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… 

Oh yes.

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.



  1. Karla Musgrove on April 2, 2018 at 6:41 pm

    Absolutely beautiful!

  2. Debbie on April 2, 2018 at 6:47 pm

    Everyone’s journey is different, everyone takes different directions, but we all end up in the same place, don’t we?
    Whether it’s emotional or physical, there’s a challenge for us all, and how we handle the hard parts of our journey makes us who we were meant to be. Blessings to you and yours.

    • Anonymous on April 2, 2018 at 7:48 pm

      Well said Debbie.

  3. Gloria on April 2, 2018 at 9:46 pm

    Bless you and your family, I believe God never gives us more than we can handle and that He also knows those who are the best at it, I feel you must be extra special and that He is smiling and saying your son is 20 and what a wonderful job you have done..Amen

    • Sylvia on May 25, 2022 at 9:03 am

      We also ended up in Holland with our son who is now 34. And we have enjoyed the tulips along the path!

  4. Leila Deal on April 3, 2018 at 6:26 am

    Very well stated, Monica! I wish the best for you and your family always! One of my grandchildren is also on the autism spectrum, so I, personally, understand your story. Congratulations on all your accomplishments!

  5. Darlene on April 3, 2018 at 10:37 am

    Inspiring article. Thank you!

    • Darlene on April 3, 2018 at 10:40 am

      Sorry, autocorrect put in the question marks.
      Thanks again for the article.

      • Maggie Meyer on April 1, 2019 at 2:32 pm

        Dear Monica! Thank you so much for sharing your story. I have a good friend whose daughter has autism. I’ve been wanting to do an ornament for her but have not been sure about the colors. I’m going to share your message with her on Thursday night at Bible study. I will present her with an ornament also.

  6. Sonja Kerrihard on April 4, 2018 at 1:26 pm

    Tears, beautiful, smile! I am a retired Occupational Therapist Assistant. I worked for a school district for about 8 years. I worked with young children with developmental delays and children with autism. I worked with awesome parents and wonderful teachers. These children are extra special and I remember most of them.

  7. ANN SEARS on April 26, 2018 at 9:29 am

    So uplifting,

  8. Tina on April 30, 2018 at 11:06 pm

    Its funny…as I sit here at 11pm trying to convince my autistic son to sleep (he believes sleep is for the weak) I remember grieving the loss of who he’ll never be. I grieved a long time. And sometimes I look at his twin brother hitting milestones. reading, having and understanding friendships, playing sports- I admit I still grieve all I thought they’d do together and on their own. It’s gotten easier to shift who I thought he’d be with who he actually is. He has brought me closer to God when I thought for sure this would break me. And some sleepless nights I truly think I will break. Thank you for your article. I don’t always realize others may feel the way I have felt. It brings a sense of community to know others struggle and have the same feelings and some days seeing the tulips are not easy.

  9. Joanne L Sumption on June 12, 2018 at 8:36 am

    Monica, Thank you for that inspiring insight and thank you for what you and your son are going through as I also have a special needs son and although he is not autistic, I can relate and share your same journey. My son is now 25 years old and growing into a wonder person himself. Thank you again. :)

  10. Cheryl Thomas on April 1, 2020 at 8:35 am

    I love these ornaments as I too have a son with autism. He is 35 and still lives with me and I really do understand finding the joy in the things that are so different some times than every other typical child. He makes life so interesting and has taught me so much. He is also funny when he doesn’t mean to be and very literal and honest to a fault. I am anxious to make similar ornaments. Thank you for the inspiration.

  11. Becky Grosser on April 1, 2020 at 9:38 am

    I have a special needs daughter. She was injured in birth and is “total care”. She was expected to live to 5 but last year she turned 55! She is a beautiful loving person loved by DO MANY. God had a different plan for her. I wonder “who are the disbaled?” perhaps those who cannot see the Beauty in these lives. Prayers and GOd Bless. Yes I have been to HOLLAND.

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