and they have done a tremendous job in teaching him the fundamentals.

Johnny's only real setback in playing for a baseball team is his diagnosis of autism. He has worked really hard to learn the game and to play with confidence and his natural ability. He spends hours at the batting cage hitting the fast ball, curve ball, slider and breaking ball. With the repetition and practice he has engaged in at the batting cage and on the baseball field he has exhibited the skills necessary to compete and shine in competitive baseball. The combination of practice, having catches with his dad, watching baseball games on tv and the encouraging baseball stories his mom reads to him Johnny is feeling much more confident and inspired and promises that when he feels the time is right he will try out for the baseball team.

It is truly wonderful to see an autistic child learn and develop skills and abilities to participate and be accepted and that is all Johnny asks for as he works on getting to try out for his school's team and play a position and get to showcase his skills and talents to the delight of his family and friends and to prove to himself that he surely can play and compete and have fun.

As Johnny went to bed for the night he asked his mom to continue reading the story of Roberto Clemente as he feels such a deep connection to him in his love of the game and his dedication. He learned that Roberto Clemente was not only a great baseball player but he also was a tremendous humanitarian and sadly he died in a plane crash enroute to help victims of a major earthquake in Nicaragua as he was trying to fly in food and supplies to help the many suffering people on New Year's eve 1972. Johnny cried as his mother related this sad reality and he said "Mom, You see baseball is just a game and Roberto played with all his heart but he gave all his heart to help out his fellow man and that is his legacy." Baseball inducted Roberto Clemente into the hall of fame in 1973 waiving the 5 year waiting period which was in honor of his great play and his acts of humanitarianism.

Johnny then realized at that moment after his mom read to him that it was the right time to put all he knew about baseball on the line and try out for the team not only for himself but for all kids who have a disability like he has. He doesn't look at himself with a disability though. He prefers to see autism as a challenge and a gift and he wishes to show others that he can play baseball too.

As Johnny got up to bat with his parents proudly standing in attendance he strolled up to the plate and patiently waited for the pitcher to get the signal and he dug in and anticipated the pitch. As the pitcher uncorked it he timed his swing as he saw the pitch drawing closer and swung with the same motion he did at the batting range where he spent hours and boy did it pay off as he unleashed it into the deep part of the outfield where it sailed all the way out to centerfield dropping in for a base hit. Johnny was so excited as was his parents as he approached second base with a double. He hit the ball with a mighty swing on his first attempt and he proved in that moment that he deserves to play on the team and the coach came up to him and shook his hand and said "Welcome to our team!"

Johnny and his parents embraced and were so overjoyed of his major accomplishment and the realization of his boyhood dream that his mom teared up and Johnny said "Mom, you and dad are my support system and I am so proud to have you both in my life as you gave me the courage and the support to believe in myself and I learned that with dedication, desire and passion you can do almost anything you dream to do. Thank you both for all your love and support!" As they celebrated a personal victory that day they all walked off the field as a family enjoying their son's success and joy with great big smiles. What a great day for Johnny and his parents and for autistic children.

Dedicated for my son, Matty

Edward D. Iannielli III

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Autism stories: Hi! My name is Matty and I have Asperger's

Hi! My name is Matty and I am a kid and I sometimes feel like I can be a superhero saving the world one day or a racing car driver speeding on the track heading to the checkered flag on another day and somedays I just feel so bored I could cry. Is it that being a kid means we don't have real meaning in our life yet? I sometimes wonder what it is like to be a grownup. I see my mom and dad talking about paying bills and making sure I am eating right and doing my homework and taking my medicine and going to bed at an early hour. I see my dad hoping he has a job to go to tomorrow so he can still keep our house so I can have comfort and safety in my life. My mom and dad really love me and I know this because they tell me this everyday. It seems like life becomes more complicated as we get older.

Why then do I want to grow up? It seems like it is more fun being a kid and doing the fun things kids are supposed to do. I get to go to camp in the summer time and swim at the pool. I really enjoy riding my bike and reading fun stories. When I read stories I can be transported to other places and see different adventures one book at a time. I always enjoy reading books that have adventure stories. My favorite book series is the Magic Tree House Series by Mary Pope Osbourne. She writes very interesting stories about real and fictional events and she writes for kids like me and I really enjoy the stories very much.

When I need a break from doing my homework and reading my favorite adventure books I like to learn things on the computer. My mom and dad allow me time on the computer when I behave properly and I have finished my homework assignments. They make sure I am supervised if I explore on the internet. I enjoy music and watching videos and playing computer games. Sometimes I lose track of the time and can be on the computer for at least an hour and not even realize how fast it went by. I have also learned to create a facebook page and post my favorite Walt Disney videos so others can enjoy what I enjoy. I think Walt Disney is the greatest man in the whole wide world because he created my favorite character, Micky mouse and I love all his stories he made for the big screen. My parents have a collection of my favorite Walt Disney classics and I love watching them with mom and dad and my friends.

