Emily Perl Kingsley recently wrote an essay called Welcome to Holland (www.our-kids.org/Archives/Holland.html), wherein she compares raising a child with a disability to planning a fabulous vacation in Italy, and then, after much anticipation, arriving in Holland—a completely different place from the one you imagined. She says the loss of the dream is significant and never really goes away. But if you spend your time focusing on that loss, you will miss the special and lovely things your unexpected detour can give you. It’s a subject that bears discussion.
Letting go of a dream is easier said than done. The thing is, the choice is really out of your hands. Those of you who are parents can remember the excitement you felt at knowing a new little person would be entering your life. Almost immediately you began to think of what they might look like, what they would like to do as they grew into adulthood—would they find the cure for cancer, be an outstanding athlete, or be the next Picasso? Maybe I’m weird, but those are thoughts that went through my mind. But guess what? My two sons are nothing like I thought they would be. There go those dreams.
Of course, in the case of my sons, I got to let go gradually. Not everyone is so fortunate. What if when you meet your baby for the first time, you are told that your child will forever face challenges—not the typical challenges most children need to meet, but impediments to their mobility, ability to speak and communicate with others, and capacity to learn.
Not only have you lost your dream, but now you are completely terrified. “How do I care for this baby who is so different from what I expected?” you ask yourself. “I’m not prepared to face this challenge.”Then someone gives you information on Early Intervention or says they will call an EI program for you, and you think, “Do I really need intervention? Is it going to be that bad?”
The Early Interventionist is often the first person with whom parents talk after they bring their baby home and reality begins to set in for them. But what they learn is that there is a team of people ready to help them. A team of people to support them in understanding their new baby. A team of people whose sole purpose is to help them identify the lovely and different things about their child. A team of people who, with care and guidance, gives parents not only the courage to dream again, but the ability to make their dreams happen.
Sure, the dream may have changed from watching their child score the winning touchdown in some future Super Bowl to seeing him or her become able, by age two, to walk to the door and say, “Hi daddy,” when he comes home from work. But a dream is a dream, no matter what the specifics. And in Early Intervention, what we want most is help make those dreams come true!