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The roller coaster emotions’  parents experience  when they first discover their child is not like everyone else, is only one of many things parents must face when their child is diagnosed with Autism.  What others may not understand is when you receive your childs diagnosis, even before when you know somethings wrong. There’s a grieving period a parent will go through—like the loss of a dream. You hope it’s something else—something a Doctor can easily cure.

The Child Trevor in my recent novel, The Forgotten Child, is an undiagnosed three-year old autistic boy. This story is filled with conflict, but is a novel of hope and trust, weaving in the budding romance with a man haunted by a terrible betrayal who must overcome his inability to trust, while unable to recognize, let alone accept,  there’s something wrong with his child—characters who are far from perfect.

Emily Perl Kingsley wrote an essay many years ago that depicts this emotion.  Welcome to Holland is about the experience of raising a child with a disability—one I believe every parent should read.

Welcome To Holland

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