I try to think back to my early days as a young kid and my memories are tested and I can sometimes remember a little bit and the earliest memories I have is of a 5 year old boy feeling sometimes alone but loved and treated well as I had wonderful parents and at that time 1 younger sister, Kathy; as my baby sister, Joan was not yet born. I enjoyed watching baseball with my mom as I enjoyed viewing the games and hearing the broadcasts on the tv. I also enjoyed playing with my etch a sketch and lite brite games. I was also fond of the color by number sets that my dad would help me with as my dad was quite an artist. I loved riding my bicycle and buying packs of baseball cards. I enjoyed when mom would sing songs to me and I enjoyed watching the vatrolla spin as we listened to fun music of the 60s. I really enjoyed listening to music. I was quite a natural at baseball also and played shortstop and occasionally second base.
The one thing that sticks out however which really affected me all throughout my life was my feelings of insecurity and inability to overcome my shyness as a child. I tended to withdraw quite a bit and as I think about it I exhibited similar characteristics to children on the autistic spectrum. I felt safer when I avoided others and withdrew a lot into my own world. I was never diagnosed as autistic so I can not make that conclusion but I do see the many similarities with autism and shyness. I don’t really know why I suffered so much from it but as I matured and started to feel more comforatable I somehow found a way to manage with my shyness and I am encouraged for my son to be able to do the same when he grows making the transition from childhood to early adulthood.
I had terrible feelings of guilt when I found out my dad committed suicide and this was very traumatic to me and I found myself retreating back to those ways I did as a child and feeling as insecure and shy as I did back when I was a kid. My dad was a strong man who worked very hard in his life and I feel very sad that his life came to such a tragic, violent and sad end. I have felt an incredible pain and sadness about his suicide. I also felt a terrible guilt that I could never really overcome my shyness and insecurities. I always knew I was kind, caring, compassionate and sensitive in my approach to life. My parents provided me with all the love and support I could ever ask for and they were always there for my sisters and I and I feel very blessed for that as I was very fortunate. I only share the pain of being shy here so I can liberate myself from this self imposed isolation I created for myself and remove the burden that weighs on my mind so I can truly heal and reach out to others who live in isolation as I feel we are all human and have frailties and hopefully by my reaching out I can help someone who is going through the same pain and isolation I have.
I am a very introverted person who has a drive to do my best and I feel we are all here to do our best and make the world a little better place with how we touch one another. Life is only temporary and it seems like a big mystery and we are all doing our own things in hope that we accomplish what we had hoped and shared our lives with the special people we care for in hopes of being blessed with the joy of sharing new life and if we are blessed to live long enough and experience all we had hoped then we can appreciate all the memories and special moments of our life before we go to our next journey.
I’ve done some research to see if there is a link between autism and shyness and I have found some major similarities between the two. With shyness it is a condition that causes withdrawal and isolation that becomes an integral part of your life. As a result of our shyness withdrawing provides a safe haven as it is something that is familiar and allows us to not feel overwhelmed. There is no cure for shyness and you can go for all the psychotherapy and prescribed medication to no avail. Shyness is something that we live with for the rest of our life and we hope to accomodate and adapt so we can function and make a life for ourself.
So I can relate my experiences of being shy and know that it is somewhat common and probabaly one of the most crippling of emotional conditions so that is why most who are affected by it live with humility and never really talk or open up. I certainly don’t want to elaborate about what it is like to be painfully shy but I wish to understand the connection between my mind’s hardwiring and my son’s mind’s hardwiring.
My son who is autistic also has issues that he deals with on a daily basis and we are always trying our best to help him and to encourage him. Matthew has difficulty with change and seeks a similar and familiar routine every day. If any one thing is changed he will have a very difficult time and will experience a complete meltdown which can really test your patience and make the day start off on the wrong note. We try to make sure we have a list that Matty follows in the morning that he can feel comfortable with and follow with ease. Once we go through everything on the list and he finishes his breakfast and takes his medicine we make sure he gets on the bus and gets a good start to his day. When he is in school we are always concerned that he will cope well and manage to follow the rules and listen intently in the class and have a good relationship with his teacher and his classmates.
After Matthew completes his school day Maria makes sure he spends the appropriate time to complete his homework assignment and she reads through the teacher’s comments to make sure Matthew managed well in the day. If there were reported incidents of trouble or inappropriate behavior we then make sure we discuss it with him and make him understand that he must follow the teacher’s instruction and make sure he does not repeat the inappropriate behavior or he will be punished and have his priviledges taken away.
After Matthew completes his assignment and if he had a good day in the classroom and was cooperative with doing his assignment then he is rewarded by being given the opportunity of doing what he likes. If it is nice weather and the sun is still out then Maria will take Matthew for a bike ride in the neighborhood or they will go to Eisenhower Park to ride for a while. Matthew loves to ride his bike and it is a great form of exercise for him. When Maria and Matthew return then they sit down to dinner. If I am home from work then we all sit to dinner as a family. If I am working late then Maria will make me a hot plate. The main thing is that Matthew eats a nourishing meal. Matthew does test Maria’s patience though with his fussy eating habits because he tends to eat more frozen foods or fast foods then home cooked meals. This is something we are trying to work on as we are having a hard time getting him to eat well balanced meals and we feel we need to seek the aid of a child nutritionist who can guide us and not just give general advice because we’ve been there and it has not helped.
Once Matthew has finished his dinner he then has some fruit and then is granted computer or tv time. He tends to like going on the computer and he does pretty much the same routine of creating lists and favoriting road signs or cartoon clips. He loves to use word to create his lists and excel to create spreadsheets of his calculations. He also likes to play Rhapsody and create music lists. Another activity he enjoys is putting his lego blocks together and create towers like he used to do with Pop but he senses the loss and really has not done it in a while as it makes him feel sad that Pop is not here to help him. He also likes to work on his puzzle. He keeps himself busy and tends to follow this same regimen day in and day out as this is familiar to him and within his comfort zone.
We then make sure Matthew gets to bed at a reasonable hour so he can wake up early to start the school day. Matthew does have a difficult time in getting ready to sleep as it is quite a struggle to get him to sleep by 9:00 pm which is the desired time as we wish for him to get a good 8-10 hours of restful sleep. He will usually not get to sleep until about 10:30 which is quite late so we have to change our clocks to trick him and make sure the tv is off. This has only worked once or twice as he is too smart for that trick.
I certainly can see Matthew making progress but he is isolated as I was because he is usually by himself and we want him to have friends and get involved in group activities. That is why we are happy he attends day camp because at least there he does get social integration which is so very important. I want Matthew to have more experiences with other kids and hopefully as he matures he will desire to participate more in outside activities but I have my concerns and worries as naturally a dad would for his son. I am a proud father and my wife and I want the best for our son and we want him to be happy and have social connections as that is very important in his development. I wonder if I got him a dog as a companion if that would help him. I certainly wish we could have another child but the age gap is getting wider and my wife and I are not kids anymore.
All I know is our son is a wonderful child and he has his struggles and moments where our patience are tested but we love our son and wish for him to have many wonderful experiences and joys and hopefully meets many friends in his life and enjoys much success. We are preparing him for a new school year and a new school and a new teacher so we have our work cut out for us. I have a couple of vacation days left so we will treat him to a nice couple of days at an amusement park and waterpark and I will certainly make sure we keep him in close range and have a fun time.
Matthew is living his life and he is the center of our lives and we are aware of his situation and we are working with trained professionals to help us so we can help him grow and have wonderful opportunities that he so much deserves.
Edward D. Iannielli III