Autism and mentoring


It is always nice to have time to spend with our children. It is difficult during the week so that leaves the weekend. I have been meaning to get my son involved in social activities on the weekends to help him in expanding his social development and in enabling him to make friends. It seems that it is not as easy to do and everything comes with a price tag. I realize he needs to have that and I wish to provide it for him. We toss around ideas for him like the boy scouts or martial arts or youth basketball or youth soccer but he does not seem to be all that interested so it leaves me scratching my head trying to figure out what we can direct him towards. He is a very bright boy, now 11 years old and has a wonderful personality. I know when I was 11 years old I was in little league and that was a big part of my life then. I really enjoyed it and I found an identity with it. I loved going to baseball practice and I loved the opportunity of playing. It really helped me develop my confidence and taught me important lessons.

This is what I would like to see with my son. I don’t want to force him into something. I just want to help direct him in an area of interest he has where he can learn, develop his skills, be challenged, make friends and develop self confidence. My son needs a mentor that will spend time with him and teach him valuable lessons. I think of the movie the Karate kid with Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita where an old man took a young kid under his wings and taught him martial arts and important life lessons. We all need someone to take an interest in our development and inspire us. I wish to fill those shoes sometimes with my son but I feel he also needs to learn from someone who can teach him valuable skills whether it’s a coach, a teacher or a camp counselor. For me as his father I am his biggest advocate and I wish to help him along with Maria but I feel he needs to have others in his corner as well. I have heard the phrase “It takes a village to raise a child.” I believe the reality is that it takes responsible parents, a mother and a father to raise their child with love, support, nurturing and encouragement. They also need to work in conjunction with the schools their child attends to ascertain how their child is developing and with the child’s coaches, mentors and advisers.

I enjoy spending the weekend taking my son out and seeing a movie or going to the beach like we did this weekend. We had a wonderful weekend going to the beach, going to see Shrek 4 in 3D and eating pizza and going to Friendly’s. I look forward to the weekends for this reason but I also realize my son needs socialization opportunities that I simply can not provide to him and the opportunity to be with kids his age. I want him to have these experiences and I get frustrated sometimes because the social groups we did try did not appeal to him and he wound up not deriving much benefit from them. I’m not being critical of the groups but it just seems that they were not the right fit for my son. I know we have to be flexible but we also need to find something our son will enjoy and make a connection with. It seems the only real thing he has made a connection with is Camp Kehilia where he has a lot of fun for part of the summer but the camp is increasingly becoming more costly and the reality is it has become difficult to swing the cost. I would love to send him and if I am not able to then I will work with the school district in helping my son be placed in a school program that he can learn from and have continuity with his education and social development needs and have fun activities to participate in as well.

I always want to do the best for my son and will always be there for him and help teach him important life lessons and be a mentor for him. It is particularly important at this age before he becomes a teenager because this is the time he is growing and developing his personality and his experiences are helping in shaping him and helping him in dealing with life situations. It seems our children are having to grow up much quicker today then we did. My son is much more mature then I was when I was his age and he seems to know more and his views are more expressive with much more insight.

It is so important that autistic children not be left behind. We have to really find it in our hearts to take a sincere interest in their development and help inspire them to do their best and to believe in themselves. We have to try our best to help understand them and dedicate ourself to helping them. I remember reading as a young boy the Helen Keller story and I was very touched by Anne Sullivan who devoted her life to helping Helen Keller overcome her struggles as a deaf,blind and mute girl. Anne had a tough life and she learned early on in her life tragedy and hardship. She never gave up though and she became a tremendous influence in young Helen Keller’s life that was truly inspiring. She even attended college with Helen to be by her side every step of the way and helped her achieve a college education and shape her as a person who also inspired others. The story of both women’s lives is truly remarkable and touches my heart. I have shared their stories with my son and draw upon their strength and dedication to help my son as they are special in every way and their stories should be taught to everyone.

It is critical that we help each and every autistic child early in their lives so they will have the same chances that all other children have. We can not afford to leave them behind. We have to make it a priority that these children get the proper socialization and educational training they need and the dedication and mentoring from parents, teachers, advisers, coaches and all who touch an autistic child’s life. This certainly will make a difference in their young lives and help them grow into responsible adults able to live independent lives.

Dedicated for my son Matthew.
Edward D. Iannielli III

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