Thursday, February 6, 2014

From Holland to Belgium

I've been living in Holland for almost 17 years now. You know, that place Emily Perl Kingsley described to us parents of children with special needs in her poem titled, Welcome to Holland. My family and I learned a lot from being in Holland - we learned to speak a new language (IEP, IFSP, ESY, etc.) - we learned a new way of living (enduring the stares, appreciating the smallest of gifts, etc.) - and we learned how to move around a foreign country with ease and grace. But since my son and daughter have reached adulthood, we are moving once again, away from Holland, that unplanned place that quickly became our home, to Belgium, the next leg of our family's journey.

The language in Belgium is different. Gone are IEPs, replaced by Plans of Care. The environment is different. Gone is the teacher, replaced by the case manager. The daily schedule of school, often a place of comfort and routine, will soon be gone, and our children must find other ways to occupy their days. Some may have a job, but not a job like you and I understand. Their employment life will be dotted with supported employment, sheltered workshops, and enclaves. If not working, they may spend their days in a day support program. The routine of getting up and going somewhere will be similar to the school years, but the expectations during the day will be completely different.

Some of our children may consider moving away from the family home. If so, there will be group homes to visit, 'staff' to meet, and lives to share with strangers. The lucky ones will be able to stay in their family home, hopefully forever, and not forced to move due to deaths or illnesses of their family. The Federal government will come into the picture as Social Security benefits are sought, and if secured, our children will have to learn to live with substandard incomes.

There will be new doctors to find, doctors who accept our children's Medicaid insurance. Friends, if our children had any, will change. Leisure activities will change. Learning to shop and manage money will be a skill some of our children will forever work to master.

And there will be the skills that must be worked on for years and years, skills not mastered in childhood. Along with those, will be the new skills that accompany every move to another country.

But like Holland, Belgium is not a horrible place:
  • There are more castles per square kilometre in Belgium than in any other country.
  • Cable TV penetration is the highest in Belgium at 97 percent of households.
  • It produces 220,000 tons of chocolate per year, which is about 22kg of chocolate per Belgian.
  • It was the place for the world's first recorded lottery, to raise money for the poor.
  • Its highway system is the only man-made structure visible from the moon at night due to the quantity of lights.
  • The saxophone was invented in the early 1840′s by Adolphe Sax (1814-1894) in the city of Dinanti, Belgium.
  • There are actually 3 types of Belgian waffles including the common Liege waffles, rectangular Brussels waffles and thinner breakfast galettes.

But there is one very big thing that concerns me about Belgium - It legalised euthanasia in 2002 ...

I'm trying to accept that Belgium is going to be a nice place, a place to explore, and one that is very well-suited for the next adventure in my life and my children's life. What about you? Is Belgium a place you're dreading or looking forward to?

1 comment:

MichiganMom said...

Adult world has been more like Syria or Rwanda for us