Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas, Autism and Inner spirit

The Christmas season is a time to share in the joy and celebration of the birth of the baby Jesus and to enjoy the special festivities with family and friends. It is a time when we all come together and extend our goodwill and exchange gifts and spend time with our closest family. We appreciate the smiles and the excitement in all the children's faces as they open up their presents underneath the Christmas tree. It is very special because it is one time a year and it allows us to appreciate what is most important in our lives which is our family and our faith. We are guided by our belief and faith and our strong ties to family. Our family is very important and it is the love and devotion that a parent has for their child that allows that child to develop, grow and to believe in themselves. Children are very special and they are so very dependent on their parents and must always feel safe and protected.

For an autistic child the bond between parent and child must be very strong. Autism is a condition that affects how a child interacts and relates to others. It is much more difficult for an autistic child to express themselves and to communicate openly with others. The challenges that face an autistic child are numerous and it sometimes can be emotionally draining for both the child and the parents. As parents we wish to do all we can for our children and when we feel we are on uncharted ground or learning we don't always know what to do for our special needs child. We want our child to enjoy life and have positive experiences. The most profound struggles my son has as an asperger's kid is his overwhelming feelings of loneliness and isolation. He has an intense need to find friends and to be able to relate to them. Our desire to help him achieve friendships and confidence in himself is our main focus. It breaks my heart when I hear my son cry out for friendship and I feel helpless in knowing what exactly to do. I speak to my son to encourage him to feel comfortable with his classmates and to never doubt himself. I want him to feel good about himself and to know he is loved and respected as an individual and as a beautiful child.

I also feel my son would benefit if he opened up his "world" and got more involved in activities that interest him. If he participated more he would certainly have more opportunity to find things he likes and enjoy the possibilities of meeting kids his age allowing him to develop friendships. The challenges I face as a working parent however preclude me from being there for him after school to take him and involve him in such activities. I wish I could dedicate more time to my son in this area but I am burdened with the normal pressures of life having to work for a living and in paying the mortgage and bills that never seem to end. My wife works also but it seems she would be more suitable in the role of helping him find friendships and fun activities to do. It is very important that our son does find these opportunities and that we help support him and encourage him. I wish I could do so much more for my son and deep down I find an emptiness in my heart knowing that I can not always be there for him though I certainly wish to.

When I have time with my son I try to make the most of our time together and we usually go out to the park, the mall or to a movie. These are fun things to do together but it still does not help him in finding friends. I realize his intense need to have companionship as he is so willing to approach kids in various settings and ask them questions. It may not be the most appropriate thing to do but he means well and it makes me feel that he is reaching out and I truly understand. He is such a kind and caring child and he has such a beautiful way about him. He is empathetic and is always there to calm a crying child. If he sees a child crying his immediate reaction is to run to that child and hug them and console them with words like this "Don't cry, everything will be ok." I am very touched by his actions and his kindness. I love my son very much and I wish to do all I can for him now and every day. I wish more than anything that he will find things he likes and he will have an abundance of friends. More than anything else I want my son to always feel confident and believe he can do anything and to always dream and never give up on hope. My son has an inner spirit that is strong and beautiful and I pray he will be guided by that in his life and that he will always feel comfortable with himself and always know that God is always there for him in his faith and in his prayers.

As we gather with our family this year I believe this will be a great time for our son to see all his cousins and to open up and share in the happiness and joy of the occasion. For many years we have avoided visiting with family and friends due to our son's difficulties and because we were concerned because of his inability to control his outbursts and his wishes of not wanting to go. We realize this is not wise to do because we are limiting his experiences and it is important that he integrates and feels accepted. If we avoid family then what kind of an example are we setting for our son? We must always help him to feel good and to have positive interactions and our family will always be very understanding and supportive. This after all is what our son needs and hopefully this will lead him on the path to finding comfort and opening up. He has a wonderful way about him with so much love in his heart, an inner spirit that is so powerful and a personality that is so beautiful that he deserves to be surrounded by others and to know that he is loved and accepted just as he is.

I wish our son and my family a very Merry Christmas and I hold on to hope that our son will find his way and know how much we love and care for him and truly believe in him. I want him to always know that his belief in God and family will always help him get through the difficult times in his life and give him strength to be himself and do all he dreams of. He is a wonderful kid and I love him and his mommy with all my heart and soul.

God Bless.

Love always,

Edward D. Iannielli III

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Autism and Holiday Spirit

The Holiday season is once again upon us and it is a time for great joy, hope and anticipation. It is a time to gather with our family and friends and it is a time we enjoy because it allows us to share in the celebration and festive occasions of the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. We all have a lot to be thankful for at this time of year and we all wish to be touched and inspired by the true meaning of the season. We live each day of our life with the intention of doing good and always being supportive of our family and providing the very best we can. I have learned over the years just how important family and friends are and I know what it feels like to be alone and uncertain. We always try to minimize the uncertainty in our life but we are always going to have to adapt and realize that it will always be there.

We just have to have faith and hope during the holiday season and enjoy the times we get to share with our family and friends. We also need to find a way to become closer to God and our savior at this wonderful time of the year and throughout the years ahead. It is our faith that allows us to become closer to God and our family and when we believe we then are able to find the courage and strength to live our lives and enjoy the beauty and wonders of life. I know things are not perfect and many are suffering because of the times we live in. I try to reconcile within myself how to find happiness in a depressed time and sometimes I am not sure but I know I must be strong for my son and my family and I have vowed to be there for them for as long as I am lucky enough to walk the earth and share life with them.

We must remember that there are many who are struggling and we should try to help those who truly need help. It is the holiday season that brings out the good in all of us. We also may be feeling the pressures of the times and are forced to make sacrifices in our life as well so we are not as able to give as we once were. We must never lose sight of our hope and faith as we face each day. It is the holiday spirit that will help us through even the darkest of days. We must truly believe this and when we feel we are encountering difficulties and are in a time of need that is when we need to look to God and pray for his guidance and his help.

I know what it is like to feel alone even when I am surrounded by loved ones. We all go through this. I even see it with my son as he desperately seeks to find friendships in his life. He has always struggled with feeling alone as an autistic child. Autism is sometimes hard to grasp as it seems to hinder a child's way of connecting with others. My heart breaks for him as I love my son very much and want to do all I can for him. I hear his pleas for friends and I am not sure sometimes the immediate solution. I know establishing friendships take time and you must find suitable situations to allow for the possibility of developing meaningful and lasting friendships. I hear my son's words and I can sense the loneliness and isolation he feels and I am very concerned as I should be as I think of what I should be doing to make his wishes come true. I try to spend as much time with my son as I can when I am able to as I feel this is very important. It is not a solution to him finding friends but it is equally important to bond with him and do things with him.

