Wednesday, October 6, 2010

What I learned today

I spent the day, again, as a fellow for LEND (Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities), and just like the other Wednesdays, I thought I'd highlight something interesting, something that stuck out and that struck me.

What I learned today is that persons with Down Syndrome in the Netherlands, as well as other folks with intellectual disabilities, have improved access to their communities, and that those communities work hard to include these people and help to foster their independence. The speaker who talked about this was an American nutritionist, married to a Dutch man, and she had traveled quite extensively in the Netherlands. She spoke of an afternoon where she saw many, many people with Down Syndrome riding bicycles to their work from their group home, and said, too, that it wasn't an uncommon sight to see people with intellectual disabilities navigating the cities on their own.  It was her "unscientific" opinion that the community fostered by this inclusion was far greater than here in the United States where inclusion is "the law" but still struggles in the culture and in practice.

I have to say that it's my non-scientific opinion that I, and a lot of people like me, spend an inordinate amount of time "defending" the rights of our children or young adults with disabilities. I have had top educators in the school system, principals even, use the "economic" argument -- that educating the severely disabled somehow "takes money away" from those who are "typical." But that's for another day...

A trip to Holland might be worth it, after all! (And this is an inside joke, meant for those who share my skin-crawling dislike of the Welcome to Holland letter.).


  1. the other nite, my sisters and I were talking about the Holland Letter (I didn't know it had a name) ... I thought maybe that scenario would apply if added to it was losing your luggage, getting robbed and losing all your money and your passport and then getting busted for drugs and spending the rest of your life in jail ... but whoops - most drugs aren't illegal in Holland

  2. This is interesting, and very true. I wish more people here would open their arms and hearts to help people with disabilities. As you said, it is not the widespread opinion that people with intellectual disabilities are "worth" spending much money on. Boo to that.

    I am off to send you a message on FB. :)

  3. Yes, that's for another day, another day when I'll be seeing red!

  4. It's so embarrassing (and maddening) that our country isn't more inclusive.

  5. I'm so glad you are enjoying your LEND experience--I did the program back in 2001 and it really helped me to see the bigger picture and potentialities in helping people with disabilities in all aspects of life. And yes, I'm a little jaded on the Letter from Holland myself, but it does help people "get it' in a clear and effective manner

  6. yes, so true... i fully agree. it was so interesting to hear about holland!

    oh yes, and i share the same aversion to the Welcome To Holland letter - holland shmolland! What-Ev!

  7. before I saw you last line I was gong to leave a comment about Holland. I love that the disdain is so widespread.
    Annoying prose notwithstanding, the dutch really do have it figured out.

  8. You might want to look at this re-interpretation of the Welcome to Holland piece--it was posted on a listserv for the undiagnosed:

    Don't know if this will successfully hyperlink or not.



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