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Saturday, April 9, 2011

What It Means to Have a Child with Special Needs

            I wanted to share this beautiful piece written by Emily Perl Kingsley on what it means to have and raise a child with special needs. After this writing was shared at my daughter’s School for the Deaf, I periodically refer back to it for inspiration. I hope this inspires you as well!

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 guidebooks 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 some horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.

So you must go out and buy a new guidebook. 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, 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."

The pain of that will never, ever, go away, because 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.



  2. Anonymous: You are very welcome! I know first hand life with a special needs child can be a roller coaster ride, but I feel this article gives perspective and encourages us to focus on the positives to makes us stronger.

  3. I was just saying to Greg, I hear people talking about how pregnancy is their favorite part of having a child. They get a chance to believe that anything is possible. Whether it's dreams of having a doctor or a baby that sleeps through the night...

    I've learned that I'm not like that. I like knowing my child and taking it from there. For example, taking your child to the children's museum where he chooses to wash the windows for over an hour.

    We could try to figure out what it means... Or just enjoy the fact that he's enjoying his time at the museum.

    Life is definitely like the author of the poem says, it's not where you land, it's what you do once you're there.

    There are plenty of unhappy people in Italy because "it wasn't quite what they expected..."

  4. Laxmi13: You reminded me of a story I once read in a book (can't recall the source). It goes something like this: There are two men, one is younger, well dressed, successful, and rushing to get somewhere. The other man, presumably older and wiser, asks him: "where are you rushing to?" The younger one says: "life, happiness, etc." The wiser one responds: "how do you know it's not back there?" while pointing to the past. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!