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Hang in there - Autism Chapter 8

Tuesday, 2 August 2016  | 

Hang In There

There is a very famous poem in special needs land, itís called ĎWelcome to Hollandí itís a poem that talks about how having a child with special needs is a positive albeit different experience to the one the poet imagined. It talks about spending a lifetime imagining moving to Italy, but when the time comes the plane lands in Holland and Holland is where you must stay.

Itís a poem I have always loved and itís a poem I have read many many times. You see, the poet tells us ĎHolland is beautifulí and she is right Holland is beautiful. My daughter is beautiful. Our relationship is beautiful. Sure there are times when life is far from what we imagined, but hey Ė that is the case for everyone, right?

The problem as I see it is this. We are not in Holland. We are imposters living in Italy. Sure we have a tribe, but they are a tribe who try as hard as they do, can never fully understand what our life is like. And in fairness itís equally difficult for us to understand theirs.

In the early days after diagnosis I lost many friends. It wasnít their fault. It was mine. They tried to keep in touch, but all too often I ignored their calls, I refused their invitations and I hid myself away. You see as much as I loved their friendship, as much as I loved their children, as much as I knew we needed them in our lives, I simply couldnít watch their children becoming fluent in Italian, making friends, enjoying life. I couldnít listen to them talking about milestones their children had reached, or moaning about their minor misdemeanors, because inside I was screaming. Why my daughter? Why her? Why was it so easy for these other children when it was so hard for mine? On the bad days, I didnít want to think about Italy, never mind visit it.

The difficulty was that on the good days, we wanted to go out, we wanted to visit Italy. And thatís how we survived. Itís also how I learnt which friends would be there for us no matter what. The friends who would accept that I might ignore them for a month, and then turn up as though nothing had happened. The ones who never looked at us differently even when child Number One screamed the building down because something went wrong. The ones who said weíre here when you need us and we get it when you canít.

There are days even now when visiting Italy is hard; school discos, Christmas fairs, even waiting at the school gates. They are hard because I am a proud mum, so proud of my daughter, of all she has achieved of where she has come from, of where she is now. So proud that she is who she is and that I am lucky enough to be her mum. But at those events where the Father Christmas phobia is rife, or where girls jostle to be in the latest fashions Iím reminded how much harder it is for her to fit in than her peers, how hard she has to try just to walk in a door with a her head held high. Those are the times I wish we really were in Holland, because in Holland she could truly be herself. In Italy to some extent at least, we will both always be outsiders looking in.

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