Life Lessons: A son’s insight into life

Did you ever wonder why it seems our children seem to know a lot more today than we did as kids “yesterday”? I see my son as a lot more mature for his age than I was way back when. It has to be that way because our kids are exposed to so much more today and at such a younger age. Take for instance the computer. I first learned to use a computer in my 2nd year of college while my son started using a PC in preschool and uses it regularly at home. I am so amazed at how much he has learned in his first decade of life and how he has a hunger to learn and question things. I am happy that he has the need and desire to learn and understand. Matty also surprises me with his philosophical view of life. He seems years ahead with his ideas and wishes. He is a very sensitive boy with vision and concern for the world to be a better place. Matty was only 3 months shy of 3 years old when the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 occurred and he was very aware of the disturbing images and he cried and asked us how 2 big aircraft could hit a city building in the same day within 20 or so minutes of each other and why it happened? I was trying to comprehend the shocking reality myself of what happened and I could not answer my son’s inquisitive question as I was disturbed and puzzled by what happened that fateful day.

This event in our lives has caused a lot of anguish and I know personally it has affected my thinking and made me realize the brutal nature of some people who live to terrify others. My son also has been affected by it and he has a feeling that there is so much uncertainty and hatred in our world. He represses the reality and blocks the events that happened that fateful day to envision a more peaceful and happier place. I just feel sad that our kids have to be exposed to such nightmarish realities. We try our best to shield our kids from such awful happenings but it is not so easy and the damage has already been done and the images that play over year after year only reinforces the horror of that awful day and the tragedy of such a horrific event. I will never understand the “why this happened?” to explain to my son but I know it is important to let my son express his feelings and ask these tough questions when they are on his mind. I have to understand that kids are very perceptive and they formulate their own ideas and opinions and it is very important that they be heard and talk their feelings out. As responsible parents we should never discount our children’s feelings.

I am quite impressed with my son’s love of helping others and wanting to make life better for those who need a helping hand. Matty has a good heart and he always wants to do his part and be there to help. I love this part of my son’s personality and I believe he will do fine things in his life because he truly understands that there are a lot of people hurting and he wants to end the hurt and make people feel better. Maybe Matty may wish to help in humanitarian relief efforts one day. He also was deeply affected when he learned of the pain and suffering the poor people in Haiti are going through as a result of the devastating earthquake. He feels empathy for these people and he truly cares. I also have wanted to help the needy in my own small way but I never feel I am doing enough. My obvious main concern is providing for my family and teaching my son to have faith and confidence and to always utilize his God given skills and always put forth his best effort.

Maria and I feel truly blessed by having Matthew in our lives and he has such a way about him that we just feel so happy and complete. Our lives are so much more meaningful and full of purpose and although we are not perfect we certainly wish our son could be. I know that is every parent’s wish but the reality is we will fore go perfection and wish for our son to have good health, happiness and a life full of meaning, accomplishment and friendships. Matthew has a wonderful insight into life and being a kid and wanting everything to be perfect. He has the right ideas and I am amazed at how he loves to write and express himself and we encourage this of him because it is wonderful when you can express your feelings and connect with others. Matthew certainly has a wonderful ideal of what life should be like and he has a special quality of being such a good kid who has a youthful innocence and a wonderful way about himself. Thank you Matthew for teaching us and showing us what is most important in life. Your courage and your compassion shine and we are so privileged to be a part of your life and are so joyous that you are a part of our lives. May God always bless you and protect you.

Edward D. Iannielli III

Life Lessons: A father’s insight into autism

I could never have imagined I would do as much research and learn as much about autism or have envisioned that I would even have a page that centers around it. How could I know? If my son was not diagnosed with Asperger’s I would probably know of Autism but would not feel so connected to it as I do. I truly believe there is a reason for everything and by having a son with autism and epilepsy it makes me realize how I need to learn and research about it quite regularly. It seems that autism is becoming more and more prevalent and it seems quite a mystery as to why this is. I as a father know I would do anything for my son to help him and provide him the proper medical attention required in dealing with all his needs. I am very concerned for my son’s future and his continued development. We have to always make sure Matty is challenged and continues to make progress. I know he will have challenges like most everyone but as an autistic child with epilepsy the challenges can be life threatening and that is my biggest concern for him. We need to make sure he is protected and all consideration be given to his future. It is always a parent’s hope that their child will grow up to face the world and have a smooth transition into adulthood. My goal for my son is that he also have a smooth transition into early adulthood and that he gets a complete college education and he does well in all his pursuits and that he can have his conditions controlled with the proper medication so he can have a relatively normal life.

