In those days, it was called being disabled. The message described planning a trip to Italy as an analogy for anticipating the birth of a child.
Only in the case of the writer, the destination turned out to be different than Italy. When she gave birth, she didn't arrive in Italy; she arrived in Holland.
The point of the speech was that Holland was still a wonderful place - it was just different, and that a child with a disability was not less wonderful - just different.
It took a while for the writer to gain this realization, and in the meantime, she had struggled, looking for support.
Imagine you are a parent who thinks you've arrived in Italy, only to gradually realize as the months pass that your child is not the same as other babies.
You might notice little things - your child doesn't respond to you; you wonder if he can hear.
He doesn't give eye contact or look at you when you speak to him or say his name.
Maybe he doesn't explore his environment in the way other children do, doesn't know how to pretend play, or else repetitively plays with one part of a toy or object.
A couple of weeks ago, I was talking to a mom who had this experience. She had sensed that her little guy wasn't developing in the same way as her daughter had.
He wasn't babbling or trying to talk. And as he grew, he didn't know how to play; nothing interested him.
She told her doctor about her concerns but he didn't think they were warranted. "Children develop at different stages; boys are often a little slower developing than girls," was his response.
She persisted over a period of time, and eventually the doctor referred her son to a pediatrician.
The wait was long - more than six months. The pediatrician declared he suspected autism spectrum disorder, and left the family on their own.
Having their concerns confirmed was small compensation for the amount of time it took and the hoops the family had gone through and still had to go through.
The diagnosis didn't come with immediate funding. Further assessment was required and that meant another waiting list.
In time, the diagnosis was confirmed.
Early intervention is important for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Repeated instruction and practice is crucial for the development of language and social behaviour.
Fortunately, while they were waiting, the family was connected to supports in the community. They found local groups for families of children with autism and children with extra support needs.
The groups provided resources and referrals to community organizations and programs.
Our local communities offer a wealth of resources for families with young children with autism and other extra support needs.
Some of these include Ridge Meadows Association for Community Living's family support program, infant development program, and supported child care; Ridge Meadows Child Development Centre's physical and occupational therapy, speech-language therapy, and family support.
The public health unit has speech, language, and audiology services and public health nurses are also great resources.
The key for any parents who are concerned about the development of their child is to start the process early. And remember that a diagnosis doesn't define their child. After all, Holland has Rembrandts.
Maple Ridge is the host city, Oct. 19 to 21, for the 2012 International Naturally Autistic People Awards Convention and Festival.
- Kathy Booth is a local writer addressing the importance of early childhood development, and the work being done in Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows, and with Katzie First Nation.