November 22, 2008

Autism: Change of Plans? Yes. End of the World? No!

I wasn’t a subscriber to this fellow blogger‘s site when the following comment was made by (38) Joan:

I prayed before I ever had kids that god would give me children that have no mental or social problems. I believe that god ruined him. What if the best my child can do is work as a greeter at Wal-mart, how does one accept your child is doomed, ruined, a waste of human life? I just am begging someone to help me understand this.

My initial feelings were those of pity for the child, not the mother.  However, as the words sank in, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her too.

How alone and desperate she must’ve felt to say such unpleasant things about a child, especially her own.

Based on what I’ve read from other commenters on other sites, a special needs diagnosis can seem like a death sentence.

I’ll admit I cried a lot when my son was first diagnosed, but it wasn’t because I thought it was the end of the world.

I cried because I was a single mom, and my support system (friends and family) were thousands of miles away.

One day, the tears stopped as suddenly as they had started, and I picked my face off the floor.

And I’ve never looked back.

It is my hope that Joan has come to understand that a special needs child is not a curse. If not, perhaps this poem will enlighten her.

Welcome To Holland
by Emily Perl Kingsley

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability – to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel.  It’s like this……

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 Michelangelo David.  The gondolas in Venice.  You may learn some handy phrases in Italian.  It’s all very exciting.

After 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 guide books. 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…. and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills….and Holland has tulips.  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 will never, ever, ever, ever  go away… because the loss of that dream is a very 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.

©1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley. All rights reserved.

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