This holiday weekend we had the pleasure of entertaining a co-worker and guest from India to a festive Thanksgiving day dinner. Matty was very happy to have a friend over for the holiday. It is nice to make others feel welcome especially when they are apart from their families and so far from home. We enjoyed his company and my wife and mother-in-law prepared a wonderful dinner with all the trimmings and made him feel at home. We also planned a day in the city for Friday after a visit at the Fire Island Lighthouse in the early day. It was a very fun filled day and Matty and our friend had a wonderful time. We visited the lighthouse and climbed to the very top. We saw the view of the island and found it was beautiful. After our walk on the beach we stopped for pizza and headed to New York City where we drove by the World Trade Center site. We drove over the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan bridge as we headed to the Empire State Building. We took the elevator ride to the top and admired the view of the city. We were quite impressed as we saw the backdrop of the city and the wonderful skyline. We then walked to Rockefeller Center and to Time Square. We stopped at Toys R Us and then headed back to the car for the drive back home. I was happy to see Matty smile and my friend and co-worker from India really enjoyed spending time with us and we enjoyed spending time with him.

I believe these experiences are good for Matty and I feel he learns and enjoys these outings but it still does not solve the major crisis he is experiencing of trying to find friends. My friends from India are always so kind to Matty and treat him like family. I am so very grateful for their kindness and their good wishes. I have learned so much from them and Matty always loves to see them when they travel here. I have learned the genuineness of friendship and what it means to open your heart and make someone feel welcome. They always make my son and I feel welcome and we are so very grateful and we try to also make them feel welcome especially because they travel from so far and are away from their families.

If I could do one thing for my son it would be to allow him to be himself and not to be afraid. I would want him to always believe in himself and never lose faith. I want him to be strong emotionally and to find true friendship. I want him to always feel safe, protected and loved. I want him to realize that even if he is autistic he is a wonderful kid and he deserves a life filled with opportunity and friends. I want him to always have the childlike innocence he has during the holiday season all year round and throughout his life. I want him to always believe and to know he is always loved by his mom and dad and by so many. He is very special and he should always know he is a great kid with a kind and caring heart.

The one regret I have which I am working to change is that of limiting our contacts with others due to our son's autism. I know our son has his struggles and his share of meltdowns which have been part of the reason but I feel that when we limit his contacts we are perpetuating his isolation and this is what we want to avoid. We want to open up his world, not close it and when I see the bonds my friends from India have established with Matty it has opened up my eyes and made me realize what true friendships are even if they come from great distances. During the holidays it is equally important to expose Matty to many so he can share the wonders and joys of the season and experience what true holiday spirit is all about.

Edward D. Iannielli III


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Praise an Autistic child

I have always enjoyed feeling the gentle pat on the back from the sturdy hand of my father or hearing my mother say "I am so proud of you!" in her sweet angelic voice when I was growing up. It seems we all need words of encouragement from our parents, our teachers and those we look up to. How else can we measure our accomplishments if we don't have positive feedback? It is essential in developing our confidence, in raising our self awareness and in promoting our self esteem. If we are to set goals and have dreams we must be praised for the things we accomplish. I believe it is psychological but it really makes a difference when you receive a "gold star" on your homework assignment or your manager celebrates a team victory with an outing to the pizza place where he not only buys your pizza and soda but he also gives a team winning speech and makes every team member feel great for the win as he praises one and all.

As a parent of an autistic child I know how important it is to reach my son and help him to feel good about himself. I have learned from experience that it is not so easy to give him praise and complement him for his good deeds. I have sometimes asked my son why he does not like to be complimented when he does something good and he simply says that if he is to be complimented at school he believes all his classmates should be complimented and not him individually. I thought that was quite noble of him and I realized how special he is. He seems wiser beyond his years and he has taught me about being empathetic and kind hearted in his sweet way. I can now relate to my mom as I think how proud I am of my son for the compassion and good will he feels towards his peers.

One effective way of praising my son for the good things he does is to reward him with something he likes. Every child likes to receive a gift and if your child is rewarded with a gift for doing good I believe it is a very positive way to show your praise and in helping your child in their development and in the learning process. If you are consistent with rewarding your child for good behavior and in achieving success you are helping them build their confidence and in teaching them to strive to accomplish and fulfill their goals and dreams. Every parents wish is to enhance their child's self esteem and have them feel good about themselves.

Autistic children may encounter difficulty with verbal communication so sometimes praise may not always be effective if it is said with words. Sometimes actions do speak louder than words and with children on the spectrum this tends to be very true. We as parents have to find more creative ways to praise our autistic children and we must never lose sight of this very important aspect that is so important in their development. As good as I felt when I received praise I feel ten times better when I give praise and I realize now how important it is to recognize our children's accomplishments and to properly reward them for it.

It is nice to know you have someone looking out for you and teaching you the ways of life. Autistic children also need to understand the "rules" of life and they can only learn this if they are properly informed and given the opportunity to explore, learn, understand, evaluate and act. When they act they will be doing something that we all take for granted. Autistic children tend to live in a "vacuum" where they have very little interaction with others so they tend to lack the social graces and are unable to connect with others as most do without thinking twice about it. The beauty of an autistic child is their view of their surroundings and the many special qualities they exhibit in their day to day life. If we are to help bring an autistic child out of their own "little world" we have to first make a proper connection with them. We then have to gain their trust and help them to believe they are special and can do anything they set their mind to do. When we praise a child we help them to start believing in themselves. When we praise an autistic child and they understand we are helping to change lives. An autistic child that starts to believe is the most exciting thing you can ever hope for. I am in awe of the tremendous potential my son has and I want him to remain focused and to believe in himself because I believe in him and I know he can do anything he sets his mind to do.

We must all learn to praise an Autistic child so we can help to change their lives for the better!

