Welcoming my son to Holland
Posted on February 25th, 2008 by Kathy
When I learned my son might have lifelong learning disabilities, auditory processing problems, and behavioral challenges –Â I was devastated. Adam is 12 years old now, and I’ve spent the last 12 years researching interventions to mitigate the damages from his disability.
Or, you could say, I’ve spent the last 12 years learning the lay of the land in Holland.
You’ve probably heard of the essay called “Welcome to Holland.” It was written by Emily Kingsley, a writer for Sesame Street. Kingsley was instrumental in integrating characters with mental and physical disabilities into Sesame Street scripts — Easter Seals has awarded her three EDI (Equality, Dignity and Independence) awards and one Grand EDI for her work.
Kingsley wrote “Welcome to Holland” after her son Jason was born with Down syndrome. The piece compares raising a special needs child with traveling to an unexpected destination.
When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip — to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plansâ€¦
… the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.”
“Holland?!?” you say. “What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”
Although I never got to Italy as planned, I have had many fascinating experiences in Holland. I have learned to appreciate the very special — and unexpected — things Holland has to offer.
I have recently been selectedÂ to beÂ part of Easter Seals Autism Spokesperson Network. As an Autism Spokesperson, I’ll be sharing Easter Seals messages about the importance of early diagnosis for individuals with autism, about the fact that autism is treatable and that people with autism can lead meaningful lives. I’ll be talking to the media about the urgent need for increased funding for services, especially for adults with autism.
As part of this exposure, I will be sharing my personal story to a much greater audience — much larger than those closest in my circle of support. I’ll be acknowledging to the world that our family lives deep in the heart of Holland.
My concern: my son still thinks he’s going to Italy. He has a hard time getting through the day in middle school worrying about who is going to think he’s different, or not smart, or weird.
And now, in sharing this story with you, I’m starting to wonder, is it time to tell him about Holland? And how?