In understanding autism and how it affects our son there are many questions we do not have answers to but the one thing I know is that my son is like any other child growing up and going to school. He wants to do his best at school and we know that. The one thing I hear my son say over and over again is a question he poses as he gets frustrated and that is the following: “Why is it that my brain makes me do bad things?” and “I sometimes wish I could get a new brain!” When I hear him say this I am quite alarmed by it and the first thing I say to him is that he is fine and there is nothing wrong with his brain. I also express to him that we all experience frustration and we try to deal with it in a way so it doesn’t bother us as much. I tell him to be easy on himself and not get so upset about things. Matthew is very bright and is very high functioning but he has a great deal of trouble in social settings and he tends to be uneasy and not comfortable. The littlest of things can set him off and he can go into a tantrum that will easily cause him distress and upset. We always try to minimize the stresses that can cause him to have tantrums.
Autistic children do seek comfort in continuity and repetition. Matthew always functions better when he is in a familiar setting and where he can do something he enjoys. At home he is very comfortable because he can settle into his normal routine and find comfort in that. When he is in a setting that is foreign to him that is when he has much more difficulty. It seems he has to be gradually eased into new things and if he finds it is something he likes then over time he will adapt well and then it will become second nature to him.
My wife and I also know that to learn how to deal with our son’s tantrums and epileptic seizures as part of his autism we have to educate ourselves and attend support group meetings so we can hear from other people who have autistic children and learn from their experiences. We have met wonderful people who have shared their personal experiences and we have learned that we are not alone and we have been encouraged and feel hopeful. We realize that our concerns and fears for our son will always be part of our lives but if we can find some glimmer of hope for our son by listening to others who have similar situations and have found success in helping their child we can at least find a middle ground where we can also do the same for our son and this will help us in helping him. When we can support our son and guide him and help him through his difficult moments and get him on the right track then we will be able to feel like we are getting our son the help he needs so he can make the progress he needs to as he advances in school.
Now when we go to support group meetings I try to speak and relate our experiences as my wife listens. I tend to speak from the heart and show my emotion as my son’s well being is uppermost in my mind. I feel we certainly can help others by revealing our own experiences with Matthew’s setbacks as a result of autism and the successes he has made as well. By being involved and committed to our son’s progress we are making it our life’s mission to help our son lead as normal a life as he can and to foster his self confidence and self esteem. We are working to be the best we can in raising him, teaching him, learning from him and guiding him through the bumpy road of autism and being the best parents we can so Matthew can have a life full of opportunity and happiness. Our son deserves that!
Edward D. Iannielli III