Edward D. Iannielli III


Friday, September 30, 2011

Finding meaning and learning to accept

As I sit here writing to try to find inspiration and purpose for what I do I can not help but think and reflect quietly on life and my family , work and my responsibilities and the dreams and hopes I envision for myself, my family and for our son who means everything to us. I don't have a crystal ball and I can not see into the future but sometimes I feel like I would like to feel more in control and I don't always feel this is the case. It seems there are so many things happening for which we have no control. There are many challenges we all face and we have to learn to grow and adapt and face each and every day with eagerness, joy, a love for life and a complete acceptance of who we are. We must come to love our self and accept the fact that we are not perfect but we have God given abilities and we have a right to be here to enjoy our life and do all we can so we can have a feeling of accomplishment, acceptance and establish relationships with all who come into our life.

We all need to find a way to earn our way and to provide for our family. It is our drive and ambition that helps us to achieve and guides us in our life and we must always stay true to our dreams and believe in our self so we can accomplish the goals we set as we learn and develop as individuals with our own vision and ideologies. I sometimes find that life for all its beauty and charm can also be disappointing and full of sad and difficult times. We all are preoccupied with financial concerns and we feel that we will be able to weather through these times but realistically it is not easy and it can bring us down and affect how we look at the world we live in. We have to understand that life is precious and we should always be grateful but it can sometimes be a bit stressful and that is when we have to learn to cope and adapt.

I know from seeing my parents in the days when I was a kid how hard they worked to provide for us and give us a good life and I realize that they did a wonderful job in raising my sisters and I but I also have come to learn that they did succumb to the stresses of life and had to weather through disappointment and heartbreak. I don't know why life sometimes has to be so hard and why so many good people have to endure pain and sadness. It seems the hardest part of life is the not knowing and the fact that we are only here for a brief time in the scheme of the universe. We don't know how long we have here and as we age it does get to be more difficult but we must be strong and hold on to all that is important to us.

In our life we all want to enjoy positive and happy times and we want to see the rewards for all our hard work. Sadly many people work very hard and in the end they find they have nothing to show for it. You always wonder why if you work so hard why in the end there is no true feeling of accomplishment. As I look upon life I feel that we all have accomplished great things but our disappointments seem to overshadow all the good things we have done. Is it human nature that we feel this way? We all must realize that we are not perfect and though we have experienced disappointment at times we have also experienced joy and tremendous accomplishment.

As I look back on my life I realize I am truly blessed and would not trade places with even the richest person in the world. To me life should not be measured by wealth but by what you have learned as a person and how you have grown and become an integral part of other peoples lives and how you have become a better person for it. We all learn and grow as human beings by our own personal experiences and by the friendships we develop and we can make a truly positive impact and make a difference if we believe, have hope and are not afraid.

My most proudest moment in life was watching the birth of our son as I gained a deep love and respect for my wife and all she endured and a deep appreciation for being responsible for a precious human life. I had gone through so many emotions that very special day as I felt total joy and excitement on one end of the spectrum and a feeling of fear and uncertainty on the other end. When you bring a child into the world your whole perspective changes because you realize that precious little baby is totally reliant on you and you must be there for them always. I gladly and proudly accept that responsibility and I felt as I still do today that I want everything to be perfect but we can never guarantee perfection. I wish I had no financial worries but the fact is that most families do have financial concerns. It would be nice to have so much money that you did not have to worry but for most of us this is just a dream. We just have to make the best of it with what we have. We can strive for more and work to achieve it but we also have to be realistic also.

My main purpose in life is to work to help others, to provide for my family and to hopefully share with them the experiences of fun and exciting things and to teach our son to do his best and to provide him an education and support him in every way we can. I also would like to be around to see him grow up and accomplish great things. I promise to be his biggest supporter along with my wife and to let him know that we will stand by him every step of the way for as long as we can. As I said before I do not have a crystal ball and I can not see into the future but I have love in my heart and I have hope for the future for him to grow into a fine person with all the special qualities he shows. I will always look at him as our precious little baby. He is our greatest joy and he always will be.

I love you Matty and your mommy too!

Edward D. Iannielli III

Monday, August 22, 2011

A parent's hope

Sometimes the only time I feel at peace is when I see my son sleeping comfortably and soundly. I don't understand why it seems to be such a challenge to get him to finally go to sleep. I have learned over time and through personal experience that there seems to be a connection between autism and sleep disorder. I am not sure exactly why it seems autistic children are affected by every little thing but this certainly plays a part in the child acting out when it is bedtime. I thought it would get easier over time but it seems that as an autistic child grows they still experience these difficulties and they tend to act out more. I have tried to understand my son's situation but it is not that easy. I sometimes try to fool myself into believing that if I take a firm approach and try to reason with my son why it is time to go to bed that he will get it and comply with my directives. As I have learned it is not that simple. Although we as parents have to take control and exercise discipline and proper judgement in administering it we also need to understand that autistic children are very different from most children and we have to find a way to cope with these differences.

I have learned to become more tolerable but it has evolved over time and with a great deal of patience and understanding in trying to find a way to handle the outbursts and meltdowns. Sometimes it is not always easy to be composed all of the time and I do find myself yelling on occasion out of sheer frustration. It is in trying to help my son that I need to be extremely patient and supportive. The times I do get upset is when I hear my son say things that he should not. I realize I have to know not to let it get to me but sometimes it does because I want to help my son the best I can and when I hear him say things that are inappropriate and self destructive it does affect me. I believe all children do challenge their parents authority at times and it seems that is part of the growing up process but it should not be the norm.    

It is my hope that my son realizes that we are trying to do the right things for him and that we love him very much. I can not tell you how frustrating it can be when you feel like no matter what you do it does not seem to get through to your child. My son is very bright and he understands well but that does not mean he will always comply. It seems autistic children do have difficulties that most children do not have and it is very hard sometimes for them to have smooth transitions. It seems autistic children have to learn to cope with change even though they want no part of it. If I could ease my son's mind and allay his fears I would but I am not in his mind and I don't know what he feels. Another problem autistic children have to deal with is the difficulty in expressing themselves and in communicating what they feel.

For every parent raising a child they want to establish ways in forming open lines of communication where the child feels comfortable in opening up and talking. I wish this for my son as well. I need to know that he can talk out what is on his mind and to tell us when he is upset. It is very important to establish trust with your child and allow them to freely express their feelings. Autistic children certainly need to find ways of expressing themselves too and finding ways to channel their energies and bring out their strengths. Autistic children are full of promise and are diamonds in the rough.

