A Good Read for “Hollanders” or “Hollander Schmollanders”

Fighting windmills isn't for wussies
Fighting windmills isn’t for wussies
Most parents of ASD kids have read the “Holland” essay, by Emily Perl Kingsley, which is beautifully written, if not a bit sad. The essay makes visiting “Holland” a metaphor for raising a child with a disability – that the trip we made into parenthood is not the trip we dreamt of for our children.
Kingsley is a resident and celebrity here in Holland. Her son, Jason Kingsley, born in 1974, has Down Syndrome. Kingsley, who has been a writer for Sesame Street for the past 30 odd years, was responsible for the inclusion of disabled children in the show’s cast as early as 1977. Her advocacy in this regard has helped change the perception of children with special needs. I think of her as the Martin Luther King of Holland. Her beautiful essay (http://www.our-kids.org/Archives/Holland.html) has been translated into many other languages over the years, passed around the internet, photocopied, mailed and emailed and I have always loved it in a nostalgic, pulling-on-my-heart strings way.

I googled it the other day to give it a fresh read and found a delightful parody of it called “Holland Schmolland,” by Laura Krueger Crawford, that made me roar with laughter and cry with agreement. ( http://www.autism-help.org/story-holland-schmolland.htm)

Be warned, the humor in it is a bit dark, but I could relate so well to so much of it I have to say that I laughed until I cried. This will be the essay I will be photocopying today! Just in time for a field trip with Zach’s class. I can’t wait to share it with my fellow Hollanders, er. . . Hollander Schmollanders!

Here’s one gem: “In Schmolland, there’s not a lot to do, so our citizens find amusement wherever they can. Bouncing on the couch for hours, methodically pulling feathers out of down pillows, and laughing hysterically in bed at 4:00am, are all traditional Schmutch pastimes.”

I could add some Schmutch pastimes from our corner of Holland – Zach enjoys banging action figures on hard surfaces (particularly good furniture works best), playing with forks by banging them together to hear the sound they make and touching Asian strangers and asking if they know Jackie Chan. His fascination with Asians doesn’t stop there – he will also inquire about Godzilla and ask “How is Tokyo?

Here’s another excerpt from Crawford‘s parody: “Where we live it is not surprising when an 8 year-old boy reaches for the fleshy part of a woman’s upper torso and says, “Do we touch boodoo?” We simply say, “No, we do not touch boodoo,” and go on about our business. It’s a bit more startling in other countries, however, and can cause all sorts of cross-cultural misunderstandings.”

This bit could have been taken right out of my Zachary memoirs. We even considered making a PEC (Picture Exchange Communication) for this! A nice line drawing of some hooters with a red circle and slash across them!

All laughing aside, what is the most moving about both of these essays and their popularity is that Holland continues to grow – we have more residents arriving every day. According to U.S. census data and a broad estimate Congress gave during recent deliberations on The Americans with Disabilities Act, there are 53 million Americans with one or more physical or mental disabilities. This number is arbitrary at best, if you figure in all the autism diagnoses that will be given this year since 1 in 155 children are likely to get one. The only thing that isn’t arbitrary is how quickly the disabled population is outpacing the current funding and support for programs and education.

So, those of us in Holland are going to need all the inspiration, and comfort we can find. Thank you, Emily Perl Kingsley and Laura Krueger Crawford, for your beautiful words. They make the waiting a bit easier.




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