I have been living with a heavy heart for as long as I can remember but I try not to give it away. I know how important it is to wear a smile even when you don’t feel up to it. In raising a child on the autistic spectrum it is very important to stay strong in your mindset and to always be supportive. You will ride the tides of emotion and will have days where you feel all alone with no one to turn to. I have always tried to look at the positive side in dealing with my son’s situation but sometimes you only see the trying and difficult moments and sometimes wonder what good can come from this diagnosis. It seems it robs a child of their spontaneity and their ability to socialize and make friends. To most of us the ability to socialize means just about everything in life so for an autistic child it means they will have to find ways to compensate for their lack of social grace.
My earliest recollection of learning of my son’s situation was something I can never forget because I remember clearly hearing the words autistic, epilepsy and asperger’s syndrome all together in one sentence coming from the mouth of his doctor who we trusted and came to respect immensely. It was a shock and something we were not prepared for. We knew then that we needed to seek services for our son to address his special needs and we were concerned that he would be labeled and be limited in his opportunities. We do not feel he deserves to be looked upon as different or prejudged because of his diagnosis. It has and will always be a learning experience for us and something that will be a life long situation for our son. We are trying our best to help prepare him for his future and give him every possible opportunity to learn, mature and develop to his absolute potential.
As you look into those precious eyes of your child you will learn that encouragement, love, devotion, dedication, hope and nurturing are essential in raising them. To me autism means each and every day your child will require your complete attention and you will do all you can to provide it. Even when you are apart from your child, they are on your mind constantly and it is sometimes hard to cope with the anxiety but you have to learn to come to terms with separation and the medical condition and have hope, faith and truly believe that things will improve over time.
I have seen my son all alone for hours at a time doing the same thing over and over and over again and I wonder what it is that draws him in to this quiet world where he seems to be content but very isolated. It pains me to see him alone so much and I wish I could bring him out of this isolation and teach him how to open up and make friends. One thing I have come to realize in seeing my son’s situation is that I too felt isolated as a child where I too preferred to be alone but my isolation was more the result of my shyness not because of autism. I am very empathetic to his situation and realize that if I could move mountains than so can he. I will always support our son in all aspects of his life and will encourage him to bring out his best because he deserves that. He is very capable and is highly intelligent. He just needs to be able to speak for himself and to find a level of comfort in his surroundings at school and in his social circles that hopefully will expand for him as he grows.
We have sought many opportunities for our son through his early years that would provide him fun and enjoyable times with other children. Camp is one such opportunity that we feel is very important and we have enrolled him since he was 5 years old in a very respected and highly recommended program and we were lucky enough to provide him this experience for 5 years but it became increasingly too expensive for us and we had to seek an alternative because unfortunately it was no longer within our budget. We were hoping that one day the long wait for Camp Anchor would end and he would be invited to attend for the summer. We were not sure if this would ever become a reality but luckily we had the help of Senator Hannon and Hempstead supervisor Kate Murray behind us and we received the wonderful news by letter from both indicating he was accepted and would be enrolled for this summer. My wife and I were so happy for Matty and very thankful to our politician friends for all they did to help make this possible. After all we are just trying to make our son happy and enable him to smile and have a fun time and have an opportunity to meet other children and learn to interact and make lasting friendships.
As our son now faces his early teenage years we will try to help him through and be there for him always. Although we feel frustration at times we must realize it is not about us. It is about coming to terms with our son’s condition and not being afraid. We have to be positive and hopeful always so we can encourage our son to always try his best and to never feel discouraged or give up. We want him to turn his autism into something positive because he does have special gifts that need to be awakened and put to good use that will help inspire him and teach him to believe in himself because he is very capable and very deserving.
God Bless you Matty! We love you and want you to always know that. Never lose heart kid! You are our superstar!
Your mom and dad
Edward D. Iannielli III