As we age it is our hope that our children will be able to make it on their own. It is our responsibility as parents to afford our children the very best education we can to allow them to find opportunity and develop as individuals. We will find inner peace when we realize our children will be able to carry on and live the lives we had anticipated and hoped. We also have to help get them started financially and it is very important to make sure we have adequate life insurance in place for their protection and for our peace of mind. I realize this more than ever as I have learned of the unexpected and untimely death of a good friend who leaves behind a wife and 3 year old daughter. My heart weighs heavy for my friend and his family.

As the summer draws to an end it is our hope that our son will have a smooth transition back to school and will be able to continue on the path to making progress and learning. We rely on the school and the teachers too in helping to shape our son and providing him an education that will help him in his formative years. As parents it is always our hope to bring out the very best in our children and when I say this I speak from the heart because I would lay down my life if I knew it would benefit my son. I want my son to have every opportunity he is entitled to and I want him to be happy and comfortable with himself. We all want to see our children succeed and find true happiness in their life.

I am very fortunate to be blessed with a beautiful wife and son and my hope is that we can be together for as long as we can and that we can share in all our son's joys and accomplishments. We don't see him as being different, we just see him as being a wonderful child full of life, promise and hope.

Edward D. Iannielli III

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Autism and coming to terms

I have been living with a heavy heart for as long as I can remember but I try not to give it away. I know how important it is to wear a smile even when you don't feel up to it. In raising a child on the autistic spectrum it is very important to stay strong in your mindset and to always be supportive. You will ride the tides of emotion and will have days where you feel all alone with no one to turn to. I have always tried to look at the positive side in dealing with my son's situation but sometimes you only see the trying and difficult moments and sometimes wonder what good can come from this diagnosis. It seems it robs a child of their spontaneity and their ability to socialize and make friends. To most of us the ability to socialize means just about everything in life so for an autistic child it means they will have to find ways to compensate for their lack of social grace.

My earliest recollection of learning of my son's situation was something I can never forget because I remember clearly hearing the words autistic, epilepsy and asperger's syndrome all together in one sentence coming from the mouth of his doctor who we trusted and came to respect immensely. It was a shock and something we were not prepared for. We knew then that we needed to seek services for our son to address his special needs and we were concerned that he would be labeled and be limited in his opportunities. We do not feel he deserves to be looked upon as different or prejudged because of his diagnosis. It has and will always be a learning experience for us and something that will be a life long situation for our son. We are trying our best to help prepare him for his future and give him every possible opportunity to learn, mature and develop to his absolute potential.

As you look into those precious eyes of your child you will learn that encouragement, love, devotion, dedication, hope and nurturing are essential in raising them. To me autism means each and every day your child will require your complete attention and you will do all you can to provide it. Even when you are apart from your child, they are on your mind constantly and it is sometimes hard to cope with the anxiety but you have to learn to come to terms with separation and the medical condition and have hope, faith and truly believe that things will improve over time.

I have seen my son all alone for hours at a time doing the same thing over and over and over again and I wonder what it is that draws him in to this quiet world where he seems to be content but very isolated. It pains me to see him alone so much and I wish I could bring him out of this isolation and teach him how to open up and make friends. One thing I have come to realize in seeing my son's situation is that I too felt isolated as a child where I too preferred to be alone but my isolation was more the result of my shyness not because of autism. I am very empathetic to his situation and realize that if I could move mountains than so can he. I will always support our son in all aspects of his life and will encourage him to bring out his best because he deserves that. He is very capable and is highly intelligent. He just needs to be able to speak for himself and to find a level of comfort in his surroundings at school and in his social circles that hopefully will expand for him as he grows.

We have sought many opportunities for our son through his early years that would provide him fun and enjoyable times with other children. Camp is one such opportunity that we feel is very important and we have enrolled him since he was 5 years old in a very respected and highly recommended program and we were lucky enough to provide him this experience for 5 years but it became increasingly too expensive for us and we had to seek an alternative because unfortunately it was no longer within our budget. We were hoping that one day the long wait for Camp Anchor would end and he would be invited to attend for the summer. We were not sure if this would ever become a reality but luckily we had the help of Senator Hannon and Hempstead supervisor Kate Murray behind us and we received the wonderful news by letter from both indicating he was accepted and would be enrolled for this summer. My wife and I were so happy for Matty and very thankful to our politician friends for all they did to help make this possible. After all we are just trying to make our son happy and enable him to smile and have a fun time and have an opportunity to meet other children and learn to interact and make lasting friendships.

As our son now faces his early teenage years we will try to help him through and be there for him always. Although we feel frustration at times we must realize it is not about us. It is about coming to terms with our son's condition and not being afraid. We have to be positive and hopeful always so we can encourage our son to always try his best and to never feel discouraged or give up. We want him to turn his autism into something positive because he does have special gifts that need to be awakened and put to good use that will help inspire him and teach him to believe in himself because he is very capable and very deserving.

God Bless you Matty! We love you and want you to always know that. Never lose heart kid! You are our superstar!

Love always,

Your mom and dad

Edward D. Iannielli III

Friday, June 10, 2011

We owe it to our son!

Autism is a part of our son's life and we have been very supportive and loving every step of the way. It has been a long and winding road with many twists and turns and we have been trying to find the right support system to help our son and encourage him to do his best and to never lose heart. I have had days where I felt like crying when I saw how much my son struggled and longed for friendship. When you see the sadness and the isolation in your child's eyes and you hear them express it through words it really has a way of bringing you down and making you understand the pain they feel. I know in ways that only a father can and it is very emotional for me to try and express it the way I see and feel it as I see my son isolate himself. I can relate in ways as I was a very shy kid growing up and only had a handful of friends.

The most difficult thing in life we all will encounter is finding acceptance. The first thing we learn is that we must learn to accept and love our self first. We can not have a relationship with someone else if we have not come to accept and understand who we are. I believe autistic children indeed struggle with who they are and it takes time for them to come to a level of comfort with themselves as they explore and live beyond what they are used to. Autistic children must be encouraged to initiate and try new things and that is the exact opposite of what they are used to.

