Saturday, January 22, 2005

Two funnies: Satires on the "Holland" poem



Now I love the original poem. I think it is beautiful and it really touches me, even today. But...I came across these and I had to LAUGH! I am sharing them with you because if you have spent much time on the spectrum, then you know....it ain't always tulips and little wooden shoes.

When I first found out what we were dealing with, I needed the sweet encouragement that the original poem offers. After awhile though, when things stopped seeming so incredibly scary, I began to laugh again. Recently, I reread Temple Grandin's book, "Thinking in Pictures" and when I came across certain passages that were clearly written with her particular brand of humor I remember when I read the same passages a year ago, I thought, "How can she laugh about that? That is terrible and heartbreaking!" This time, I could chuckle too or see the wisdom of her experience in a way I could not fathom before.
Anyway, if anyone finds these satires hurtful or offensive, I will delete them. My intent is only to offer some levity to people in circumstances that can be bone crushing day in and day out.


WELCOME TO BEIRUT
by Susan F. Rzucidlo(Beginner's Guide to Autism)


"I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with autism-to try and help people who have not shared in that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It's like this.."

There you are, happy in your life, one or two little ones at your feet. Life is complete and good. One of the children is a little different than the other but of course, he's like your in-laws, and you did marry into the family. It can't be all that bad. One day someone comes up from behind you and throws a black bag over your head. They start kicking you in the stomach and trying to tear your heart out. You are terrified, kicking and screaming you struggle to get away but there are too many of them, they overpower you and stuff you into a trunk of a car. Bruised and dazed, you don't know where you are. What's going to happen to you? Will you live through this? This is the day you get the diagnosis. "YOUR CHILD HAS AUTISM"!

There you are in Beirut, dropped in the middle of a war. You don't know the language and you don't know what is going on. Bombs are dropping "Life long diagnosis" and "Neurologically impaired". Bullets whiz by "refrigerator mother" " A good smack is all HE needs to straighten up". Your adrenaline races as the clock ticks away your child's chances for "recovery". You sure as heck didn't sign up for this and want out NOW! God has over estimated your abilities.

Unfortunately, there is no one to send your resignation to. You've done everything right in your life, well you tried, well, you weren't caught too often. Hey! you've never even heard of autism before. You look around and everything looks the same, but different. Your family is the same, your child is the same, but now he has a label and you have a case worker assigned to your family. She'll call you soon. You feel like a lab rat dropped into a maze.

Just as you start to get the first one figured out ( early intervention) they drop you into a larger more complex one (school). Never to be out done, there is always the medical intervention maze. That one is almost never completed.

There is always some new "miracle" drug out there. It helps some kids, will it help yours? You will find some if the greatest folks in the world are doing the same maze you are, maybe on another level but a special-ed maze just the same. Tapping into those folks is a great life line to help you get through the day. This really sucks but hey, there are still good times to be had. WARNING! You do develop and odd sense of humor. Every so often you get hit by a bullet or bomb not enough to kill you, only enough to leave a gaping wound. Your child regresses for no apparent reason, and it feels like a kick in the stomach. Some bully makes fun of your kid and your heart aches. You're excluded from activities and functions because of your child and you cry. Your other children are embarrassed to be around your disabled child and you sigh. You're insurance company refuses to provide therapies for "chronic, life long conditions" and your blood pressure goes up. Your arm aches from holding onto the phone with yet another bureaucrat or doctor or therapist who holds the power to improve or destroy the quality of your child's life with the stroke of a pen. You're exhausted because your child doesn't sleep.

And yet, hope springs eternal.

Yes there is hope. There ARE new medications. There IS research going on. There are interventions that help. Thank God for all those who fought so hard before you came along. Your child will make progress. When he speaks for the first time, maybe not until he is 8 yrs old, your heart will soar. You will know that you have experienced a miracle and you will rejoice. The smallest improvement will look like a huge leap to you. You will marvel at typical development and realize how amazing it is. You will know sorrow like few others and yet you will know joy above joy. You will meet dirty faced angels on playgrounds who are kind to your child without being told to be. There will be a few nurses and doctors who treat your child with respect and who will show you concern and love like few others. Knowing eyes will meet yours in restaurants and malls, they'll understand, they are living through similar times. For those people you will be forever grateful. Don't get me wrong. This is war and its awful. There are no discharges and when you are gone someone else will have to fight in your place.