As a young adult working after facing family tragedy with the loss of my mother at a relatively young age I had to deal with emotional struggles and with seeing my dad have his share of struggles and times of loneliness. It was a very difficult period in my life dealing with all the sadness and emotional pain. I found myself on many occasions in the bookstore in the self help and motivational section and would look for books of inspiration to read and to try to learn from. There was one book I remember particularly as it stands out in my mind and it was written from a young Australian woman’s perspective. The title of the book was Nobody, Nowhere and the author of the book was Donna Williams. The author was writing about her experiences as a young child and how she felt so isolated and alone and had difficulties on a regular basis because she suffered from a severe diagnosis of autism. Now that I think back to reading the book I find it prophetic that I found interest in reading the book and realize that was my first introduction to the world of autism. I believe God wanted me to learn about it and that is why he had me take an interest in reading Donna’s story. In reading her book I was very compelled by her story and felt great sympathy towards her and realized the severity of autism. The happy part of Donna’s story was that despite all her personal struggles as a young girl she managed to grow up and go on to college and become a successful writer and a teacher. She is truly an inspiration and I have a lot of hope for my son who is considered high functioning on the autistic spectrum.

In seeing my son grow into his preteen years I see he has an appetite for reading and is very intelligent and it is wonderful seeing him develop and grow and express his interests. It is a joy seeing that he enjoys reading and learning. Matthew has many interests and he is also my inspiration and I am very protective of him and want everything to work out OK for him because he is such a wonderful kid and Maria and I love him so very much. It is very scary when Matty has an epileptic seizure and he has no control over them. It is very distressing and all we can hope for is that he is always in a safe place when they occur and that the medication he takes for them helps to combat them and allows him to carry on in his normal everyday life. We also hope that as he grows and matures that he can overcome the seizures. Life is so precious and we want our son to be as protected as he can. We need to learn to be positive and always learn to have faith and hope and trust in our son. As a young man we trust he will experience success and happiness and learn the skills he needs to mature and take on responsibility and to express himself and develop meaningful relationships and friendships.

I have learned as a child from my parents, my teachers, my friends and my experiences. I have learned as a young man from my parents, my teachers, my friends and my experiences. I continue to learn everyday and as I get older and I am also realizing that I am learning a lot from my son who inspires me everyday and gives me hope and makes me smile. I love Matthew with all my heart and Maria and I realize how important our role is in helping him. We always need to reassure him and give him the love and nurturing and proper guidance he needs so he can face all his challenges and rise above them. He has a family that loves him and teachers who also love him and care for him and he is now starting to develop friendships and learning valuable life lessons as am I, Matthew’s proud father.

Edward D. Iannielli III

Life Lessons: Autism and friendships

We all need to feel acceptance and develop lasting friendships with others so we can find happiness and develop naturally and experience joy, laughter, bonding, sharing, working together and finding out what we like and dislike. Our lives would feel incomplete if we did not have friendships and social interaction. For most kids growing up the ability to make friendships and develop interests seems natural and is relatively an easy undertaking. For others it is not so easy and certainly can lead to periods of isolation and frustration. Throughout our childhood we are gradually eased into life situations and our first venture into the real world is when we start our school days and that is a very important and exciting time in our life as we learn and mature and experience a great deal during those years. We learn responsibility at this time in our young lives because we need to always complete our assignments, study for scheduled tests and be prepared for unannounced quizzes. We also need to conduct ourselves in a mature fashion and respect our teachers and our fellow classmates.