When my son was a little boy I would try to draw his attention away from what he was doing as a typical father would with his son but I suddenly realized my son was different and when he was playing in his little corner there seemed to be no way of breaking through to him. He would be so engrossed in what he was doing that it would be virtually impossible in distracting him. I remember when he was lining up his matchbox and hot wheels cars one by one in the living room in a long line there was no way of engaging him as he just seemed content in setting up one car after another until he got to the other side of the room and then he would start a new line of cars. He seemed to do this for a couple of hours until he tired of it and he would not say a word. I would try to engage him and it seemed I was just a witness to what he was doing. I felt sad that I could not share this activity with him in a way where we felt connected. It seemed although we were together and I was looking on with interest that he was still alone in his little world and this made me realize what autism is all about.

I tried to find ways of bringing my son out of this world he retreated to as a young child and found that I needed to talk with my wife and other parents who have been affected in such a way. I found it hard trying to put a finger on it but I knew I could express what I was feeling and maybe someone could help shed some light on what goes on in an autistic child's mind and why is it so hard to connect with them. We all from time to time enjoy alone time but for my son it seemed alone time was the preferred way but I do not believe that he intentionally enjoyed being alone. I believe he just felt comfortable being outside of social situations.

We try our best to engage our son in activities which require participation and offer the opportunity to make friends and have fun. The most fun he has is with his camp experiences in the summertime. He feels happy in camp because he gets swim time on a hot day and to him water is his playground. He can spend hours splashing around in the pool and we feel confident with the staff and lifeguards present. Camp is a great opportunity for him to participate with other kids his age and to gain attention with the counselors. I believe this is so very important in developing our son's self esteem and also getting him out and doing fun things with other children. We are fortunate to have him enrolled in camp this summer and we are looking forward to seeing him progress and enjoying himself and hopefully making friends after a rather difficult school year.

We are always trying to find things to open up our son's world and we know it first starts in his school. We are still trying to find the best school for our son that will challenge him and allow him to feel comfortable and find acceptance. The main issue with our son and the schools he has attended is his inability to control his feelings and emotions and most importantly, his behavior. We are working in providing him with the understanding of how he should behave and conduct himself in school and in public and hoping that if we reinforce it in the proper way that eventually it will register with him so he doesn't continue to find himself in a similar situation of not having a school to go to.

Deep down our son is a wonderful kid but he is closed off from the outside world in many ways that affects how he acts and behaves when he is confronted with situations and has to express himself. In my world as a shy kid I just remained quiet but was always attentive to my responsibilities as a student. My son has difficulty in associating importance to achievement. It seems he does not feel the connection to schoolwork,effort and achievement that was instilled in me as a child. It seems the hard wiring is very different for an autistic child and there are great disconnects to reality.

If I could magically wave a wand to get my son to understand that he too has responsibilities and must follow rules I would do it in an instant because all the conversations I have with him seem to not make much of an impact. I am not a psychologist or a doctor so I am not always sure how best to talk to him about these matters but I am a father who loves his son and truly cares about him and I will do everything in my power to teach him right from wrong and show him that he too must be responsible and learn to behave and get along with his fellow classmates and show respect for his teachers. I owe it to him! We owe it to him!

I will always maintain a relationship with my son where I will try to inspire him and guide him. We are also seeking young adults who spend time with him mentoring and providing a good example. There is a sweet young girl who is in her second year of college who comes in the afternoon to spend a couple of hours with our son and plays games and talks with him and engages him bringing the kid that he is out and making a valuable connection. She also has her brother who is a high school student come and spend some time with our son. He does boy things like have a base ball catch and set up his train set. We are very encouraged that our son is starting to open up and is making valuable contacts and we will work to continue this and hopefully he will be able to all on his own as well. Autism is a part of our son's life but it is not his life. His life can be so much more and he can dream and believe and manage even with Autism. God Bless you, Matthew! We love you and stand with you always!

Edward D. Iannielli III

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A part of me

I have always lived my life wondering and hoping that I could make a difference. We all want to make an impact that is positive and helps others in some way. It is part of our human nature to want to reach out and share a part of ourselves and in turn provide a source of support and comfort to someone in need. As a son, a brother, a nephew, a cousin, an uncle, a friend, a student, an employee, a colleague, a husband and a father I have learned many things in my life for which I am very grateful. I have grown to realize that our lives are everchanging, constantly evolving, always shared with others and filled with hopes, dreams, ideas, visions, accomplishments, disappointments, joys and heartbreaks.

If someone asked me to define who I am and to discuss what it is I wish to be remembered for I would reflect deeply before answering this and I would be very sincere, honest and speak from my heart because I have experienced the good fortune of living with special people in my life who have passed on and I felt a part of me has been lost in their passing. I truly believe that the good in others rubs off on us making us better in our own lives. We are certainly influenced by others and the best impact a person can have on us is to leave us with their memory and a positive feeling that resides within our heart and our mind. Whenever that moment comes where we think about that special bond we once had with that person we feel blessed and privileged. This is the gift that I wish to provide to another making them feel they are not alone and that they indeed are loved and appreciated.

If I could give you a brief glimpse into my life I would first have to say that my childhood was filled with many happy moments and that I had very loving parents who cared for me and helped me to believe in myself. There were times I had doubts and wondered how I would feel as I grew into adulthood. Everything seems to be a mystery filled with uncertainty and we have to assume that our lives are important and have meaning and we should always feel special even when we are feeling down. Life is too short and we will realize this when we start to lose those who were special to us, certainly our parents. They were our first teachers and they taught us about life, love, perseverance and to believe in ourselves. They raised us from infancy to adulthood and they listened to us each and every day. We take that with us and we try our best to do the same for our children if we are so blessed.

When we become parents we start to appreciate all that our parents had done for us and we try to instill in our children the same family values we learned as children. When it comes to caring for our children we will nurture them, love them, cherish them, guide them, treasure them, teach them and one day we will have to accept the fact that our children will become adults too making their own choices and living apart from us. For now we will treasure the times we have with our children and we hope we will always be there for them sharing, living and experiencing all that they encounter as they navigate through life on their terms. It is our very special gift to experience the joys of raising children and we certainly want to do our very best to help them develop into fine young adults ready to take on the many challenges that come their way.

I have become very sensitive to my son's difficulties and challenges as an autistic child and sometimes I feel like crying but a part of me realizes that I need to be strong and very supportive always encouraging him and staying devoted to helping him through as he encounters life with the many ups and downs we all experience. He teaches me and helps me to understand what is most important giving me a real perspective on our lives shared with each other. I have become a much better person for understanding and knowing what my son goes through and for that I am very lucky. My son has showed me so much in his young life and I will always hope to be there for him every step of the way supporting him, guiding him and teaching him with his mom, my wife by our side.

