When I write about my son and autism I am trying to portray in my own words what it is that occurs in his mind when he responds to cues, prompting, dialog, greetings, gestures, new situations, common situations, sounds, compliments, disciplinary action and other everyday occurrences. It seems to me that Matthew has a great personality when he wishes to open up and engage himself with others. The question I always come back to is why isn’t he consistent in his approach. There is no pattern to his responses or behavior because it never seems to be consistent. On a good day Matthew will behave well and will not have any real problems and will manage to get through the day with very little distraction. When he is having a difficult day he seems to be very cranky and will be susceptible to having fits and will be more aggressive in his behavior and will be uncooperative. I am not sure what triggers these outbursts but to Matthew it is very real and threatening and he puts his guard up and reacts in ways that are not understood by observers like his teachers or classmates.
When Matthew is having a rough time it can be very frustrating because he does become disruptive and has difficulty focusing and completing his school work and in severe instances he has been dismissed early and my wife or I had to arrange to pick him up. As he is getting used to his new school he seems to be making some progress but is still having his share of difficulty but luckily his teachers are trying their best to help him through these difficulties and keep him in school for the full day. I sense the problem is internal or something within the brain that causes these disconnects. When I see my son he looks like any other kid and on a good day you would never know he was autistic.
I believe that we all are guided by our inner feelings and we operate based on how we perceive things and how we feel about ourselves. Obviously if we feel shy or insecure internally we will not usually go out of our way to talk with new people. If we feel confident and sure of ourselves we can talk with anybody. So I feel a lot of how we react and behave is how we feel about ourselves and how we see ourselves in situations. If we are not comfortable we will not want to experience the moment for too long and will try to avoid it altogether. It is natural to wish to not have to go to school on occasion as I remember when I was a kid I would sometimes wish to stay home but as parents we realize that school is very important and we want our son to enjoy his experiences at school and not have those feelings of wanting to avoid school. Usually if he fights us and does not want to go to school it is usually because a teacher yelled at him or a student is teasing him. In those situations I usually tell Matthew to try his best to behave so the teacher won’t show frustration and have to yell. If a child is teasing him I try to explain to Matthew that he should try to talk to the child and establish a positive dialog to diffuse the situation.
I have seen my son when he is doing well with his dynamic personality and can talk with everyone and hold his own rather well. He enjoys relating with the other kids and has befriended them in those social settings even though it was in that moment in time. One place he seems to have a great time is the play area at the mall outside the movie theatre where we usually go to the movies. When we have some time before the movie he loves to run around and chase after the kids and he even likes being chased by them. I enjoy watching him when he is having a good time and I would like to find opportunities for him where he can participate in healthy and fun activities and make lasting friendships.
Matthew has an inner gift that shines when he is not closed off and he can talk to his heart’s content and be the center of the activity and he likes to reach out and be a part of it all. That is the Matthew I like to see because that is his happy side and the person he is most comfortable with. Why autistic children have different reactions and temperaments in situations is still a mystery to me but I do know that Matthew does have sensitivity to certain things so if those sensitivities are not triggered than it will be favorable for him. If he does have something that disturbs him then he will react and chances are he may rebel and become difficult. We hope as parents that these times become less frequent. We do find that the counseling sessions Matthew attends are supposed to help him get in touch with his feelings and express what bothers him. If we can understand what affects him in positive ways and what affects him in negative ways then maybe we can find ways to try and minimize the negatives so he won’t have such behavioral issues.
As parents of an autistic child we are learning everyday and trying to help our son all the time. By understanding things from his perspective and allowing him to freely express himself and get in touch with his inner self then maybe we can find some answers we are looking for to help him adjust with his autism. We all need to know our inner self so we can be better as a person and live a more fulfilling life. The same can be said with autistic individuals including children. Knowing the inner person is half the challenge.
Edward D. Iannielli III