It was July 2, 2008 that the word Autism came into our lives in a very real way. Oh, I mean we had our suspicions before that date, but on this day it was official. You know, paperwork, doctor sitting across from you saying the words that were a muddled mess as we heard them kind of official. I will never forget it. The sounds in the office, the smells, what I was wearing, what I was feeling. It was real and it hurt. God took that hurt and turned it into the biggest blessing that I could ever imagine! Our Ben changed (and still changes) our lives for the better most days. We don’t worry so much about things that don’t really matter any more, and we celebrate things that we never would have even considered before! My mom sent me this story shortly after we received Ben’s official diagnosis. I could never explain things better myself, so I wanted to share it with you.
WELCOME TO HOLLAND
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.
So, today is World Autism Awareness Day! Don’t be sad for anyone or anything like that, but stop and say a special prayer for someone that you know who is dealing with autism daily. If you don’t have anyone who is close to you, you can pray for my Ben or our friend’s sweet daughter, Ellie. These two have changed my life forever, and will continue to do so because God has amazing plans for them! Micah and I are choosing to enjoy Holland even though we really planned to go to Italy. It’s okay! Holland is beautiful, and in fact, I LOVE tulips! They are my favorite flower! Some days we get stung by a bee while smelling the lovely tulips, but the sting goes away and we continue to focus on the beauty of the tulips! Pray, my friends, for families of children with autism who do not have a personal relationship with Jesus!
I leave you with the most current facts from Autism Speaks:
- Autism now affects 1 in 88 children and 1 in 54 boys
- Autism prevalence figures are growing
- Autism is the fastest-growing serious developmental disability in the U.S.
- Autism costs a family $60,000 a year on average
- Autism receives less than 5% of the research funding of many less prevalent childhood diseases
- Boys are nearly five times more likely than girls to have autism
- There is no medical detection or cure for autism