Now I must tell you something about myself that is hard for me to talk about but is definitely a major part of my life. My parents make me feel just like the other kids but they do explain to me that I have something that makes me special in a lot of ways and they explain that I should be proud of all my accomplishments. My mom and dad told me when I was old enough that when I was a baby my doctor told them that I had something that made it hard for me to express my feelings and speak the words. I also had trouble looking at people when I did start to speak. My parents told me I didn't begin to really speak until I was between 3 and 4 years old so they had teachers come to the house to help me and teach me words and read stories to me and play music so I could learn how to talk one day. My mom and dad told me that I have autism and on the spectrum it is called asperger's syndrome named after a doctor who worked with other kids who had it also. He was very knowledgeable and made famous studies about it so they named it after him in tribute of his contributions.

I always wondered why my brain sometimes doesn't work so good and why I am not always understanding things. It all has to do with my autism and I now understand. My mom and dad really try all they can to make me do my best and I am feeling much better but I do sometimes have difficulty and will get upset. I am trying to not get so upset and I have to take medicine that doesn't taste so good but it is supposed to help me. I am also affected by seizures and my parents really get scared sometimes because they tell me my body shakes so much and they always protect me so I don't get hurt. I am a lucky boy because I have parents that really love me and are helping me to get better. They say there really isn't a cure for autism so I just have to learn to live with it and work hard to talk and make friends and do good in school so one day I can grow up and do the things my parents hope and dream for me. They want me to go to college one day and study to be someone important in life like a teacher or an architect. If I could be a kid forever I would choose to be a kid but I know that is just my dream. Actually I believe I need to let people know that having autism isn't so bad and we all need to be treated with respect and given the same opportunities. We don't need to be cured. We need to be understood!

I am happy to be a kid and look forward to reading my next fun story. Today my dad brought me and grandma to see How to train your Dragon in 3D and we had so much fun. He even got me extra popcorn! What more can I ask for. Movies, popcorn and a day with my dad!

Well Goodbye for now!

Love Matty Iannielli

Edward D. Iannielli III

Autism and the bigger picture

Life is full of hopes and dreams, promises, joy, happy times, sad times, challenges, disappointments and heartbreak. We all are born into family and we all learn from our parents or guardians and the schools we attend in our childhood through to our early adulthood. We all have stories and experiences to share and when we are out in the world we are alone but we always have our support system which is essential and a major part of our life. Life is a mystery to all of us and we all seem to not always be completely sure as to our purpose or station in life but we each develop, mature and grow into young people who have goals, dreams, ideas, visions and talents. If we embrace all that we are and we strive to contribute and share our ideologies and a part of ourselves then we will be doing what we were meant to do. Love, encouragement, nurturing and protection that we provide to our children are the most important things which help shape them and give them the start they need so they can develop and grow to become responsible and happy adults.

If we were all the same in our talent and skill set and we all had the same temperament then all we would have to do was find a book that explained how to raise our children and we would be fine. However life is not that simple and we all are different in our views, ideas, visions and our approach. We all have different experiences and we all have different personalities and different conditions. Most children are born with no physical, mental or emotional impairments. They are considered "normal". However there are children born who do have physical, mental and/or emotional impairments and their lives and stages of development are far different from "normal" infants. In some case we as parents suffer heartbreak early as some of the babies born either die at birth or shortly thereafter or within a few years of birth. That is truly a difficult and very sad part of life and we are left to ponder why. This only goes to show how precious and mysterious life truly is. I have seen the gravestones of infants and babies and the little toys left behind by the parents and I have cried many times for both the babies and their parents and families. We must always remember the true gift our children are to us and the tremendous responsibility we have to raising and caring for them and teaching them and equipping them with confidence, love and hope.

I will offer my insight into what Autism is and how we are affected by it and what we try to do to help our son who lives with it every day. As is life, Autism is also a mystery and we are trying to understand the cause and find a way for others to understand it and not be mislead by it. Children who are autistic need love, understanding, encouragement and a voice to speak with just like normal children do. Autistic children in my view are unique and special because they have a tremendous capacity for digging deep within themselves and tapping into their true potential. I have seen the awesomeness of autism and how it leads children to do things that make us cry with emotion and restores hope and gives us such joy. When you witness a young girl sing the national anthem at a major league baseball game in front of a large crowd on national television and you hear the beauty and calmness in her voice and the sheer perfection she sings with you are literally brought to tears when you hear the words "and she is autistic." It means that there is nothing that can silence the words or suppress the dreams of an autistic child for if they find what they truly enjoy then they should be encouraged and given the opportunity to share their incredible gift and talent with family, friends, teachers and the world.

