Friday, July 6, 2007

Others land on Holland, others land on Switzerland...

I just read this post below, posted by Neurotic Fitch Mom. I probably should just have linked there, but I think it's good to have the whole post here. I'll let her know I posted here. The title o this post is NORMAL:

"Imagine," she said, taking a seat next to me on the rickety playground bench. "You've decided to take a trip to New York City. You've packed your high heels and your best clothes and you're planning to hit the town and see all the shows. But you get off the plane and you're in Switzerland. It's a little colder, a little slower, but still nice. Just different. It's the same with these kids."

"I just wanted him to be normal," I replied, looking up to watch him and the other Fifth Graders running wildly over the wooden structures, her class in the mix.

"Whatever that means," she said.

I thought I'd reached the point where I wanted to know, even if I didn't like the answer. I'd put it off for years, even though some part of me knew he was different from the start.

He spoke young, Daddy and Mama followed by thermostat and full sentences before he was one. At two he was flapping, little arms going like butterfly wings, close to his sides, lips buzzing. I thought he was pretending to fly. Until I noticed it more and more, when he was bored, when he was tired, when he was mad, when he was joyous.

"Are you an airplane or a helicopter," I asked him.

"Neither Mama."

At age four, his eyes huge and blue, never really looked at me. He gazed somewhere behind my head or turned his face entirely away.

"Don't you like Mama's face?" I teased him. "Am I that ugly?"

"You're beautiful Mama. I'd never think that," he replied, still not seeing me.

And then he went to school. Kindergarten, right across the street with a 1st year teacher. He brought home yellows and reds everyday and she made sure to meet me in the parent pickup line to list his transgressions.

"He's the sweetest thing but he goes on and on about Toy Story when I'm trying to teach. It's distracting the class."

Toy Story, which played constantly on one of the TVs at the house and had for almost two years. We had Toy Story bedding, dishes, toothpaste, clothes and toys. Just like the Thomas the Tank Engine phase we'd gone through two years before. I felt like I knew George Carlin and Buzz Lightyear personally.

"He's making these noises, humming and he's having meltdowns over the smallest things. But he's so smart."

"I'll talk to him," I'd assure her going home to cry. Beating myself up for not enrolling him in preschool. Not sure what the answer was myself.

Until 2nd grade, when a teacher's assistant pointed me to a website, that described my boy to a tee.

"He reminds me of my sister's boy," she said, handing me the slip of paper with a link.

But I still hesitated to make it official, to put what I saw as a stigma around his neck. Instead, I worked hard to give him coping techniques that didn't involve hour long sobs, to find out what set him off and teach him to cope.

In 4th grade, we'd meet an angel in pretty heels, his teacher, who two months in had him looking me in the eyes. Somehow she knew, but didn't say, rules and regulations keeping her from expressing her opinion.

"I taught him," she explained when I came to her with thankful tears. "I draw his eyes in with my finger and now he remembers."

He still had to think about it, eyes occasionally darting off, but it was a start. His meltdowns stopped other than a growl of aggravation every now and then, over intense stress. And I relaxed for awhile, until this year, 5th Grade, Junior high rapidly approaching.

I made an appointment.

4 hours later, leaving the office, Asperger's Syndrome, written down in the doctor's chicken scratch, my heart tearing apart.

"It's like teaching any other child math or reading," she told me as a tear rolled down my cheek. "With a little help, he'll be fine."

He may never be "normal", who really is anyway? But watching my precious boy, sweaty face beaming at me across the sandy playground, I knew I'd pick Switzerland over New York, any day....

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Celebrating Holland - I'm home

Celebrating Holland - Im Home
by Cathy Anthony

The original essay can be found at Cathy Anthony is a parent, advocate and presently the executive director of the Family Support Institute in Vancouver, BC(

I have been in Holland for over a decade now. It has become home. I have had time to catch my breath, to settle and adjust, to accept something different than I’d planned. I reflect back on those years of past when I had first landed in Holland. I remember clearly my shock, my fear, my anger,the pain and uncertainty. In those first few years, I tried to get back to Italy as planned, but Holland was where I was to stay.

Today, I can say how far I have come on this unexpected journey. I have learned so much more. But, this too has been a journey of time. I worked hard. I bought new guidebooks. I learned a new language and I slowly found my way around this new land. I have met others whose plans had changed like mine, and who could share my experience. We supported one another and some have become very special friends.

Some of these fellow travelers had been in Holland longer than I and were seasoned guides, assisting me along the way. Many have encouraged me. Many have taught me to open my eyes to the wonder and gifts to behold in this new land. I have discovered a community of caring.

Holland wasn’t so bad. I think that Holland is used to wayward travelers like me and grew to become a land of hospitality, reaching out to welcome, to assist and to support newcomers like me in this new land.

Over the years, I’ve wondered what life would have been like if I’d landed in Italy as planned. Would life have been easier? Would it have been as rewarding? Would I have learned some of the important lessons I hold today? Sure, this journey has been more challenging and at times I would (and still do) stomp my feet and cry out in frustration and protest. And, yes, Holland is slower paced than Italy and less flashy than Italy, but this too has been an unexpected gift. I have learned to slow down in ways too and look closer at things, with a new appreciation for the remarkable beauty of Holland with its tulips, windmills and Rembrandts. I have come to love Holland and call it Home.

I have become a world traveler and discovered that it doesn’t matter where you land. What’s more important is what you make of your journey and how you see and enjoy the very special, the very lovely, things that Holland, or any land, has to offer.

Yes, over a decade ago I landed in a place I hadn’t planned. Yet I am thankful, for this destination has been richer than I could have imagined!

Welcome To Holland by Emily Perl Kingsley

Photo from

When I had my son, I knew he was going to be a hockey star... a jock, one of the popular kids, and smart. He was going to eat his vegetables too and brush his teeth without me even asking/telling. I have all that in my daughter... all of it, but with my son I have the complete opposite.

My son has Asperger's Syndrome. He's extremely bright, but hugely lacking in social skills. He has a very awkward gait and tires easily, so hockey, or being a jock - not happening with this kid. The popularity wasn't happening either, because of his inability to read nonverbal cues. On top of that, "many things" he did was misunderstood by his teachers. He brought a gift in for his pregnant teacher, and was bringing it back to his desk to put a chocolate kiss on it and she wigged out. and was furious with him - and took his good intentions and made it a bad thing. I explained his intentions to her but by that time i wanted to take the gift back and give her nothing myself! - how can teachers, who spend time with kids be so clueless about kids?

Right around the time we were trying to get James diagnosed, someone sent me a copy of Welcome to Holland. I copied it, shared it, saved it, and i read it OFTEN. To this day, 6 years after my son's diagnosis - i'm still hugely inspired.

I am truly, truly blessed - because i have both - my trip to italy: my daughter; and my trip to Holland: my son - "a little jetlagged"... :). Here's a copy of that Welcome to Holland...I hope it'll encourage another parent as it has encouraged me:

by Emily Perl Kingsley
©©1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley.
All rights reserved

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 ofpestilence, 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.