I have been writing to help express my feelings, my hopes, my wishes, my intentions, my fears and most of all my love for my son who has taught me so much about life and courage. For him living with autism is an everyday challenge and we all must realize that although it may be a challenge we have to help him focus and live each day with a smile and a brave face with words of encouragement and an unconditional love that knows no boundaries. My mission in life is to do my very best in raising my son and helping him through each and every day loving him, guiding him and always being there for him. He has the potential and the intelligence to do good in his life and we need to constantly reinforce this with him with positive, loving and reassuring words of wisdom and hope. My hope is that my son will know no limitations and will be able to achieve his dreams and make great strides in his life living with courage, hope, faith, trust, love and an abundance of friends and family there for him always. Knowing that my son will be ok in his life will make me feel better and allow me to have peace in my life.

I dedicate this to my wife and son who have showed me so much and opened my eyes to many things. I am forever grateful.

Edward D. Iannielli III

Thursday, April 28, 2011

My son and a new school.

It's been said that education is an essential and major part of our life and the level we accomplish determines the type of success we achieve. For most of us school is a place where we learn and find a home away from home and we develop friendships and focus on our studies. In my school days the only time I missed a day was when I was sick. I never had difficulties in the schools I attended or in my classes and I never had the experience of being suspended. I was a quiet kid but I managed to achieve success and make some friends along the way.

For my son school has been a challenge but not from the perspective of academics as he is very bright. The challenge is social and behavioral. Ever since he was a toddler attending school he needed a pretty extensive support system to address his special needs as an autistic child with a seizure disorder. We have been trying to help our son get through these emotional challenges he encounters and find the necessary support system that will allow him to overcome them and to flourish. He needs continual encouragement and mentoring that will help him develop self confidence and a sense of self worth. He has a kind and caring side that needs to be recognized and further developed so he can shine and be known for how he really is.

All kids from time to time have tantrums and act out but it seems our son has them more frequently and this has resulted in many disruptions in his schooling experience and it has led to several suspensions through the years leading to frequent absences that have contributed to his losing out on learning, his gradual loss of self esteem and his inability to have normal socialization with his peers. We have been very concerned about the predicament they have put him in as a student without a school and felt the schools he attended were not helping him and decided to take the easy way out when they suspended him.

The last school he was attending tried to provide him an education and keep him in the classroom and the school but the meltdowns our son encountered were too much for the school to handle and they were not equipped to help him through them so they took the action of a permanent suspension which was for 5 months starting in late November 2010 around Thanksgiving break and it lasted through Spring break, April 2011 until the Easter holiday. His former school did provide a teacher to come to the house for a 2 hour lesson, 5 days a week. This was the minimum education he was receiving for that period he was out of school and it was not always consistent. During that period his former school was also working on helping place our son in a suitable school environment.

We had several meetings with his former school trying to find the right school setting for our son and the school that was highly regarded and recommended was the James E Allen Middle School and High School which is a BOCES school that caters to special needs and handicapped children. The school learned of our son's situation and they were open to admitting him where other schools were not. We were impressed with the school and the learning environment and the philosophy and we were confident that they would be able to help our son where the other schools were not so we decided to accept the school as our son's next school. We are very concerned for our son's education and we want him to feel comfortable and happy in the school he attends and we feel that James E. Allen will help him to get to that point.

His very first day of school at James E Allen was Tuesday, April 26 which he said felt like the start of a new school year. He is now adjusting to being in a new school with new teachers in a new location trying to make new friends and trying to do his best while containing his emotions. I am very sympathetic to my son for all the challenges he faces and I am trying my best to encourage him and help him to believe in himself and to find his strengths. Since he seems to enjoy math and writing I feel he should focus on doing his best in these areas as well as science, music and art. I believe in my son and know he can do well in school and deal with the social barriers most autistic children face because he has so much potential and he is deep down a wonderful young boy with a very kind and caring heart.    

As a parent with hopes and dreams for their child I stand by my son with my wife and we fully expect our son to overcome his difficulties and to flourish in the right school and we are confident that James E. Allen Middle/High School will allow him such an opportunity.

Good Luck Matty, We love you and we know you will find your way and we will always be there to help you and guide you as will your teachers. Enjoy your new school!

Edward D. Iannielli III

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

We all have a story to tell

Reflection and thought are essential in relating our experiences and telling our story. We all indeed have a story to tell as we think back and find the words to express all that is important to us. As we reflect on our life we will have many memories and experiences to share and sometimes we may shed a tear in speaking about those who were there for us in our life and are now gone such as our parents. We were just babies in the beginning and we were totally dependent on our parents who held us, comforted us and wiped away our tears. They made sure we were well fed and changed and they spoke and sang to us and helped us to laugh and say our first words. They were there for us when we took our first steps and they cheered for us when we walked towards them with arms wide open. Our parents always made us feel safe and they taught us very important values that helped shape us as individuals and made us understand how we should live our lives.

Expressing ourselves is essential and we have so many ways of doing so. We will find in our lives that establishing relationships with others requires a lot of energy, time, commitment, devotion and desire. We learn from the relationships we forge in our lives and we are very much influenced by them as well. As we grow, mature and develop self confidence and a sense of who we are we start to find our way developing friendships and most importantly, our personality. We must always remember that we are worthwhile and deserving of a life filled with happiness, joy, love, achievement, friendship and respect.

The joys of growing up and developing relationships helps give meaning to our lives and enables us to become interconnected as we become young adults. As we mature we will start to appreciate the relationships we develop with members of the opposite sex. For most of us dating is a time of great uncertainty and we feel uncomfortable initially but as we start to feel accepted and start to enjoy the experiences of doing things together with our "sweethearts" we will find that those relationships are truly special and very important to us. There is no better feeling in the world then to feel loved by a young woman and for a boy now becoming a young man this love is the most exciting and most challenging experience we will encounter. We must always remember to be respectful, kind, considerate and flexible. We will also start to realize the positive impact a young woman will have in our life.

We learn early on the importance of education and being responsible. Our success is measured by what we achieve and accomplish throughout our life and we all have the same opportunities but we all have different priorities and values which influence us in the decisions we make and the level of success we achieve. We also must be strong and resilient to all the challenges and obstacles we certainly will encounter along the way.
The mind is a very powerful creation and there is no limit to what it can achieve but it is the person who controls the mind and it is emotion that controls the person so we all have to learn to control our feelings and emotions and maintain clear and concise thought.