In going to school we are certainly in situations that enable us to learn how to communicate with others and develop friendships. Most children are able to conduct themselves in a mature way and behave in an appropriate manner. In dealing with autistic children it is not always so clear cut but it is well established that autistic children do have difficulties in social situations and in self expression. The autistic child is a child with so much potential and so much promise and it is so important to provide them with support and encouragement. I feel that our son who has had his fair share of struggles with dealing with his autism and epilepsy has made strides and still needs to continue to make progress. We encourage him and give him support and guidance and are now being more proactive in arranging play dates for him. He needs to have contact with classmates outside of school so he can develop friendships and learn how to interact and consider others feelings also.

I would love to teach Matthew how to learn to appreciate life and to do as much as his heart desires because life is special and we don’t know how long we have so we must try to make each and every day a day of great joy and happiness. In relating to others we need to develop interests in many areas so we can have more opportunities and have more contact with other children. I was very shy as a young kid but I had a love for the game of baseball and I was good at it. This was my way of proving myself and it made it easier for me to make friends because I could contribute to my team’s success and earn respect from my peers. This is so important and this is something I speak to Matthew about so he understands that it is important to find something of interest to him that also provides him the opportunity of meeting other children around his age. I have taken him to open bowling where he has the opportunity of participating with other autistic children and learns to play with other kids and await his turn. He looks forward to bowling and I believe he has fun and enjoys the company of other children.

Usually Matthew is home alone with grandma after school so on the weekends when I am available I try to do things with him and get him out of the house. He does not know any kids his age in the neighborhood and to have contact with classmates it has to be arranged with his teachers, us and the parents of his classmates for play dates. We wish for him to have more play dates so he can have more social contact and develop good friendships. When Matthew is alone on the weekend I try to take him out for the day when I am available and we usually go to the movies in the winter and to baseball games, the beach, the pool or amusement parks in the summer. I wish I could do more for my son and sometimes I feel like I am letting him down. I want to always be there for him and to help him and to listen to him and let him know that he is the centerpiece of our life and he is what makes life so good. We always derive great joy from our children and feel like we can always do more for them. I am a working professional and have work and financial responsibilities so I am usually not able to do things with my son during the work week. That is why spending time with him on the weekend is very important.

The ability to make friendships is a wonderful quality and when we learn to love and respect ourselves we then can have the pleasure of making friends and for all children no matter what their backgrounds are they all should be given that opportunity to make a friend. For our lives become more fulfilling and richer when we have friends. An autistic child deserves friends too! When I learned my son had a play date and he had a fun time with his classmate I was so happy for Matthew and his friend. It was so wonderful to hear Matthew speak of the fun day he had and it made me feel so emotional because I know how alone he is and when he spoke with so much excitement about his new friend it made me cry tears of joy for him and I was so happy. That a boy Matthew!

With Love and Joy

Mommy and Daddy

Edward D. Iannielli III

Life Lessons: Learning from my autistic son

If I could speak in front of an audience about how I have learned a lot about life from my autistic son I would welcome it with open arms and I would not have any stage fright at all because the love I have for my son is abundant and it is everlasting and the things I learned from my son have made me a better person. My son helps me get through difficult days and helps me manage a smile each and every day. It is my son who gives me strength and courage and allows me to do my very best because I want to provide a good example and teach my son all that my mom and dad taught me about being responsible, dedicated and respectful. It is with great joy and honor I talk of my son and share how life is so much more meaningful and pleasant with both my wife and son in my life. There is a very special quality about Matthew that I have grown to see and experience and am so proud of him in how he is developing. He has some challenges in his life but he does not seem to be deterred by them. In fact he seems to go about his life as if everything is fine. Occasionally he will have a difficult day and react in a way that is not appropriate but for the most part he is a very happy kid and he has a heart and spirit that truly inspires.

I owe a lot to my son who has inspired me to write and create a page devoted to Autism so I can reach out to him, my family and all who are affected in some way by it. I believe that he has an internal drive that will enable him to get through his challenges and make him stronger and wiser. He certainly has a maturity and a presence about himself that is quite remarkable and I feel very confident in his abilities and his coping skills. I know at times he can get easily frustrated and I find that is not an uncommon feeling for most of us. I find that it is easy to get frustrated but hopefully as we get older we know that we should not let our emotions control how we should act and behave. We all have to go through the growing pains of maturing and controlling our emotions, thoughts and desires.

