Morgen Kann Warten — German for Tomorrow Can Wait — is a Kickstarter project about traveling with an autistic child in Europe. Scott and Monika Knight (who live in Berlin) describe their travels all over Europe — Thessaloniki in Greece, Nice and Paris in France, Dublin and Connemara in Ireland, Stockholm and the south of Sweden, Prague in the Czech Republic, to name a few — with their now-11-year-old autistic son, John. As they write:
Severely autistic people aren’t primarily known as globetrotters. They like routines and familiar surroundings. Our son John, eleven years old, severely autistic and non-verbal, is no exception to this. But he also really likes to travel. As soon as we realized that, we were on the road and have traveled a lot throughout Europe since.
Some (maybe many) may balk at the notion of traveling with an autistic child — with a severely autistic child — and in Europe (the long overseas plane trip from the US to Europe would be too much for my teenage autistic son Charlie). The very notion of travel — going to different places — indeed seems antithetical to autism and to the experience of parents of autistic children.
Traveling With John
The authors of Morgen Kann Warten address this very issue. Their travels with John are not meant as any sort of pilgrimage to “cure” or “heal” him. Traveling, they make clear, “puts our little family of three willfully in unknown situations” and this is ultimately of huge benefit to John:
Even though – and especially because – he has problems understanding the world around him, exposing him to new landscapes, people, languages and situations offers him the ability to appreciate the spectrum of experiences that the world has to offer.
In an introductory section, Monika (I’m fortunate to say that I first “met” her thanks to the Internet some years ago) describes John’s early life. Born in Illinois (John’s father is American), John suddenly developed seizures when he was 18 months old and was given a diagnosis of epilepsy; a neurosurgeon told his parents he would have seizures everyday as long as he lived. John became seizure-free soon after, an unexpected turn of events that coheres with one of Morgen Kann Warten‘s themes: The unexpected is ever lurking and can contain more than meets the eye.
As a young child, John is diagnosed with autism and his parents change their lives and jobs so they can best care for him. At support groups for parents, they hear about struggle and isolation. One 60-year-old woman tells them how her 30-year-old autistic son’s life is divided between weekdays at a sheltered workshop and time at home, often in his pajamas so he does not have to leave the house. She urges Scott and Monika to teach John to “be in the world” and that is precisely what they decide to do.
Going to Holland, and to Italy, and to France, and…
“Welcome to Holland” is a parable by Emily Perl Kingsley, in which the experience of finding oneself the parent of a child with disabilities is compared to thinking you are going on a trip to Italy and ending up in a destination did not want to go to, Holland. While this parable has its truths, not every parent (my husband and myself included) find that it suits our experience. Some of us feel that we are just as glad to find ourselves in the country we are in as wherever we thought we might travel to. So Scott and Monika write:
There is a critical response to the parable on the Internet in which the ending is changed. The parents tear the Rembrandt off the wall, walk into a travel agency, take home brochures of Brazil, Greece, Egypt, Alaska, Japan and Tahiti, turn the globe and pick a destination with eyes closed. Farewell, Holland. It was only much later, long after having read both the parable and its response, and after having gone on many trips, that we came to realize: we literally put the critical response into action.
Morgen Kann Warten is, indeed, about actually traveling to Holland, Greece, Denmark and beyond with a severely autistic child.
Photo by gedankentraeger
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