To explain to my son.

As a father I have learned that raising a child requires a great deal of understanding, empathy, insight, courage, love, compassion, and a total devotion. I realize that my son is growing and experiencing new things everyday and is experiencing some difficulties as can be expected. We have also been through family tragedy which has affected us in a way that has taken time to understand and cope with. I have tried on occasion to ask my son about his feelings on Pop and not seeing him and all the fun times we shared with him. This has been one of the hardest things I had to talk about with Matthew and I sometimes don’t really know how you talk to a child about such a thing. To explain death is hard enough but to discuss suicide is a whole other matter and I am still trying to understand it myself. I have a love for my dad that is very strong and I understand his pain, so deep down I can sympathise with him for this pain and isolation he felt and why he succumbed to his feelings. I however can not explain it to my son and he feels that Pop is just travelling and resting. He does not accept that he is gone. He also does not like to hear about death which I certainly can understand as this is very traumatic for a child and for an autistic child it is far more traumatic and can affect them in a way that can be life altering so we must allow him to deal with this in his own way and really not discuss it as he gets very upset.

We have had similar reactions for the September 11th tragedy as Matthew was a toddler when that tragic event took place and he had seen the brutal images of the planes crashing into the towers and seeing them come down in news broadcasts over the years and those are very frightening images. I also have a very difficult time discussing this with him and his reaction is similar as he says that it never happened and it was just a movie and the towers still stand. I know the reality but I will let my son think the way he wishes on this since I am very concerned for his mental well being. I do however try to explain to him that we live in a world where we have to be very careful and unfortunately we can not be so trusting. It is a very sad reality and it makes us realize that there is a lot of pain and suffering and we can not always shield our children from this.

I have seen such sadness in the eyes of young children from news reports and commercials addressing the problems of starvation and poverty in the world and in our own country. It’s enough to make you cry and feel that we should be doing something to help but we are trying to survive ourselves as the world we live in is so competitive and it seems difficult enough just trying to make a living. The times we live in are so stressful and is leading to crisis, breakdowns, depression and distrust in all that we were led to believe. We are losing trust in the people we vote into office and feel we will pay the price as will our children and their children. It is a very dire situation and it seems that we will feel the effects for quite some time.

So as parents my wife and I try our best to talk to Matthew and help him in dealing with the difficulties he encounters. We have him on medication and visiting with a psychologist and a psychiatrist. For me it seems he’s a bit young for all of this but I feel we need to help him and the most important thing in understanding an autistic child is trying to let them know that they should discuss their feelings and communicate so we as parents can help him. We are certainly encouraged by his progress and intelligence. We know that socially and emotionally he needs to grow and experience more so he can improve in these areas and that is the main reason we are seeking counselling treatment for him.

I remember having discussions with my parents as a child and I had their trust and they had my trust and that is what I am letting Matthew know is that he can talk with us any time and we will always be there to help him. I would do anything to help my son as he is the shining beacon in our life and he gives me the strength to face another day.

Edward D. Iannielli III

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