Autism – To behold a child’s potential

As a child I remember an ad that was very powerful to me and was very important in its message and I feel it is very relevant today as it was when I first saw and heard it as a young kid in the early 1970’s. The ad of course is “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” and it was established for use by the United Negro College Fund and it has been very instrumental in raising funds for scholarships for minority students and has been very successful in its mission. I always felt that it was a remarkable thing to bring out your best in everything you did or tried to do and by having that as your way of approaching life and the many challenges and opportunities along the way it would make you far better off as a person and in the way you approach life.

I also know growing up the uncertainties and feelings of awkwardness we all feel as we embark on our journey through school and our educational pursuits. It is our first introduction to what life is all about and we are encouraged from day one to do our best and to follow our teachers instruction and to learn to behave and make friendships throughout our school years. As we grow and learn and assimilate in the classroom we start to develop our sense of ourselves and our capabilities and we are encouraged by our teachers and our parents to bring out our best. School is a wonderful opportunity for us all to learn and explore and to grow and achieve and to set goals.

I have come to understand that we all are worthy of the opportunity to succeed and do our very best and to all have the encouragement and guidance we deserve. As a father of an autistic child I also know how important it is to find the appropriate setting for your child so they can learn and thrive. Not all kids are the same so the school officials and administrators need to have flexibility in there approach to educating all their students because we are experiencing a lot more challenges with school age children and one such challenge that has been increasing in alarming rates is autism. The schools need to find adequate resources and special needs educators to meet the demands and needs of an autistic child. Autism is more and more reported in the news today because of its rise and the fact that there is no real understanding as to why it is so prevalent. The primary concern of educators today is the proper treatment and educating of all students despite their backgrounds or limitations.

I feel as a concerned parent that our child and every child needs to be nurtured and given the proper attention and encouragement so they can learn and thrive in the classroom. It is imperative that they be accepted and given the opportunity to learn and grow and express themselves as individuals. Autistic children are very special in how they perceive things and see the world. If I could step into my son’s shoes to see what he sees and feel so I could better understand him I certainly would but that obviously is not possible so the best I can do is to let him know how much I love and care for him and let him know that I am here for him now and as long as I will be here on this earth. My wife and I always reach out to him and let him know this. I say I love you to him every day and he sometimes says to me “Dad, I know this already! Why do you have to say it all the time!” After I laugh when he says this I tell him that I say it because I want him to know how much I love him and am just so happy to be here with him to be able to say it. I tell him I want to be saying it to him and Maria for a really long time! He then says to me that I am so sappy and then I laugh again and tell him he will understand someday when he has a kid.

The one thing I realize when I see my son and interact with him is his enormous capability. I always felt Matthew was very bright and has so much potential. I know every parent feels this way about their child and I completely understand this. In knowing my son I realize he does operate differently than most kids as he does not like to be singled out for a good thing or to be praised. He like to just blend in with the others but the truth is Matthew does have an enormous potential that I have recognized and so has his teachers and family and friends. I feel it is important to reach him and try to allow him to understand that it is important to tap into his potential and strive to do his best in all he does and tries. I as a child was shy and had a difficult time relating so I kind of hid and did not always allow myself to express myself. I did well in school but I was never eager to participate. I pretty much remained quiet but always had my assignments completed successfully. Maria and I instill in our son how important school is and how he should always have his assignments completed satisfactorily and try as best he can to participate and be heard. We want him to tap into his potential and bring it out and be a shining star.

To strive and do your best is a good thing and along the way it is certainly understood that struggles and obstacles are certain but if you dig deep and hold on to faith and trust in yourself to rise above them and to complete your schooling and your goals you will feel so much more complete as a person and will find self respect and happiness. This is what we all try to find in life and this is what I want our son to realize in his life so he can unleash his potential and experience success and happiness and not be weighed down by autism. It is important to behold your inner potential and tap into it for your inner fulfillment and individual expression.

Edward D. Iannielli III

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