The girl I speak of is Gina Marie Incandela and she is on the Autism spectrum diagnosed with Asperger's and she was speech delayed up to the age of 3 like my son, Matty and she is a true inspiration to all and provides such hope and promise to all autistic children. Whenever she performs we try to catch it on youtube and save it as a favorite because she has really touched us and we are so very happy for her and her family and all the people she touches with her angelic voice.

Living with autism can be both a blessing and a heartache for some and we must learn to balance the two. The blessings are much more appreciated and it is important that we recognize the blessings because they will help the autistic child to blossom and grow. It is like planting a seed and watching it grow into a lovely flower. We have to care for it and trim it and make sure we water it every day so it maintains its beauty. With an autistic child who has a gift that is recognized we as the parents need to encourage and allow them to develop their talent and let them know we enjoy what they can do and allow them to share it with others when they are ready to. We must let them go at their own pace and must never push them and we must always know that they need plenty of love, nurturing and understanding.

I see with my son that he enjoys singing and when he is in the mood he really shines. We are trying to find a way where he can share this wonderful talent aside from the occasional karaoke performances in front of family and friends. If our son expresses the desire to take voice lessons I will be the first one to enroll him. If he wants an acoustic or electric guitar I will see that he gets it with good behavior. One thing I learned with autism is that our son has a lot of difficulties with conducting himself properly sometimes and in the classroom when he is unable to control himself it leads to problems. Our son has been dismissed from school on occasion for poor behavior and having meltdowns. It does get very frustrating and sometimes I feel I am not always getting through to him.

I have "sit down" times with him where I speak to him about these situations and I explain to him that he must understand that in the classroom and in school he must always follow the rules and listen to the teachers and respect them and his fellow classmates. I have responsibilities at work and I can not always get to the school to take him home because he is having a "bad day" so I simply tell him that he has to be on his best behavior or he will lose privileges and computer time. I have to work with my wife in getting through to him even when he fights us and he does offer resistance and we all get upset. I sometimes find myself getting frustrated and seeking help and my source of support is the internet and autism parent support groups and our parent trainer. I have been very philosophical about life these days and I try to find inspiration and guidance from God in getting through to my son. Autism does provide challenges and it is very important to never lose hope or give up. Believe me, I have thought about tossing in the towel on occasion and have come to my senses realizing that we must be courageous and always hopeful for our child's sake. If we give up what message are we sending to our child?

Our son needs us and we need him and I know in my heart I want to always be there for him no matter what. As I see things we live with uncertainty and we hope that things work out always. No one knows how long they have in their life and with their families and how prepared their families will be in their absence so it is essential that proper financial planning and support be put into place to assure the autistic child and family will be cared for and provided the necessary opportunities and they will be cared for and given the love, support and guidance they need. This always weighs heavily on me and though I promise I will be there for my son always we are all just making promises. This is one promise I certainly hope to keep when I say I will be there for my son each and every day and always.

I find life is such a puzzle with all the pieces scattered and we try to piece it all together and for most of us it takes a really long time to do so and not many of us are able to complete it and if we are lucky enough to come close we become unable to in the end and that is what life is all about to me. It is unfinished dreams and disappointments intertwined with joy and good times. Life is a wonderful tapestry of events and happenings shared with family, friends and loved ones and it is something each of us experience both alone and with others. Life is a gift that we all come to know and realize. I find it interesting that autism is symbolized with a puzzle too because autism and life go hand in hand and that is the bigger picture of autism and life spoken by a father who sees it first hand with his son who means everything to him.

Dedicated to my wife and son.

Edward D. Iannielli III

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.

For Matty
With Love,

Mommy and Daddy

Edward D. Iannielli III

Friday, May 14, 2010

Autism and writing

We all seek a way to best express ourselves and let our feelings be known. For some the simple act of talking is the most common and most effective way to let others know what is on our mind. We first learn to talk when we are babies between the age of 18 months and 2 years old. The words we choose and the tone with which we say them is all registered in our brain and even when we are babies our ability for self expression is all mapped out perfectly so we can let our parents know when we are hungry, sleepy or sick. To understand the human mind and how it interprets,processes and responds to stimuli and transmits signals that allows us to express our feelings through words makes us realize how truly amazing and powerful the human brain is.

For the autistic child the art of self expression is much more complicated and the stages of development are usually delayed and the tools needed to formulate speech need to be developed and reinforced. Speech therapy is a necessity for autistic children because they tend to be limited and have difficulty relating to others and expressing themselves. If they are treated early enough they will have a good chance of developing normal speech and effective communication skills.

Another method of effective communication that provides us the opportunity for self expression which requires thought and a good command of vocabulary, spelling and grammar is the art of writing using words we know and paper or a computer application such as MS word. Writing requires effort and the development of ideas that can be formulated and expressed through words constructed in formal sentences that expresses how we feel. The advantage in writing is we can think of how we wish to convey our ideas and we can make revisions and we are not put on the spot. We have time to think of how we wish to express and communicate our ideas. We can be creative with our writing or we can tell it as we feel it in plain black and white.

