The happy side of autism.

I know it seems like the world comes to a crashing halt when you hear your child is diagnosed with autism and it seems your child will have a lifelong sentence of challenges and difficulties.

In more severe forms of autism there are certainly more challenges and major concerns and a lot of emotional pain. With regard to my son’s condition it is a reality we have to deal with and one we accept with no hesitation. We have our days of frustration and feelings of isolation and helpless moments and we are always worried for Matthew for he has other medical conditions that he has to deal with and are on our mind often. We have faith and an abiding love for our son and we rely on our inner strength and prayer and kindness from family, friends, doctors, teachers, administrators, neighbors, coworkers and our employers. We know we have to keep a good perspective and maintain a positive attitude.

As I have come to realize there are 2 sides to every story, I realize also there are 2 ways to look at a diagnosis of Autism/Asperger’s syndrome. In seeing my son develop I realize there are setbacks and difficulties he has and socially he has a lot of ground to cover and he does not show interest in making friends or participating in sports.

Matthew certainly has needs for specialized attention and will probabaly need such attention throughout his school years. I however am learning to look on the bright side of Asperger’s in my son’s case as I realize Matthew does have a gift and is very bright. He has a patience with things that interest him and a complete focus. When I started writing my blog my son always would say “Daddy I want to help you write.” and I would say “Ok, Matty I will find a way to include your ideas in my writing” and I would have him write his words down in his black and white book and then I would add it to my writing in the appropriate way. My son has had an interest in writing since he was a little older than 3 years old and he would always ask us to buy him composition books or as he calls them black and white books so he could write stories that he created with his own characters and his own ideas. I was truly amazed that he had such ideas and was able to clearly write in sentences and in a story format. I remember when he was 2 1/2 years old and in early intervention he could barely speak and it was the special needs instructors and my wife who read stories to him and encouraged him to learn to speak and sing with an audio recorder and form sentences and even write. It was at this time he would like to express himself and the composition books were good as he would sit and write and express his feelings. We were making great progress and I was starting to see the bright side of Asperger’s as we realized Matthew was able to express himself and was also very good with word selection and spelling. He also wrote with a maturity and focused on all his characters in his stories.

Matthew always seeks approval and is such a kind and empathetic child and whenever he see’s me on the computer working on a tax return or paying bills or updating my quicken or writing a letter or adding to my blog he always wants to help me and I get a kick out of it and obviously I have to take him up on his offer as I always wish to teach him and encourage him. So after Matthew’s interest in wanting to participate and contribute I decided I would create a blog devoted for him to write about his experiences and his stories. It is his forum and I monitor it and I feel it is beneficial for him and encourages him to write and express himself as that is all we ask for is the right to be heard and express ourselves. I think it is great and I will provide Matthew with assistance with proofreading but the ideas are his and I could not be any prouder as I am so delighted that he has such an interest and more that he enjoys it. I will never pressure him to write and allow him to write as he feels necessary.

His main focus now is preparing for a new school year and getting used to a new school. His homework assignments take precedence but he can earn rewards for his conscientious work and improved behavior by having time to write in his blog. When I was a kid I never thought about writing but with the advent of computers and the internet things seem so much easier and kids are exposed to so much more today. When I was a kid and had to do research I had to go to the index section of the Encyclopedia Britanica or the New Book of Knowledge. When Matthew wants to research something all he has to do is “google” it. Things certainly have changed since I was a kid. Matthew is the beneficiary of such change and so are we because we get to witness his progress.

He was also encouraged to tell stories from a book written primarily for autistic children called Social stories written by Carol Gray to teach proper behavior in story format geared for Asperger’s kids. This was recommended by Pat Schissel who is very well respected in the Autism community and has invited us to many functions on autism and introduced us to going to support group meetings and also introduced us to the Cody Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities at Stony Brook University.

We have been fortunate to meet kind and caring people and are making sure Matthew’s medical needs are being addressed and we are encouraged that Matthew is showing signs of healthy progress and certainly are proud of his abilities and interests he has and we need to learn to channel them in the right direction to benefit him and help him grow and develop. We also need to find ways to help him socially as we have been lucky with his camp program.

As I am able to look on the bright side I realize there are definitely some great aspects to Matthew’s diagnosis and if we can learn to guide him and have him focus on these strengths with the help of the school and the teachers then I will feel Matthew will be on track for a bright future and much success as this is want we want most for him in addition to good health, happiness, friends and knowing that he is loved and always will be loved by his mommy and daddy.

Edward D. Iannielli III

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