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

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