Writing can be difficult because it does require a lot of thought and the ability to express what we feel in an organized and structured format. As we write and we feel good about what we are saying we gain confidence in our ability and it provides us a voice that resonates and touches others. The gift of the written word is special because it is a way of preserving our thoughts and ideas which can be read now and in the future if we wish to understand ourselves and how we develop over time.

For young kids writing can be difficult because it is so hard to put our ideas into writing if our objective is to tell a story. I believe a good writing exercise for young children is spontaneous or free writing where we just let the words flow on the paper without thinking about it. We sometimes become less inhibited by this process and can be very expressive of our ideas. When we write we like to put our personal touch to it and tell a story that has relevance and touches others and gets them to relax and enjoy the experience of reading it or we like to make it thought provoking and get the reader to question what we write. All writers usually have an agenda and a style that fits their personality. I believe it is necessary to teach autistic children alternative ways of expressing themselves and writing surely is one such option that allows them to find comfort and ease in expressing themselves effectively through written expression.

When I write I like to focus on a subject and I like to have a general idea of what I wish to say. I then allow myself to slowly let the flow of words come to me through my thought process and I then write from my perspective with complete and total dedication in writing something that can help my son and our family and others who are interested in reading my thoughts on a particular subject or the general subject of autism. I feel that if we can write regularly and tell a story that draws the reader's interest and makes them more informed then we have done a good thing and it provides us with encouragement and a drive to continue the process always seeking fresh and new ideas and subjects that will help lead us to further writing ideas and compositions.

I have encouraged my son to write and he learned that creating a blog and writing has provided him joy and comfort. When he writes he says he feels that he is maturing and growing and he loves to personalize each and every story he writes about. I am thrilled to read his writings and I always benefit from the experience and I feel he does as well.

As we learn to speak and write we all need to be patient and just try to express ourselves the best we can. We should never be hard on ourselves and we should always seek encouragement and advisement whenever we need to. We should also develop the skills we need and the friends so we can write and tell the stories that mean so much to us. We all are capable and have it within ourselves to write our ideas and experiences. I tell my son this every time he has doubt and then he feels a bit happier.

Edward D. Iannielli III

Thursday, May 13, 2010

My son, Reach for the Stars!

My son, Just do the best you can in your life. Mommy and Daddy love you and will do all we can to help you and we trust in you that you will always try your best. I speak to you as a father and as one of your biggest supporters. I know you have challenges ahead of you and I can't promise you everything will be as you hope it will but I can tell you that if you trust in yourself and you always try your best and you seek the help of others then things seem to have a way of falling into place. I have learned many things in my own life and I have experienced life's highs and lows and I can only offer to you my own perspective in how I deal with both. As your father I always worry for your safety and your happiness. I want to see you smile and enjoying your life. When I see you looking troubled I feel very sad and it breaks my heart.

I know that our lives aren't perfect and we all have our worries and concerns. I understand this very much and I have felt the same feelings you sometimes feel. After all we are human and sometimes we have moments where we feel that things seem a bit difficult and we sometimes feel like giving up. Believe me, I know those feelings and I would be the first one to tell you that most everyone feels like this from time to time.

When I would withdraw and prefer to be alone as a kid I remember my mom would sit with me and chat and help me talk through what was troubling me. I found that when I could talk it out I would feel a whole lot better. I know it is not easy getting older and feeling awkward and going through the changes we all have to go through. Life does have many stages and if we are lucky enough we will have many experiences that will help shape us and teach us. We need to learn to adapt and to also reach out to others. We can not go life alone. We need parents, family, teachers, friends, coaches, nurses and doctors to help us through.

I know you are very special in your own way and like me you are not perfect. Nobody is perfect! We all have something to deal with. I also know that God loves us as does our parents no matter what! You need to always remember this because it is always true. When you feel alone and you are having difficulty I need you to speak your mind to someone you can trust and always remember you can always trust your mom and dad. As I said before we will always be there for you in life because you mean everything to us. When I see you sleeping peacefully in your bed I just feel such a good feeling inside. I don't want to see you troubled. I want you to feel happy and secure. I always hope you dream peaceful things at night when you sleep that make you feel comfortable and put a smile on your face.

I know you are very brave and you have such a good heart. I know you always tell me how you want to make the world a better place. Well I just want to let you know that I truly believe you can. As my parents always told me I will tell you the same and that is that you can do anything you set your mind to do and you should never get discouraged. If the road seems too difficult to travel then you need to stop, take a deep breath, think clearly, have faith and start again and always believe you can do it no matter what!

