Aliens versus ‘Welcome to Holland’ – Metaphors and learning about how to write about disabilities


Here are a few things of the dozens of things that I learned from my last post about “Defending Finn’s Dad” and the comments that followed on Jeff Howe’s Facebook page and elsewhere. By no means am I done thinking about these things.

1. Make sure that your readers understand to whom your point is aimed. If the piece contains autism topics, but you are trying to make an observation about all disabilities in general using autism as an example, make that abundantly clear.

2. For every person who demands the purported power of people first language (“I am writing an article about people with disabilities”) there are those that find it powerless or even offensive compared to the alternative (“I am writing an article about disabled people.”)  It’s even more complex when you use “people with autism” versus “autistic people.”

3. I finally understand why I dislike “Welcome to Holland” so much. And why I have to be more understanding and empathetic to those who like it.

“Welcome to Holland” is a short piece that attempts to describe the feelings a parent may have when they learn they have a child with a disability. It uses a metaphor of prepping for a trip to Italy and all the hopes and dreams that entails, but ending up landing in Holland without even an announcement.  I’ve always found that metaphor to be weak and frankly, a slight bit insulting.  It wasn’t until I read the detailed criticism’s of Jeff’s piece and his use of an “Extra Terrestrial (ET)” metaphor and some people’s visceral response to it that I realized that *I* need to be less judgmental about others in my extended community and their perceptions.  And others do as well!  It doesn’t have to be such a short jump from a poorly chosen metaphor to Nazi imagery.  And people (and me!) need to be less quick to impugn the character of others.  I’ll probably write an essay for my upcoming book about how I had a very inappropriate visceral reaction to a video game’s theme about 13 years ago after my son was diagnosed.

4. I learned much much more, but wanted to keep this post short!

Thanks for reading, and be sure to let me know if you want to contribute a story or essay to my upcoming book, Dads of Disability:  Stories for, by, and about Fathers of Children with Disabilities.





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