The importance of fatherhood is bonding with your child and I have bonded with my son since day one. It is a wonder and a dream for me having a son. Matthew is such a wonderful kid and I always feel emotion when I talk of him. I have very legitimate concerns for my son as I know epilepsy and autism have such a hold on him and he has to take medication but he still lives his life as a free spirit and I know in my heart that he truly understands his situation and he takes it in stride and tries to not let it control him. I find this a very admirable trait and it just inspires me to get past my own insecurities. I feel that God presents us with challenges because he knows we can handle them and it helps us become stronger and helps us in developing confidence and provides us with a level of maturity which is essential today. Matthew may look at the world a little differently than most kids his age but his youthful spirit and innocence is what makes knowing him a privilege and a joy.

It is a nice feeling when you make a positive impression and you have the ability to open up and express how you feel to others. The key for most autistic children is their socialization skills and their ability to express themselves through interaction and communication. My wish for my son is that he overcomes his challenges posed by autism and that his inner spirit helps guide him and gives him hope and desire to always face those challenges. I also ask that he is blessed with a strength and courage that will always help him get through difficult days. I wish for my son to also develop social skills that will take him anywhere in his life and help him achieve his goals and help him in developing many friends throughout the years.

I know from my own experiences in growing up how life can sometimes be intimidating and we have periods where we feel alone and have many uncertainties. As I see my son deal with his challenges and knowing that he has had seizures and has had autistic meltdowns and despite it all he seems to come through them and continue with his daily life and not let it get in his way of living his life. To me this is the ultimate test of bravery and I am such a proud father. I would speak about my son and his tremendous spirit any time and any day and in a gathering of close family and friends or a major auditorium of thousands because it makes me realize how special my son is and how much I love him.

Edward D. Iannielli III

Life Lessons: Autism and the questions we face as parents

It’s a joyous moment for the new parents when they see their baby for the first time. We all know this feeling as parents when we saw our precious baby delivered and placed in the mother’s arms. It is one of the precious miracles of life that we cherish. As new parents we are learning for the first time all the needs of our baby and we are regularly in touch with the pediatrician at this time in our young baby’s life. In the first few months after birth the mother is very attentive to her baby and is adapting to the schedule for feedings and changes. The first year of development is a very important time and it is imperative that the parents adhere to the schedules for immunizations and baby weigh ins. We also need to inform the pediatrician of things that we may be concerned about such as delayed reactions to sound and light. As a young parent you should never take any thing for granted when it comes to developmental delays. You will find that the sooner you identify these delays the better able you will be in helping your child later on if the delays continue.

I remember when Maria was home with Matthew for the first 2 years she was starting to worry that Matthew was not responsive to her voice and he was not able to connect with her with his eyes. This was a big worry and when we finally discussed it with his pediatrician it was determined that he should have his ears tested. Upon bringing him to an Ear, Eye and Throat specialist for children it was determined that he had fluid in his ears and he needed tubes to drain the fluids. This explained why he was not responsive to her voice. Upon successful surgery we noticed almost immediately that he was now becoming responsive to sound and we were very encouraged. Maria was delighted when she said Matthew’s name and he finally responded to her voice. She felt such relief and I was happy that he was fine with his hearing. There are so many fears new parents go through when they realize their child is encountering difficulties and so many things run through your mind.

As Matthew entered his toddler years we still noticed that he was not making eye contact but his hearing was fine. In reaching out to his pediatrician we decided it was necessary to avail ourselves of the early intervention program as she recommended it. We were very fortunate that we did and that he was approved for it because it made a big difference in his life as he was entitled to all the state funded therapies that helped him with speech and physical development. It is a very emotional time as a parent when you start to realize your child is encountering difficulties and it is very important to act quickly in addressing these concerns because with a young child you can’t afford to let too much time go by. The earlier you start therapies for an autistic child the better chance the child will have in overcoming some of the challenges posed by autism.

The questions that went through our minds when we noticed Matthew was having difficulties were continuous and with great concern. At one point we questioned if he may be deaf. Another time we questioned if he was unable to speak. We just were burdened with all these questions and we were worried for our son and wanted to do all we could to help him and get him the support he needs. It is every parent’s wish to do all they can to help their child and Maria and I were no different. We wanted to get all the best help we could for our son. We are very thankful for all the speech therapists and occupational therapists that have come into Matthew’s life to help him. We are grateful for all the doctor’s that contributed to his improvements along the way and his pediatrician who he still goes to as an 11 year old.