I remember as a young boy my parents would always share their knowledge, experiences and wisdom with me and they would make me feel so much better with their calming, encouraging and soothing words.
One of the many poems and writings they would share with me was a beautiful writing called "Footprints in the sand" and I wish to share this with you as well because it truly will warm your heart and it gives us all hope and a feeling of being comforted, loved and protected always. We just need to believe and hold on to our hope and dreams.

Always remember that mommy and daddy love you and we will always love you and always remember to believe in yourself because we do and God does also.

Reach for the stars!


Mommy and Daddy

Edward D. Iannielli III

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A father's view of our evolving life

As a child growing up fortunate enough to be raised by loving parents we all wonder about life and our purpose as we experience our day to day living. In discovering from our own personal experiences and challenges we encounter, we learn and try to understand how to adapt and accept what we are faced with. In our lives we will experience many things and will have many questions and we will rely on our parents a great deal as they are very influential in our lives and their responsibility is to help guide us and teach us so we can one day be responsible for ourselves and live our lives as our parents had hoped.

My views of life after childhood were always evolving and seemed to be influenced by the different stages we experience. I view our life evolving in 9 different stages where obviously we are always learning and growing through out and the stages are divided into periods of years. The early stages of our lives are directly influenced by our parents and they are actively involved in the first 5 stages of our life which are our infancy stage, our toddler stage, our childhood stage, our teenage stage and our early adulthood stage.

The first stage of our life, our infancy stage, starts when our parents joyfully welcome us into their world showering us with love and affection and nurturing us. We are just little babies completely dependent on our parents and without them we would not survive. As babies our parents take great care of us and we provide great joy to them with every little thing we do. This time for our parents can be a very stressful time as well because they need to always be in tune with our needs and we tend to cry a lot because that is how we communicate to our parents. From our birth to 2 years is a time of great significance because that is a very critical time in our survival as our parents are there for us and are attending to our needs round the clock.

We tend to sleep a lot during this time and that is when our parents can rest and try to relax as well. As we approach the 2 year mark we are approaching our toddler stage and that is from age 2 to 5 years old. During this time we are learning to respond more and to communicate verbally with our parents. When we are 1 - 3 years old we start to accomplish things and during this time our parents chart our progress and enjoy witnessing and experiencing our "firsts" and try to document them with photographs and video camera. From when we are infants through our toddler years is a time our parents capture our many moments on film and video which are fun to see as we grow.

Once we start crawling and eventually walking in addition to talking we are starting to experience our own independence as we now opt to get around on our own terms and prefer that as to being carried. We do find at times our parents have difficulty with this as they still will try to carry us or wheel us in the carriage or stroller on occasion and we will tend to fight this. Once we start walking and running we add more stress to our parents lives because now they find they have to chase after us so we don't run off or get hurt. We have to be taught what we should and shouldn't do and we seem to have a mind of our own.

As we reach age 5 years old we are now in our childhood stage and at this stage we start our schooling which initially is traumatic for both us and our mother's because this is the first time we are separated from each other. Once we start our school years things start to settle down and we now find another avenue of learning and our social network starts to grow and expand. We start to think for ourselves and start to learn responsibility and how to relate with others and to appreciate our parents more. During our school years our parents also take responsibility in our progress and they are always making sure we are completing our assignments and progressing in school. They eventually meet with our teachers and discuss our progress.

As we attend school we will learn and grow and develop throughout and this is a time of great significance in our personal growth and development. We start to learn about ourselves during these years and our personality starts to take shape. It is very important that we learn to relate with others and make friends so we can have more experiences and develop more friendships. As we start school we are just kids and we learn effective communication. We learn our ABC's in preschool and kindergarten and we learn to read and write in the first grade. As we progress in school we learn more and we start to gain confidence and knowledge. During the first eight years of school starting from pre-school through the sixth grade we are introduced to reading, writing, spelling, speech, language arts, math, science, religion, music, art and physical fitness.

These years prepare us for the next stage of our schooling and our lives, the 4th stage which is our teenage stage which is a difficult stage for both us and our parents. During this stage we start to go through physical changes in our lives as well as moving on to junior high school where we are exposed to several classes and teachers and new classmates. It is a fun time in our lives and also a stressful time with all the changes we experience. It is important at this time in our lives to try our best to fit in and get involved in activities in addition to being responsible for our school assignments and our academic success. We start to notice the opposite sex at this time and also try to maintain a healthy balance with our schoolwork and our social pursuits.

Our junior high and high school days provide many joys and many challenges and we are susceptible to peer group pressure and outside influences. As hard as our parents try to reign us in we make a lot of our own decisions at this time and we have to exercise proper judgement and common sense. We have to be responsible for ourselves and learn how to say no and respect others and learn to listen attentively and follow rules. These years are the training ground for our future and we need to realize that so we can mature into young responsible adults. The first real milestone in our lives is the completion of our high school education requirements which is something both our parents and we take great pride in accomplishing. Upon completion of our high school education we are awarded a high school diploma and we celebrate with a graduation ceremony which our parents and family attend to share in the joys of our hard work and accomplishments.

