- Kids Health
An autistic child's world
Children and Autism
A different place
The world we live in can be a daunting place for most of us and for an autistic child it really is a maze filled with puzzlement and uncertainty. It is a threatening and unfriendly place in the eyes and mind of an autistic child and can be very intimidating. To understand a child who lives in such a place and says very little and seems to find comfort and happiness in repetitive behavior and with very little social contact you would start to see and feel for the child and also grow to love that child as you become connected to their ways as you start to understand every thing about them. The journey you live with an autistic child will be quite an experience for the both of you and you will grow to understand in many ways what it is that makes them so very special and so lovable. For an autistic child the way they cope in their world is to find comfort in their surroundings and trust with others who come into their life.
If you asked me what autism meant to me before I became a father I would relate a story I read written by a woman from Australia by the name of Donna Williams called Nobody, Nowhere when I was in my early 30's. In the story she recounts as a grown woman looking back on her childhood how much her world was filled with isolation and a feeling of entrapment and emptiness. She felt she had no one to relate to and she felt that her existence was one filled with so much pain and craziness and she felt lost and all alone. It was a well written story filled with gripping accounts of her painful experiences in living in such an enclosed world imposed by her mind. Her family tried to bring her out of her self imposed "prison" and get her the help she needed but it seemed that everything they tried only made it worse for her. It made me cry and made me feel such sympathy for someone who felt so tortured. It also was my first real introduction into what autism was and how it affected someone. At that time autism was not as prevalent or discussed as it is now. Today it seems there is not a day that goes by where you don't hear the word autism mentioned. It is part of our everyday life now even if you are not directly touched by it. It is becoming more common as schools are adapting to the continual rise and need to provide programs and experienced teachers to address the dramatic rise.
In some ways I can draw parallels in my life with children on the autism spectrum growing up as I struggled with shyness and felt isolated at times. Although I had friendships I did have times where I was quiet and painfully shy which limited my contacts with others. I was a good kid and was able to make friends and what truly saved me in my childhood was my ability to thrive in playing little league baseball. My playing ability spoke for itself and enabled me to fit in and make friends and feel accepted. For autistic children it is hard for them to develop such coordinated abilities and so usually sports are more difficult for them to excel in. I have tried to involve my son in sports and always dreamed of having a baseball catch with him but he does not have interest or coordination to catch and throw. I have tried to teach my son the fundamentals but he lacks the ability and I have tried to inspire him but have learned that I need to focus on encouraging him in other areas that interest him so he can thrive and not feel discouraged.
Raising a son with Asperger's is a challenge at times and makes me realize how important it is to maintain calm, peace, hope and hold on to the positives we are so desperately seeking to find in such a heartfelt and emotional time in our lives. Every waking day is filled with its normal challenges and making sure our son is ok is our top priority. My son's needs will always be there and I will always try my best to meet them all and always be there for him as he continues to grow and experience life. I am always thinking of my son and always trying to do all I can to make him feel loved and protected. I learned from my parents and I wish to do all I can for my son as my parents have done for me.
I do not sugarcoat things with my son. I try to be honest and also sincere when I talk about things with him but I also have to be very careful with what I say as my son is very sensitive and when he hears certain things that bother him it can really set him off and cause him to have an extreme meltdown that can really take hours to regain his composure and calm and settle him down. I have learned this when I spoke to him about his grandfather when he left this place and my son could not accept it. So we just leave it so he believes pop is on holiday and will be back sometime. He does not accept the fact that we will die and I have to be careful with such a topic. I also have to make sure he is not exposed to news or things that show the hard realities. He wants his world to be peaceful and filled with love and compassion and perfection. I believe we all wish for a world like this and I have grown to learn so much from my son and I am constantly learning and teaching and trying to be there for him and help him to navigate in his world and I wish to see and understand everything he sees and feels so I can help him because that is my role as his dad and because I love him with my heart and soul and want to understand his world.
Edward D. Iannielli III