This is a guest post by OG Designer, Monica Mihajlovic.
April 2nd — World Autism Awareness Day — people and landmarks will “Light it up Blue” to show support of and acceptance for people with autism.
Autism… It’s a hard word for a parent to hear about their child.
It was almost 18 years ago that I first heard this word used about my son. A concerned and caring family member had noticed my son exhibiting some classic signs of Autism and brought it to my attention.
But as a young, first-time mom who understood almost nothing about Autism, I was rather annoyed to think someone else might know more about my child than I did. Surely I would know if there was something wrong… Wouldn’t I?
Suddenly, I wasn’t so sure.
So I went online and searched for “signs of Autism”. And as I read through the list, a horrible sinking feeling formed in the pit of my stomach. Oh no…
Sure enough… Testing later confirmed that my son did indeed have Autism.
And my heart was sad…. so very very sad. For months, I deeply grieved the loss of so many dreams I’d had for him… dreams of who he might be, what he might do, and all the wonderful things that life might hold for him.
But one day, a friend forwarded something to me that drastically changed my perspective.
A short essay entitled “Welcome to Holland” was written by an American author, Emily Perl Kingsley, to help people better understand what it’s like to suddenly learn that your child has a disability.
She compares having a baby to planning an exciting trip to Italy. Most parents prepare for and plan their trip and get to Italy as expected. But for those whose child is not typical… she compares it to being on a plane that detours to Holland.
For parents like me, there will be no colosseum in Rome… no gondolas in Venice… no art by Michelangelo. But everyone you know is constantly coming and going from Italy and raving about how amazing it is.
But you are in Holland. So you have to go buy new guidebooks, and learn a whole new language, and meet people you never expected to meet.
But as you start looking around… you begin to notice that Holland has tulips… and Holland has windmills.
Kinglsey ends her essay with:
“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.”
Those words hit me hard. I realized I did NOT want to mourn forever. It was time for me to start looking for the tulips and the windmills.
So that’s what I did.
My son is almost 20 years old now, and he has overcome so much in his life. As a disabled young adult, he still struggles in many ways, and his life will always look different from typical people his age. But he is beautiful, and sweet, and funny (usually when he doesn’t even mean to be)… and he inspires me to be a better person each and every day.
I am proud of him, and I am proud of the path we (his family) have traveled to get him where he is.
So — ornament gal that I am — I recently made two ornaments to celebrate our Autism journey…
First, a Snow Globe ornament created with puzzle fabric (a symbol of Autism awareness).
Secondly, a blue/white Windmill ornament — my small way of “Lighting it up Blue”… because although there have been many hard days and much heartache through the years, there have also been OH SO MANY tulips and windmills along the way!
Written by OG Designer, Monica Mihajlovic.