But, there are lulls in wars, times when the bullets aren't flying and bombs aren't dropping. Flowers are seen and picked. Life long friendships are forged. You share and odd kinship with people from all walks of life. Good times are had, and because we know how bad the bad times are, the good times are even better. Life is good but your life in never normal again, but hey, what fun is normal.

another one:

Holland Schmolland
By Laura Krueger Crawford
E-mail: Laura@atticusproductions.com

If you have a child with autism, which I do, and if you troll the Internet for information, which I have done, you will come across a certain inspirational analogy. It goes like this:

"Imagine that you are planning a trip to Italy. You read all the latest travel books, you consult with friends about what to pack, and you develop an elaborate itinerary for your glorious trip. The day arrives. You board the plane and settle in with your in-flight magazine, dreaming of trattorias, gondola rides and gelato. However, when the plane lands you discover, much to your surprise, you are not in Italy -- you are in Holland. You are greatly dismayed at this abrupt and unexpected change in plans. You rant and rave to the travel agency, but it does no good. You are stuck. After a while, you tire of fighting and begin to look at what Holland has to offer. You notice the beautiful tulips, the kindly people in wooden shoes, the French fries and mayonnaise, and you think, “This isn’t exactly what I planned, but it’s not so bad. It’s just different.” Having a child with autism is supposed to be like this -- not any worse than having a typical child -- just different."

When I read that, my son was almost three, completely non-verbal and was hitting me over a hundred times a day. While I appreciated the intention of the story, I couldn’t help but think, “Are they kidding? We are not in some peaceful countryside dotted with windmills. We are in a country under siege -- dodging bombs, trying to board overloaded helicopters, bribing officials -- all the while thinking, “What happened to our beautiful life?”

That was 5 years ago. My son is now 8 and though we have come to accept that he will always have autism, we no longer feel like citizens of a battle torn nation. With the help of countless dedicated therapists and teachers, biological interventions, and an enormously supportive family, my son has become a fun-loving, affectionate boy with many endearing qualities and skills. In the process we’ve created… well… our own country, with its own unique traditions and customs.

It’s not a war zone, but it’s still not Holland. Let’s call it Schmolland.

In Schmolland, it is perfectly customary to lick walls, rub cold pieces of metal across your mouth and line up all your toys end to end. You can show affection by giving a “pointy chin.” A “pointy chin” is when you act like you are going to hug someone and just when you are really close, you jam your chin into the other person’s shoulder. For the person giving the “pointy chin” this feels really good, for the receiver not so much – but you get used to it. For citizens of Schmolland, it is quite normal to repeat lines from videos to express emotion. If you are sad, you can look downcast and say “Oh Pongo.” When mad or anxious, you might shout, “Snow can’t stop me!” or “Duchess, kittens, come on!” Sometimes, “And now our feature presentation” says it all. 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.

The hard part about living in our country is dealing with people from other countries. We try to assimilate ourselves and mimic their customs, but we aren’t always successful. It’s perfectly understandable that an 8-year-old boy from Schmolland would steal a train from a toddler at the Thomas the Tank Engine Train Table at Barnes and Noble. But this is clearly not understandable or acceptable in other countries, and so we must drag our 8 year old out of the store kicking and screaming while all the customers look on with stark, pitying stares. But we ignore these looks and focus on the exit sign because we are a proud people. 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 don’t 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. And, though most foreigners can get a drop of water on their pants and still carry on, this is intolerable to certain citizens in Schmolland who insist that the pants must come off no matter where they are, and regardless of whether another pair of pants are present.

Other families who are affected by autism are familiar and comforting to us, yet are still separate entities. Together we make up a federation of countries, kind of like Scandinavia. Like a person from Denmark talking with a person from Norway, (or in our case someone from Schmenmark talking with someone from Schmorway), we share enough similarities in our language and customs to understand each other, but conversations inevitably highlight the diversity of our traditions. “Oh your child is a runner? Mine won’t go to the bathroom without asking permission.” “My child eats paper. Yesterday he ate a whole video box.” “My daughter only eats 4 foods, all of them white.” “My son wants to blow on everyone.” “My son can’t stand to hear the word no. We can’t use any negatives at all in our house.” “We finally had to lock up the VCR because my son was obsessed with the rewind button.”

There is one thing we all agree on: we are a growing population.

10 years ago, 1 in 10,000 children had autism.

Today the rate is approximately 1 in 250.

Something is dreadfully wrong. Though the causes of the increase are still being hotly debated, a number of parents and professionals believe genetic pre-disposition has collided with too many environment insults -- toxins, chemicals, anti-biotics, vaccines -- to create immunological chaos in the nervous systems of developing children. One medical journalist speculated that these children are like the proverbial “canary in the coal mine” here to alert us to the growing dangers in our environment. While this is certainly not a view shared by all in the autism community, it feels true to me.

I hope that researchers discover the magic bullet we all so desperately crave. And I will never stop investigating new treatments and therapies that might help my son. But more and more my priorities are shifting from what “could be” to “what is.” I look around at this country my family has created, with all its unique customs, and it feels like home. For us, any time spent “nation-building” is time well spent.

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