As we live our lives and we experience the many encounters, changes, stages, emotions and people we come in contact with we will start to know that life is truly wonderful and although we may find uncertainty, indecision, disappointment, failure and heartbreak along the way we also will find joy, happiness, love, achievement and success which will help us to go on and take the good with the bad so we can have a balanced life.

As we so often realize in life that we need to have others around us we will also want to share our lives with others and one day marry and raise a family. It is human nature to desire companionship and to have children. Children are very special and it is when we experience the birth of our own child that we learn the importance of responsibility and we get to truly appreciate the beauty, the miracle and the innocence of life. We find our lives take a new direction and we become wiser and more caring when we become parents. We also live our lives with our children as the central focal point in our life. It is our children that give us strength, courage and joy and make us far better as adults. We protect, care and nurture our children and they teach us so much about life and unconditional love.

The hardest part in life is getting older and experiencing loss of our loved ones. For those who were close to us it is so hard to have to come to the realization that we will no longer see them and all that will remain are the precious memories. We will need to always keep our guard up and maintain a sense of hope and always try our best to balance our emotions and feelings to get through the tough and difficult times. This is part of life and this also has a tremendous impact on us in how we live and survive and care for our families. We are human and we have emotions and feelings and we will find at times that we will cry and feel very sad but we must know that we also will laugh once again despite these sad realities we will encounter.

As we reflect on our lives and all the people who cared for us, taught us, shared with us, talked to us, loved us and made us feel special we will feel a special bond that will never be broken and when we reflect on those who were truly special such as our parents, our siblings, our friends, our teachers, our spouse, our children and our relatives we will feel very fortunate and happy and that will be a major part of our story and a major force in who we are.

So when I think of all the special people in my life and the years gone by and how quickly they have passed I too realize I have a story worth telling that chronicles my love of my family and how truly grateful I am for all who have helped shape my life and made me realize how beautiful life is and how special it is to have children and to always be there for them no matter what. No one stands alone. We all need someone to help pick us up and bring us back. I am so very lucky and I will remember this each and every day I wake. Thank you for being there for me.

Dedicated to my mom and dad, my wife and my son with love.

Edward D. Iannielli  III

Monday, March 21, 2011

Autism - A parent's wish for their child

We all have our own ways of dealing with the difficulties we encounter in life and sometimes it takes a great deal of time and the loving support of others to help us get through them. I know from my own personal experiences how hard it is to recover and get back to a "normal routine" when we are trying to cope with life's saddest of moments and how hard we try to be brave at a most difficult time. As I have grown to realize this I have also come to learn something very important and that is to always have patience, understanding and hope when it comes to raising an autistic child.

We as parents want to protect our children and always make them feel safe and loved. It is very important to listen and understand what is happening in their life and to give them the freedom and the time they need to express themselves and speak their mind. All children whether they are autistic, handicapped or normal have to feel comfortable with expressing themselves and fitting in. For children on the autistic spectrum it is a lot more challenging for parents and loved ones to communicate and reach them so it is essential that care be taken in understanding and reaching out to them and allowing them to share their feelings with us.

Every child has dreams and hopes and parents all wish to see their children smile and feel happy about their life and their surroundings. Children have an innocence in their young life and we always want to see them continue with this youthful innocence shielding them and allowing them to be kids for as long as possible. Children are seemingly growing up sooner and sooner these days and it is a shame because life has pressures and we certainly don't want our children to feel these pressures too soon. Once you out grow your childhood you can't go back so you certainly don't wish to rush through it. It seems though when we are young kids we can't wait to grow up and when we are adults we wish we could be kids again. I always remind my son that he should enjoy and appreciate his childhood because it passes by in a flash and when we look back we wonder how this has happened.

As I talk with my son I try to speak to him in a way where he feels comfortable and not make him feel like he is being lectured to. It is not always so simple and I admit I am learning every day but I know that with my son who has his share of challenges I have to walk a fine line in how I talk to him about his inappropriate behaviors and his feelings. I wish I could give him peace of mind and the feeling of always being protected. It hurts me terribly when I see my son struggling and having difficulty in school and I want more than anything else to see him making progress, learning and thriving.

It seems that autistic children have difficult times in relating to others and in expressing themselves properly. They often have difficulty with self control and in participating in activities with their peers. Sensitivities to food, texture, aroma, sound, crowds and change are fairly common and usually impact greatly on an autistic child. As I speak to my son I try to find out what is going on in his mind and what his wishes, hopes and dreams are. For a parent it is so joyous to see their child get excited about something worthwhile and show their enthusiasm and dedication. Children need to dream and wish for things important to them. Some children have a sad disposition that contributes to a feeling of depression and hopelessness and it is so critical that these children get the necessary medical attention they need because it is not something that should be brushed off as a part of growing up. Too many children are suffering and they must be able to communicate this to a parent or someone they trust so it doesn't get overwhelming for them. If they don't get the help they need they will wind up getting into trouble or worse.

Despite my son's recent difficulties and his situation with being home schooled because his former school could not adequately meet his needs and deal with his meltdowns in the class room he is a great kid with a tremendous potential. He knows that he has to work hard to control his feelings and we try our best to explain this to him without getting him upset. I know in my heart he should be back in school and given a chance to tap into his potential and hopefully turn things around but I do worry for him and wonder when he will find it getting a bit easier so he can go back to an appropriate school setting. I am so emotionally caught up in my son's situation that sometimes I feel like I am not doing all I can to help him. My biggest challenge is getting him back to school and making him realize how he needs to do his part in performing responsibly and with dedication and pride. He also needs to find something healthy to do with other children that will give him a renewed feeling of accomplishment and happiness and will also lead to a positive self esteem and an opportunity to make friendships. 

If I could fulfill my one wish it would be to see my son making strides and once again learning in school and making progress each and every day. I want my son to learn and prosper and find his way so he can do his best and help others as he always wishes to do. My son is empathetic and wishes to ease the burden of others but he first must ease his own. May you always walk with the knowledge that you are never alone, my son. Always remember that your faith in the lord will help you always.    