For all the parents of young babies who are worried because they are noticing developmental delays with them the best advice I can offer from my own personal experiences is that you should be proactive if you feel that the child is delayed with speech or response to sound or movement. Do not pass it off. You need to speak to a doctor immediately if you are noticing delays even at 18 months old. The younger you report these delays the better it will be for your child in getting the proper services they may require. Never be intimidated. You need to let the system work for you and your child and believe me when I say you will feel much better when you see your child making progress.

As my son is now in middle school and is now a very mature 11 year old we have been riding a roller coaster ride all throughout his young life with his autism and epilepsy diagnosis and we take one day at a time and see that he takes his medication, does his homework and lives his life as any other kid does and we address his needs and wishes and provide him all the love and nurturing he needs and we listen to him and let him express himself and most of all we let him enjoy the things he has interest in and we try with all our best efforts to continually get him the necessary medical and social support he needs because he will have his good days and his not so good days and we just want him to know that we will always be there for him because we love him.

Edward D. Iannielli III

Life Lessons: The financial challenges of raising an autistic child

It is without question that raising a child today is a major undertaking and we look upon it as something we feel privileged to do and we welcome it with open arms. The reality though is we have to make sure we are prepared for raising a child because it requires our complete attention and devotion. We also need to be aware of the financial implications in raising a child from the most joyous day of their birth through the time of their college graduation. It is something we know we need to be aware of but most of us live in the moment and confront these matters when we encounter them. We do have to plan and try and save for our children’s future because the costs are only increasing and medical costs alone are skyrocketing as well as the cost of education.

When you bring a child into the world you expect everything to be perfect but obviously this is sometimes just a dream as we are confronted with the reality that not everything is perfect. We never get discouraged though because we feel the love for our child and we realize our love is strong and gets stronger each and every day. When we learn that our child is considered special needs we are confronted with many feelings and are uncertain about what we need to do. We therefore need to reach out and speak with doctors, therapists and professionals who know best. It is very important to know there are answers to our questions and there are choices for us to make. One of the most important things we will need to consider for our special needs child is the early intervention program and the necessary therapies they need to help them. For autistic children speech therapy is very important as well as occupational therapy and direct one on one interaction. Music and playtime is fundamental in a young autistic child’s development.

As the years go by and your little baby becomes a toddler and now a student in school you will need to make sure your autistic child is provided with the proper support and understanding as they progress during their schooling years. You will always need to be proactive and seek the proper therapies and teaching surroundings. A major area of development an autistic child needs continued concentration with is in socialization and behavioral development. It is sometimes frustrating as working parents that we can not always provide our son with everything he needs. As a young kid growing up it is very important that he has friends visit so he can have positive interaction and a basis for building a friendship. The reality is we are not home to provide the proper supervision for play dates because of our need in making a living. It seems so much more difficult for young children to have play dates with two working parents. We can not leave that responsibility to grandma as she has her hands full in watching our son and we can not ask her to be responsible for watching other children.

As our son’s needs become more pronounced the financial costs also become more pronounced as well and we have been inundated with medical bills throughout the years given our son’s condition of autism and epilepsy. It can be a very serious issue and we are always working with the doctors and medical facilities to work out a payment arrangement but we feel that the insurance companies should be more helpful and not pass these burdens unto us as we have so many other financial concerns and it seems very unfair and very stressful. We try to provide our son with the best we can but when insurance does not always cover his medical needs and therapies we are forced to scale back on some of his therapies and we feel very guilty but unfortunately we don’t have the financial resources to pay for everything. We need to send our son to a special camp every summer so he can have a fun summer and positive interaction with other autistic children and we have been providing this to him out of pocket for the last 6 years since he was 5 years old and it costs between 5-6 k per summer which is one of the things I proudly do for him and wish I could do more for him.

