One thing I have learned in life is that we will always look forward to starting a new year fresh, make plans to improve ourselves, make resolutions to make change for the better and live with a renewed sense of hope and purpose. This is something we all tend to live by and it seems that we have the best of intentions in making this a reality. As I am getting older I am now seemingly taking the focus off myself and now trying more to focus on my son and his needs. I certainly plan to make improvement in my life and effect positive change but my real hope is to help my son make positive change in his life. With that said I realize before I can help my son I have to feel that I am in a good place and have a positive outlook about things with a sense of hope.
I wish to instill this same sense of hope in Matty’s thinking so he will feel more excited and positive about his life which will help him to feel better about himself so he can make progress and find friends he so desperately seeks. My wife and I are so concerned for our son and want to see him happy and filled with promise and hope for the long haul. We can not predict the future but we can hopefully make a positive impact so our son will benefit and find a way to get past the things that hold him back. We all have our challenges in life and we certainly will get discouraged along the way and feel like giving up at times but we must realize that we are not the only ones who feel this way and if we can make the case for positive change we will then find our lives much more rewarding.
I feel when we offer advice to our children we tend to draw from our own personal experiences and try to adapt this to their situations. I have come to realize that this is not always practical because our children are growing up in a different time and the things that we can relate to may not be the same for our children. I have also learned over the years that autistic children have a whole different perspective of things so my theory of looking at how I would relate to something may not be the same for my son. This poses many challenges and requires careful planning and strategy. I have a whole different perspective of what it takes to make a friend then my son does. For my son it is much more difficult due to his situation and because of the distance in the school he goes to. When I was a kid it seemed so much easier to make friends but I too struggled and found I only had a handful of friends growing up.
The main thing a child needs in growing up is to feel positive about themselves. They need reinforcement and nurturing. An autistic child has many sensitivities and they require the same nurturing and positive feedback. If a child lives with love and encouragement they learn to accept themselves. For my son it is so very important that he feels good about himself and that we encourage him and help him to find things that will help him to grow and appreciate life. Loneliness is a feeling we all experience and that is a part of every one’s life. We can not change that but we can help to ease those feelings and that is something I realize we need to work on with our son. It pains me to see our son pleading for friends and asking us to invite kids over to play with him when he really has not made real connections with them. I know when I made friends it was due to my getting involved in sports with the help of my parents. I played baseball as a 9 year old and the more I played through my childhood the more visibility it gave me which also contributed to my popularity and my ability to make friends. We have tried to get our son involved in team sports such as soccer, karate and bowling but it seems so difficult for our son to maintain his interest and desire to improve and be competitive. It seems he does not have the competitive drive nor the interest which poses some roadblocks for us.
We have enrolled our son in summer camp and took him to some scheduled social bowling outings but it is still difficult for our son to make friendships that last. I don’t even know how to help him in this sense when I have work responsibilities during the week. It just seems so futile sometimes that I can not always be there for my son.
I know many people say that if they came into fortune it would not really change their lives. I however feel it certainly would change my life because it would allow me to tailor my schedule around my son more. I don’t have this luxury now since I have such financial obligations that dictate how I need to spend my time. If I had more financial freedom I would certainly have more time for my son. It is sad that we seem to get caught up in these financial pressures. I remember my parents felt this way too. If I could teach my son one thing I would teach him to learn to be more open minded and to not be afraid to be inventive and entrepreneurial.
I know my son likes to see things laid out for him like a road map clear and easy to follow. In keeping with that line of thinking I would suggest the following for my son:
1) Think positive and never lose hope
2) Always maintain discipline with school and homework
3) Never be afraid to talk to a fellow classmate
4) Try to find something of interest that allows for group involvement such as a team sport
5) Try to find something of interest that allows for group involvement in a club or activity such as drama, choir or boy scouts
6) Strive to do well in class and actively participate
7) Talk to your school counselor and let them know your needs
8) Talk to us about your needs and we will try our best to help you
9) Find things at home that interest you so after you completed your homework you can look forward to that
10) Ask your teacher to help in finding potential opportunities in school that you may be inclined to participate in
11) Always work on improving yourself and doing something that will help you achieve that
12) Always be yourself because you are special and you are a good person deserving of friends
13) If you share with us your interests and we find things you will like then we will find a way to get you there to participate
14) Have mom find nearby activities that will allow you to get involved and have fun after school and meet other kids
15) If you do participate in after school activities you will still have the responsibility in completing your homework when you get home
16) Maintain a journal and update it and get to communicate it with us so we can help you to get to where you want to go
17) Write down your likes and dislikes so we will know how to help you
18) Be open minded when making friends and understand you may not see them that often but when you are together enjoy that time
19) List out the types of games you like to play and we will see that you have the opportunity to play them.
20) Allow us to also be your friend and take you out to a movie or something and if it is OK one of your friends as well
This is just a starting point but it is where we should start so we can help you to achieve making a friend and help you in feeling better about yourself. We want this for you more than you could ever know and we all have to work together on this to help achieve it. We love you Matty and want the very best for you now and always.
Matty, Always remember that our love for you will never have boundaries and it will last for eternity.
Edward D. Iannielli III