Defying The Spectrum

You Are Not Alone

Autism Parents, You Are Not Alone

 

A little while back, during a commute on the train into Boston, a lovely friend shared this gift with me.”Welcome to Holland” is an essay, written in 1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley, about having a child with a disability. It resonated with me so strongly. Somehow reading it forever changed me. Of course I knew I wasn’t the only mother of an autistic child, but now I felt like I wasn’t the only one. I can’t help but share it with you.

WELCOME TO HOLLAND by Emily Perl Kingsley (1987)

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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 plans. The Coliseum, the Sistine Chapel, Gondolas. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian.

 

It’s all very exciting. After several months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, 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.” But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.

 

The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place full of pestilence, famine, and disease. It’s just a different place. So, you must go out and buy new guidebooks. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met. It’s just a different place. It’s slower paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around. You begin to notice that Holland has windmills. Holland has tulips. And Holland even has Rembrandts. But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy, and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there.

 

And for the rest of your life you will say, “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.” And the pain of that experience will never, ever, ever, go away. The loss of that dream is a very significant loss. But if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things about Holland.

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One thought on “You Are Not Alone

  1. Renora

    Wow. I love this essay. It reminds me of how bad I felt about my son not passing the CRTC test and hearing other parents state how happy they were that their children passed. I kept this to myself and I have not told my son either. This reminds me that I have to remember that my son is special and beautiful and that I must enjoy the wonderful things about him…just like Holland.

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