I know when you bring a child into the world you are completely responsible for them and I welcome my responsibility as a concerned and loving parent. My biggest concern though in raising an autistic child is the financial costs involved in providing him with all of his medical needs. The fact that we are largely responsible for covering our son’s medical needs and the large insurance companies that have deep pockets don’t want to cover most of these kids needs seems very unfair and irresponsible. There are many middle class families who are struggling today with autistic or other special needs children to raise and it seem very unfair that the burdens rest mainly with us in providing the proper care for our children.

I make the promise to my son that I will do all I can to help him and give him the proper education he deserves and will make sure he gets all his essential medical and therapeutic needs because my son means everything to me and I will do whatever it takes to help him. My wife and I love our son with all our heart.

Edward D. Iannielli III

The incredible gift of speaking from your heart.

I have been a very emotional person all throughout my life and always felt that we should always consider others feelings and to never discount them as we always wish to be considered and heard and respected and we should always respect others and treat them well. Occasionally we will have misunderstandings but I would never do anything to hurt or make one upset. I have always tried to be agreeable, polite and respectful in all my dealings with people. I believe life is complicated enough and we all should reach out and try to work together with others and do our best. I certainly wish I could do more in my life and certainly would love to but I feel limited at times in what I can do to make the world a better place because we have our own family responsibilities and financial commitments which can cause stress in our everyday lives. I was always taught by my parents that we need to help ourselves out first before we can help others. Charity always begins at home. Once we have made successful efforts in dealing with all our financial commitments and family needs then we should consider in some way reaching out and helping others.

Having an autistic son gives me a great deal of challenges as my love for my son is limitless. I would do anything for my son to help him and provide him the guidance, love and support he needs. He is super sensitive and easily gets upset and very frustrated and I need to help him overcome these difficulties so he can enjoy his life and feel like he belongs. It has always been my wish to help him develop his sense of self and to feel confident and happy. It is not always easy to teach confidence as we all have to learn through experiences and sometimes disappointments. Children all start out pretty much the same with a clean slate and as they grow they will develop certain skills at different ages and some kids will develop faster than others and will seemingly learn to interact and establish friendships. Once a child learns love of self and acceptance by others and they learn how to accept then they start to learn the lessons of life and friendships.

In learning about my son I have realized that he is very compassionate and wishes to always help someone whether it is his mommy in the kitchen making dinner or grandma washing clothes or daddy working on the computer or a little baby or a kid crying at the mall. He has a kind and caring heart and he wishes to do his part and wants to belong and feel like he is helping. Matty is almost a teenager and he seems very mature for his age and is considered very intelligent by all who meet him as we always recognized this in him as has his teachers. The one area that he needs intensive help and support is in socialization. He needs to feel comfortable and happy and like he belongs. When we go out to the movies where there is a play area he seems at home and loves to play with the kids and run around and establish a bond. He will seemingly have a fun time and all the kids he bonds with seem to enjoy his company and they all run after him and love to have Matty’s attention.

I have always felt a connection to my son and my wife and feel very committed to helping him and I am also a sensitive and compassionate person and have dealt with shyness and certainly know what it can be like to feel alone at times. Therefore it is my desire, hope and goal to always be a big part of my son’s life and give him my complete attention and love and the best support system I can to help him make strides in his life. I also need to let him learn on his own as part of growing up is learning for yourself because I can never guarantee that I can always be there but I will always try my best to be there. I have learned a lot about life and growing up and feeling both happy and sad. When we grow we have to deal with a lot of things in life and sometimes they can affect us and we have to sometimes learn to distance ourselves from our feelings and try to come to terms with the sad things in our lives. It is the struggles we encounter that make us stronger but also make us realize we are human and do have feelings.

As a parent of a special needs child I have come to learn how a child can touch your heart and soul and my son has certainly touched Maria’s and my life and I am so very blessed by God to have Matty in our lives. I speak from my heart glowingly about my son because he has taught me so much about love and life and courage and true spirit and compassion. Matty has taught me more about life than I can ever imagine and by learning from both my parents and my son I can truly say they have made me a better person and have taught me what love truly is all about. I thank both my parents, my wife and my son for this and God for blessing me with Maria, Matty and wonderful parents and of course my mother-in-law.

Edward D. Iannielli III