DEAR ABBY: Your readers may have seen articles about a university professor who killed her infant daughter and then days later, herself. The professor said that she killed her daughter, who had Down syndrome, because she "didn't want her to suffer."
Far from suffering, people with Down syndrome can live full and meaningful lives. Last month, more than 1,600 parents, professionals, advocates and siblings attended our national convention to celebrate the lives and possibilities of persons with Down syndrome.
People and resources are available in each state to help with concerns related to postpartum depression, other forms of mental illness, and issues related to raising a child with a disability. Please inform your readers with questions related to Down syndrome that the NDSC toll-free hotline is (800) 232-6372; our Web site is www.ndsccenter.org. -- DAVID TOLLESON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NATIONAL DOWN SYNDROME CONGRESS
DEAR DAVID: I have had many requests from readers asking me to reprint a wonderful essay that was penned by Emily Perl Kingsley, the mother of a child with Down syndrome. Because October is National Down Syndrome Awareness Month, I can think of no better time to do it. Her essay is dedicated to the families of all children who cope with disabilities.
WELCOME TO HOLLAND
by Emily Perl Kingsley
I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability -- to try to help people who have not shared the unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It's like this:
When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip -- to Italy. You buy a bunch of guidebooks and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. Michelangelo's "David." The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.
After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The flight attendant comes and says, "Welcome to Holland."
"Holland?" you say. "What do you mean, Holland? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."
But there's been a change in the flight plans. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay.
The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.
So you must go out and buy new guidebooks. You must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.
It's just a different place. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills, Holland has tulips, Holland even has Rembrandts.
But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy, and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say, "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."
And the pain of that will never, ever, ever go away, because the loss of that dream is a very significant loss.
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.
Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)
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