Upon our graduation from high school we are faced with many choices and are encouraged by our parents to attend college and we are now entering our young adulthood which is the 5th stage of our life and typically we are 18 years of age which is the age of consent. At this age we are eligible to vote and we are usually driving a car or learning how to. Our parents and or our guardians have been there for us throughout these years if we are fortunate enough and we have learned a great deal from them and our teachers and now we have to apply all we learned in our early adulthood and start to think and act for ourselves and be responsible for ourselves as we are now making very important life choices.

During these years if we decide to enter college, go off to the military, start a job or go to trade school we now are young adults each responsible for our choices and our actions and we still usually live at home with our parents as we now try to grow up and seek their advice. If we are fortunate enough to go on to college we will be learning in our next 4 years and will study a program that will enable us to embark on a career and start our life in the working world. We will seek a lot of encouragement and advice from our parents, teachers, counselors and friends during this time as we prepare ourselves for the future.

As I look back on these years in my life I realize how lucky I was and how loving and supportive my parents were to me in helping me grow into manhood and taking on responsibility and accomplishing goals I set for myself. I am so very happy as a husband, father, working professional and an advocate for my son in helping him grow and learn to adapt with his challenges posed by autism. I have learned so much through the years and got to spend many happy years with my parents and am so blessed today to have a family of my own.

I had the benefit of living the first 5 stages of my life with my parents and having their love, support and encouragement throughout.
I have also experienced the sadness of losing both my parents and I have cried my tears and felt very alone and very sad but have come to realize that losing loved ones is unfortunately a part of life we all have to experience and the reality is that we also have to come to terms with our own mortality and if we are lucky enough to marry and have children we will have to do our best in equipping them with the life lessons we learn because we will not be around forever so we have to teach them and provide them all we know and give them the same opportunities we were given because it is our duty and our responsibility to our children. We need to teach them, encourage them and show them the way.

I have experienced my early adulthood with my parents from age 18 through age 29 years old which I am truly grateful for. I lost my mother when I was age 29 and she was 50 years old. We lost her way too young. I have experienced marriage and fatherhood in my adulthood at age 37 years old and my interpretation of the adulthood stage which is the sixth stage is from age 30 through age 44. This is a time when we have had the benefit of experiencing a great deal in our life and are now providing for families of our own drawing upon the experiences we had as young children and young adults.

Currently I am in the seventh stage of my life which I consider middle age which is from age 45 through age 59 years old and I am enjoying my marriage, my son, my family life, my career as a professional CPA, my friends and my interests. I hope to experience additional stages in my life and see my son grow up and accomplish all his dreams and goals. I am so proud to be a father and I view my life and fatherhood as a true gift that is the best thing to happen to me. I have also experienced great sadness in this phase of my life as I lost my father when I was age 48 and my dad who is my hero was 73 years old. It is very sad to lose your parents as we cherish their memories and hold on to all the many precious moments and happy occasions.

The stages beyond middle age are the golden age stage which I interpret as age 60 through age 74 year old and old age which I interpret from age 75 years old onwards. In these stages we will encounter so many changes and hopefully will maintain our health and share in the joys of sharing these times with the people we love. Hopefully we will grow old with our spouse and we will see our children grow into mature responsible adults and see them enjoy success in their careers, marry and have children of their own.

The stages of life differ for all of us and we all hope to experience many of them and experience the many joys and successes that life offers. We also hope to get through the sad and difficult times of life as we all will experience as we get older. My main focus in life is my son and providing him all I can and help him every step of the way. I know he will have some struggles as he learns to cope with autism and epilepsy but we will never discourage him because he is quite capable of accomplishing all he sets out to and he will always be loved, supported and encouraged each and every day as he is and always will be our pride and joy and the center of our universe.

I dedicate this to both my parents, my wife, Maria and my son Matthew with all my love.

Edward D. Iannielli III

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A loving tribute to my mom

As I am a man in the middle stages of life and uncertain as to how much time I have left I pray that I can spend a lot more time with my wife and son and that we together see our son grow into adulthood, go to college, find his passion, meet a nice girl, find success in his career ambitions, marry, become a father and enjoy all the riches of life. I was fortunate to have all the necessary support and love growing up to see these things in my life. My mom and dad did so much for me and for that I am eternally grateful.

I am forever touched by the love and support I received from my mother who was a gentle and kind woman who showed her affection for my 2 sisters and I each and every day. She always made time for us and never lost sight of our needs. She made sure I completed all my homework assignments and helped me to focus and concentrate and she instilled in me the importance of discipline and commitment. She also made me realize that making mistakes is a normal part of life and the main lesson to learn from our mistakes is that we learn from them and we become better for the experience.

