Autism Is Nothing Like Going to Holland

There’s a very famous poem called “Welcome to Holland,” written by Emily Perl Kingsley.  It’s a beautiful poem, if you haven’t read it.

To summarize, Kingsley describes what it feels like to raise a child with special needs. She says that planning for a child is like planning an exciting trip to Italy. But when your child has a disability, your plane winds up in Holland instead.

holland

Holland isn’t as flashy or exciting as Italy. But it’s pretty, slower paced, and has windmills. And even though you really wanted that trip to Italy, you appreciate Holland for all of its beauty and serenity.

I used to love that poem. I would post it on my Facebook page and tag moms I thought would appreciate the gesture. I’ve even been sent that poem from time to time by well-meaning loved ones. And I appreciated the gesture. I still do.

But the truth is, in my house, autism is nothing like going to Holland. Autism isn’t pretty. It isn’t serene. It isn’t slow paced.

In my house, autism is more like trekking through the jungle without a map. It’s loud. It’s confusing. It’s unforgiving.

compass

The jungle is filled with cries that I can’t understand. It’s littered with obstacles that take all my strength to work through. There are dead ends around each corner, forcing me to backtrack and rethink my approach.

Don’t be fooled by the media, portraying the jungle as exotic and intriguing. I can assure you that’s only on the outskirts. Deep in the trenches, the jungle is often harsh, and it rarely sleeps.

lonely1

The jungle can be a lonely place sometimes. It’s isolating. Sure, there are times I could call my friends in Italy, but I’m simply too exhausted from my daily excursions.

Luckily, most of the locals are very friendly and eager to help. You see, these locals have been on their own journeys for quite a while now. They are much more knowledgeable than I am.

But they’ve split into different tribes. Each tribe has their own idea of the best path. And they end up sending me in opposite directions.

So I try to absorb all the knowledge I can from each of them, and I continue to push through – knowing I will wind up lost and need their help again.

pathy2

Don’t get me wrong. There’s fun to be had in the jungle. There are times of exploration and silliness. It just takes a lot more planning than it would in Italy or Holland. It takes more effort to make sure we stay safe.

There are also moments of intense beauty – like when the sun sets just after a storm. The entire sky lights up with colors I haven’t seen in a long, long time.

And there are moments of surprise and accomplishment – Like happening upon a hidden waterfall after a long, strenuous hike.

waterfall

Those are the moments I hold on to – Those are the moments the jungle doesn’t seem so scary.

No, I didn’t ask for this journey. But I will continue to push through, even when I feel weary. Because that’s what mothers do. And my little one is worth it.

28 Replies to “Autism Is Nothing Like Going to Holland”

  1. When we first began this journey, a friend sent the Holland poem to me. What you’ve voiced is exactly how I felt about it. The intention is good and the picture painted is oh so lovely, but it just isn’t our reality either. I love the way you’ve framed this and it’s what I needed to hear today ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  2. So many times I have thought this same thing. It also reminds me of the time my husband was drinking from a coffee cup that had the poem “What Cancer can’t-Do,” on it. He said, “What a load of crap. Cancer CAN do all of these things.” Then he proceeded to list just how. Platitudes sound nice but don’t hold up in the light of reality. Thanks for a great post!

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  3. Beautiful and accurate. I too loved the Holland poem but it’s at a greeting card level for describing autism. This piece is so relatable and I can honestly say the closest anyone has ever come to describing our experience. It truly is a jungle. Thank you and please keep sharing. You have a gift.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Guess I’m going to be flamed, but I really felt like bringing my two cents; just remember that it’s just about my own experience I’m talking about, and everyone (with or without ASD) is different. In my house, ASD doesn’t feel like a trip to the jungle. It feels like I planned for Italy while constantly dreading to land in Holland (in clear, there is a history of ASD in my husband’s family and I was really, really scared our child would end up having ASD too). We did land in Holland after all, and it turns out that Holland is nothing like the cold and rainy and dreary country I imagined it to be. My autistic son is very affectionate, he has a great sense of humor and a wonderful imagination (three things I always believed autistic people can’t have); he really has a knack for asking the questions that matter and for coming up with the most expressive phrases. While Holland is sometimes challenging (among numerous other things, they don’t sleep much in this country, and they won’t ever take no for an answer), it’s often very beautiful. I just felt like saying that, in case someone whose kid has just been diagnosed lands here and feels weighed down. Now fire away (shrugs).

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  5. I was shown the ‘welcome to Holland’ poem many years ago on a teacher training course. I remember wondering at the time what it was actually meant to mean, as it did seem to belittle the life experiences of families coping with children who can present incredible challenges. In the end I decided that, for me, it was a good poem simply because it did make me think, despite the fact I still have no answers. Love and good luck to you and your family!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Emily Pearl Kingsley wrote Welcome to Holland about her son with Down Syndrome. He didn’t have Autisum, and while the poem has been popular with all special need families to convey how it feels to being up a child with a disability it was never meant to depict how it feels to raise a child with autism. I have a child with Down Syndrome and I can honestly say the poem is a good fit, for how I feel about my son Joey and how it feels raising him and being his mum. I don’t think it’s fair to pick apart a poem that wasn’t really meant for you.

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  7. Sounds like you described parenting in general! It full of ups, downs, twists and turns….. no one is really ever prepared and other more experienced moms help guide us to be great moms we need to be. Whether a mentally challenged child or a strong willed child, parenting isn’t for sissys!

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