Edward D. Iannielli III  

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Finding your way

It seems in life there are so many questions to ask as we grow and experience our lives and our daily living and the answers may not always be so evident. We all have to learn from these experiences we encounter and mistakes will be made along the way. That is the only way we will learn and develop as individuals with our own thoughts, ideas, visions, hopes and dreams. I am evolving and growing still even as an adult and that will never change. As we age we should acquire great knowledge and wisdom which we will draw upon as we raise our own children. It seems we learn from the previous generation, our parents and if we are lucky enough we will also learn from the generation preceding them, our grandparents.

Life is a true blessing and a miracle and we should always be grateful for the opportunity and learn to appreciate each and every day. When we are very young we will have no recollection of our infancy or our years as toddlers but as we grow to become young children we will have lasting memories of our parents, our early days of school, our friends, our visits to our grandparents during the holidays and our first time learning to ride a bicycle. It is these experiences that will help shape us, give us insight, help develop our personality and teach us about life.

I have come to realize that loneliness is a very real part of life and we all need to come to terms with it because the reality is we all will feel alone many times in our life no matter how many people we will meet and befriend along the way. It is just the natural order of things and we know that we come into the world alone into a loving family hopefully and we leave this world alone hopefully with our loved ones by our side. We also should realize that we all have an impact on one another and our lives are richer for the many relationships we develop. We become better individuals when we reach out to help others and take the time to listen and be a friend. Friendships are very important and we learn early on how important it is to communicate and reach out to others.
Our formative years are spent in school where we will learn academics and social skills which we will build upon and take with us into our young adulthood. It is our formal schooling which will play a major part in our life as that will help us identify our strengths and weaknesses and provide us with the insight we will need to decide on our educational pursuits outside of high school and our career choices. It is at this time in our life where we will have to make very important choices and take responsibility and we will need to learn about who we are and what we wish to do with our lives. We will certainly need guidance, encouragement, support and understanding as we each navigate this time in our young lives.

We must always remember where we came from and how we got to the place we are and we must always try our best to teach our children and give them all the love, support, encouragement and guidance they will need in their lives so they can feel comfortable and know they are worthy of achieving their hopes and dreams. We all must find our way and if we really try our best and live our lives to be responsible, caring, dedicated and happy individuals then we will find the strength and courage to do so and we will be able to teach our children which is our most important challenge in life.

My wife and I will always strive to teach our son all that we know and to give him our love, encouragement, time and support to help enable him to find his way as that is our most important responsibility in life.

Edward D. Iannielli III

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A birthday milestone, my son and autism

Birthdays are a happy occasion especially for kids because it is a celebration of a special day commemorating their birth and it is a time to share the joy with family and friends of this happy, joyous anniversary. We all like the attention and gifts we receive on our special day and it does not matter if we are children or adults. We feel the specialness of the day and we also thank our parents for the gift of life and the many memories they provided us. I remember when I was a young boy and my family celebrated my birthday and how special I felt. It was nice to have presents, birthday cake, a party and my friends sharing my day with me and my family. The memories of my birthday as a young boy remain with me after all these years and I still smile when I think back to those days.

Today I take great joy in celebrating our son's birthday now that I am a father. I remember the special day when my wife gave birth to our son and how joyous the occasion was and how we felt so blessed. I remember how tiny he was and seeing him cradled in his mother's arms on his very first day of life. Our son is now nearing adolescence and has celebrated many birthdays now which means I am getting older. I live for my son and wish to do all I can with the love and support of my wife to provide our son with all the opportunities he deserves in his life. He has special needs and struggles with autism and has many behavioral difficulties which affects his situation and has disrupted his education and now he awaits placement in an appropriate school setting where he can get along and learn so he can have the opportunity of going to college one day and live his dreams.

I am celebrating a milestone as I will approach the half century mark in a few days and to me it seems that the years and decades have passed by so quickly. The time is fleeting and I still feel young in my mind and not the 50 years that I am now closing in on. I sometimes wonder how the time has passed me by in what seems like the blink of an eye and feel a bit sad because I realize I am aging and have no control over the future. Raising a child we naturally wish to always be there to nurture them and provide them with our love, support and encouragement. When our child is special needs and is on the autistic spectrum it means we wish to always be there for them as they require so much attention and we will be tested and challenged throughout but our love and support will be unwavering and will help us through the tough days we will encounter in raising our child.

As I turn 50 I can't help but think about all the things I need to do to ensure my wife and son will be taken care of in the event my health declines or I am called to leave this earth. We just don't know how long we have to share life with our family and we live and do all we can to provide for our family hoping we will be together for many years to come and live to share and experience our child's milestones in their life. I feel as I get older my days of walking the earth get less and less and I suddenly realize I have lots of planning to do to see that our son will be protected as his needs become greater. I know we wish to support him through college and with all the financial concerns he will face. It seems I need to find a way to not worry and take one day at a time and stay optimistic as I face another year gone by and a new decade of my life. I wish life was not as complicated as it seems. I have always wondered if there was a way we did not have to worry and obsess over things like we do.

I wish we could be assured that everything will turn out OK. As I enter a new chapter in my life I find I am becoming more spiritual and also grateful for all I have been given. I am happy to be married and have a son and I just want to enjoy the days, weeks, months and years together with my family and hope that when it is my time to depart I will have the knowledge and vision that my son will be able to carry on and live a happy and fulfilling life. I have been emotionally affected by my wife and son in my life and by his condition of autism. I have cried on occasion when I felt helpless in providing my son with all the necessary support and guidance he needs. It is not easy raising an autistic child and it seems that at times we will be wondering when and hoping that things will improve over time. As the years go by it seems those feelings still remain and that is why it is my mission in life to see that my son will be provided the same opportunities as kids his age and that he will be encouraged to always do his best and be given the love and support he deserves each and every day.

As I turn 50 I feel a bit uneasy and scared because I know life is fleeting and I will not be here one day and that weighs on me as I have so many concerns for my son and family and that is based on all I have seen and experienced in my life. I lost grand parents and relatives in their mid 60's and my mother who I dearly miss died at the tender age of 50 and we just lost our dad tragically so it is rightly justified how I feel.  I will savor this moment and will live each day with a renewed sense of purpose and know in my heart always that it is my wife and son that I live for and I will always try to do my best to make their lives safe and to make them realize how much I am truly grateful for having them in my life and how much I love them both and will make sure they will always be protected no matter what. So as I approach 50 I will keep a positive and happy outlook and know that my family is always there for me too.

Edward D. Iannielli III