Growing up in the 60's was a wonderful and a very difficult time because it was a time of great change. I remember as a young boy seeing my mother cry one day in November. The year was 1963 and it was a day that changed our country forever. I was too young to really understand the impact of that tragic day but I will never forget the sadness I saw in my mother's eyes. The day obviously was the assassination of our president, John F. Kennedy. When I was born John F. Kennedy was elected our President and then President Dwight D. Eisenhower was preparing to leave office.
Our country's innocence was lost that fateful day, November 22, 1963. I grew to appreciate the sadness my parents felt that day as I learned more about President John F. Kennedy in school and from my parents. I learned that President Kennedy was responsible for the famous quote, "Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country". President Kennedy was also responsible for the launching of our space program and was certainly one of our country's greatest leaders whose life was tragically cut short by gun violence.

As a young boy I remember seeing visions of violence and hatred on the tv and remember my mom trying her best to shield that ugly side of the news from me. I remember asking her why our country was at war and why there was so much protesting and she spoke to me in a very caring and educated way simply saying that our leaders were working to restore peace in the world and had to send our young men and women over to Asia to accomplish that. She also told me that she did not agree in principal with the Vietnam war and there were protesters sharing these same views and were voicing them. I remember her also saying that she trusted in the leadership of our country and when I think back to what she said I can certainly relate it to our country's situation today in Iraq.

I remember as a young boy growing up when we would have family time where we would gather in the living room watching our favorite tv shows after dinner and I remember how mom and dad loved watching the Ed Sullivan show and a famous broadcast I remember watching with them was the introduction of the Beatles to the States. My mother loved the Beatles and I also grew to love their music as it had a profound effect on my life growing up during that era. My recollections of Ed Sullivan was that famous show featuring the Beatles. Another show we loved to watch was the Sonny and Cher show which also stood out in my mind and their famous song I got you Babe. I fell in love with that song and that was one of my mother's favorite songs.

I also learned a lot about treating others with respect and showing my gentle side from my mother. My mother was a delicate and a very strong person both at the same time. She was a beautiful woman and I see why my Dad was in love with her and us kids. I remember my mother always dressed beautifully and back in the 60's I remember how she loved to wear her skirts, dresses and cardigans. She was so pretty and I always enjoyed seeing her dressed so pretty. She had a big influence on me and my views of women and taught me a lot about showing respect and appreciation for girls and women. Both my mom and dad taught me how to relate with girls and treat them right. I always appreciated how girls dressed and always admired and learned from them. They always seemed to have intuition and knew how to handle matters. I always knew that girls matured sooner than we did and we had to learn from them.

There are so many memories of mom that come to mind and they are all so vivid to me and precious. I always enjoyed the bond we had watching the Met's because we had many enjoyable times seeing them play. I remember 1969 was a fun year because that was a miracle year for the Met's and my mom was such a fan of their team that I became one also. That was a wonderful year because that was the year the Met's did the impossible. They won the World series in 5 games against the Baltimore Orioles and we were so happy and we celebrated their victory and from that time I always cherished our times watching them. I got to celebrate the Met's victory with my mom again in 1986 and just thinking back to those victories brings such wonderful memories of my mom and our days together.

My mom's love of baseball evolved when she was a young girl and her father took her to Ebbits Field to see the Brooklyn Dodgers play. She became a loyal fan of the Brooklyn Dodger's until they moved to Los Angeles. When the Met's were formed in the early 1960's her allegiance changed and she became a Met's fan and I was destined to become one too.

When I look back on my childhood I realize how blessed I was to have such loving parents and such a wonderful family. My mother was so influential in my life as was my dad and I am a very kind, caring, compassionate person because of my mom and my dad. Mom gave me so much love and she taught me so much and always was very protective of me and I miss her and cherish her and am so grateful as I realize my love for my wife and son is strong and it is because I learned how to love another from my mom and I will never forget how she always helped me with my psoriasis because she wanted to make me overcome my insecurities and she knew how self conscious I was about it. She would always rub my skin with olive oil to moisten the dryness and I knew she truly cared.

This is similar to how I am with my son and his Autism. I know my son has his struggles and has times where he feels alone and I am trying to help him and give him the love and support he needs to help him through his struggles. I love my son very much and I want to help him in every way I can like my mom and dad did for me.

As Mother's Day is here again I am reminded about my mom and all she means to me and I also realize how much Maria means to Matthew and I celebrate all the happy times and hold on to the many wonderful memories of her and celebrate the specialness of my mom to me and the specialness of our son and his mom and my life with them both. I wish my mother and my wife and my sisters and mother-in-law a very Happy Mother's Day and the same for all women who are blessed to be mother's. I have such respect and admiration for women and for motherhood.

I dedicate this to my mom, Catherine Teresa Iannielli with love.

Edward D. Iannielli III

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Raising an autistic child - My biggest fears

As a parent it is natural to have worries and concerns in raising your child because there are so many factors that come into play and your child as they grow are more curious and spend more time outside of the home which takes some getting used to. For the normal child it is a concern and you always worry for their safety. If your child is autistic the worries and concerns are constant and heightened and your child's safety is on your mind 24/7. There is not a minute in the day when I am not thinking of my son. I realize I have responsibilities but my son's safety and what he is doing is always in the back of my mind. I am a father who has learned over the years that with raising a child with special needs you really need to spend time with your child and reinforce every little thing with them. My son has no apparent fear and he is very spontaneous. No matter how many times I tell him to look both ways when crossing the street I find he still darts out into the road without looking both ways and when I catch him I am always reminding him of this. It does become very frustrating because you always want your child to understand and realize how much they need to exercise proper judgement and care in all they do.

I have been very supportive of my son all throughout the years and I continue to be there for him but the reality is I am not always available because of my normal work commitments. We all need to make a living and work so we can afford a home and take on the necessary responsibilities and challenges. I have been through moments with my son that are very nerve wracking. I remember the very first unsettling moment I had was when I was at work and I received a call from my mother-in-law stating that Matty wasn't breathing. It was around 7:30 pm and I was working late. I started to panic as she told me this and asked her to call 911 and that I was on my way home. I asked her to also call Maria if she hadn't yet.

As I arrived home all I could think of was my son's situation hoping that he would be revived and breathing again with full color back in his face. I had called my sister after speaking with my mother-in-law when I first heard the news and asked her to check in on Matty. I was happy to see my sister at the house and remember vividly her asking me to sit down. I was very concerned as she started to tell me his situation. She has practical experience working as a nurse so when she sat me down and told me that Matty had a seizure I felt my heart sink and asked her what that meant exactly. She indicated that Matty had to be seen by a doctor to be evaluated but advised that he had gained consciousness and should be fine but that we should monitor him through the night.

I did some research on Autism and seizures and had found that it is fairly common for autistic children to also have a seizure disorder also known as epilepsy. I was now more worried because when a child experiences a seizure you have to protect them if you are fortunate enough to catch it in time. Epilepsy is a condition that affects the brain and its normal transmission of signals and when there is a "misfire" the result is generally a seizure. That experience of seeing my son vulnerable and his life potentially in the balance really made me realize the seriousness of his condition. I was so at a loss as to why my son had to endure these scary medical conditions of autism and epilepsy. I remember my mother-in-law, who is a very religious woman praying for Matty and gently comforting him as he slept the night as she read softly verses from the bible. I also put my faith in God and we went to a healing mass at the suggestion of my mother-in-law to seek religious comfort and help.

Since his very first confirmed seizure Matty has been prone to seizures though they have been infrequent in occurrence but still very scary to witness as they involve the body fully convulsing and total loss of bodily control. I have to separate my emotions as he is going through a seizure so I can act promptly in addressing his safety needs when he is experiencing a grand mal seizure. We have been to the hospital countless times due to his medical condition and find it to be a sobering experience. It seems we don't always have control of the situation and that is a difficult thing to have to deal with.

In dealing with an autistic child and how they react to things it is also common for autistic children to easily get upset in a particular moment after being affected by something. They are prone to having meltdowns which also are difficult to deal with and requires quick action in protecting your child and trying as best you can to calm them down. My son has had some really bad meltdowns which requires a lot of patience and understanding in addition to a quick response in trying to diffuse the situation and protect your child from hurting themselves.

My other worry with my son is his impulsiveness and quickness in getting away. He has darted off while we were shopping at the mall and has been lost on occasion which really has shaken me up. I remember also taking him to Great Adventure in New Jersey for the day where he had disappeared from my sight of vision for a few minutes in a crowd of children and I had such an anxiety and feeling of helplessness not knowing where he was in that instant and all I could do was shout his name desperately looking for him in a sea of children. When I caught him several minutes later running in my direction I was so relieved and I grabbed his hand and held it tightly vowing never to let go again.

Another fear I have is getting a phone call from my mother-in-law stating that Matty ran off and she can not find him. This has happened on occasion as well and each time I feel the same feeling of anxiety and worry for his safety. I am always reaching out to my wife who sometimes is not available because of her job and it really gets me upset because our son needs to be properly watched and my mother-in-law is trying her best but she is obviously unable to keep up with him all the time. I have been very uptight and nervous knowing that our son can be very unpredictable at times. I have sat my son down many times to talk to him about exercising proper judgement and I always try to teach him how to react in certain situations. Autistic children require so much love and attention and I have all the love and good intentions one can ask and hope for and I always see that I am there to help my son and guide him through life so one day when he grows up he will be able to face the outside world and be prepared for all that is expected of him.

Knowing my son is autistic is half the battle. The other half is being prepared for just about anything and reacting in a proper fashion so as to help my son and to teach him how he needs to be.

Edward D. Iannielli III