Welcome to Holland

“When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans.

The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian.

It’s all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go.

Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.”

“Holland?!?” you say.

“What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy!

I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”

But there’s been a change in the flight plan.

They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease.

It’s just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guide books.

And you must learn a whole new language.

And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It’s just a different place.

It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy.

But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around…. and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills….and Holland has tulips.

Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy… and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there.

And for the rest of your life, you will say “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away… because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.

But… if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things … about Holland.”

Emily Perl Kingsley


Parents of Kids With Disabilities Fear for Sibling Relationships

The results reflect a desire amongst parents to find new ways of bridging gaps between siblings, bringing them closer together through participation.

Almost half (47%) of parents felt that more opportunities for participation would benefit their children physically, mentally and improve their relationships.

The survey, carried out online, polled over one hundred parents whose child had a disability, with the aim of gauging how families perceive participation in the home and how they would like to change it.

Family days out, playtime and play dates topped the list of activities in which parents wished their child could be more involved.

A huge majority (91%) of parents felt their child was isolated due to their disability.

An incredible 48% stating that their child missed out on something every single day.

These concerning figures demonstrate exactly why ‘special needs family participation’ needs to be addressed.

They show us that parents have pressing worries over their child’s isolation, and remind us that participation and quality of life are an immediate need, rather than something to be aspired to in the future.

Many studies have already shown that participation, play and social engagement can all add significantly to benefits for children with disabilities.

These activities often enhance existing therapy programmes.

Let’s hope that this research can help highlight the importance of family participation and lead to more ways of making it possible.

Five Things Parents of Disabled Children Wish You Knew

So if you meet the parent of a child with special needs, here are some things to consider. They’re just based on experience and observation, but I’m guessing some parents out there will be able to relate.

1. My disabled child is still a child

Some people will look at a child and only see the disability (if they can recognise it). That’s a real shame, because what they’re not seeing is a beautiful child, one with the same sense of humour, mischief and fascination as any other child.

2. Nothing is “wrong with her”

Please don’t ask me that. Or what her diagnosis is. I appreciate your interest but, to be frank, it’s none of your business – I didn’t enquire about your medical issues.

Maybe just ask me her name. Better still, ask her.

3. I know you don’t know what to say, and that’s okay

It’s fine, I understand that you’re unsure. The best advice I can give is to imagine what you would normally say to a parent if you weren’t busy freaking out, then just say that.

4. I don’t wish she was different

I don’t spend my days wishing my child was different. If she was, she wouldn’t be my child. The one I know and adore, the one that makes me smile every day and makes me proud. Why would I wish for someone different?

Sure, I wish life was a little easier for both of us sometimes, just like everyone else, but I wouldn’t change my child.

5. I’m not brave, or stronger than anyone else

I get scared. I worry. I panic. I cry. Sometimes I feel like running away or that I can’t keep going.

On days like that I really need support or a kind ear. Don’t be afraid to offer help, it might just turn my day around.

8 Ways the 3D Printing Revolution Will Help Children with Disabilities

3D printing, or additive manufacturing, is a process where a three-dimensional object is built up by applying repeated layers of material in three dimensions. The process is very much like a traditional printer in that the ‘printer head’ moves in two dimensions.  The materials used range from simple plastics to specialised metals.

Here are 8 ways the 3d printing revolutions will help children with disabilities in the future.

Personalised Equipment

3D printing ) is bringing a little magic to the lives of disabled children already. Take the story

of Emma Lavelle, now 5, born with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita (AMC), a rare non-progressive condition which meant her legs were folded up by her ears and her shoulders were turned inwards. With the help of a 3D printer Emma now has a lightweight plastic vest.

As soon as the vest was fitted, Emma began to use her arms and now refers to the system as her ‘magic arms’.

This will undoubtedly transform the lives of assistive technology users as well by allowing them to help design better-looking devices that are both quicker and cheaper to make.

As a manufacturer, Fireflyfriends.com, has been asked to design bespoke and personalised GoTo Seats

for children up to the age of 10. With the help of a 3D printer it could be feasible, in the future, to take individual measurements and print personalised equipment then mail it to the customer all within 24 hours.

Adaptive clothing

With the recent success of special needs clothing companies such as Downs Designs and Blossom, the demand for adaptive clothing is rising.

With a 3D printer, companies could design adaptive clothing specifically for special needs children. Customers will be able to send their measurements online, including sleeve length, torso length, chest and waist circumference along with requested adaptations.

Body organs

Some disabled children and adults have ongoing breathing problems.

Another biological application 3D printing could provide are 3D silicone tracheas, which take just 15 minutes to 3D-print.

It is a way off but the next step is to incorporate a patient’s own biological material to reproduce the trachea, lowering the risk of the body rejecting it or requiring replacements.

With much research this could eventually become possible for other organs such as lungs, heart and kidneys.

Mobility cars

3D printed mobility cars will be something to watch for in the future. Manufacturers like Ford already use 3D printing to build prototypes.

As 3D printing becomes more and more popular, special needs parents will be able to use file sharing sites like Pirate Bay to source blueprints for mobility cars.

Fans of Porsche can source mini versions of the Porsche Cayman and, more recently, Honda did the same for five of its concept cars.

Prosthetic limbs

3D printing has already begun changing the world of prosthetics. Dennis Weikel

is having the lower half of his body scanned and digitised. It’s the first step towards getting a new type of cover for his prosthetic leg. He hopes it will finally allow him to stop hiding the fact that he is an amputee.

By scanning an amputees’ surviving limb, San Francisco-based company, Bespoke Innovations can make a matching prosthetic copy, thereby re-creating the body’s natural symmetry and giving amputees a prosthetic that is fabricated specifically for them.

Experts also believe this will eventually be replaced with the printing of organic tissue to remake biological limbs.

Accessibility solutions

Facing accessibility issues Disabled Berliner Raul Krauthausen bought himself a 3D printer to use as a hobby.

Remarkably, Raul used it to create something more useful for himself: portable plastic ramps.

Krauthausen taught himself by watching online tutorials, then created a pair of plastic chocks – textured on one side to prevent tyre-slippage – to help him over occasional steps.

“I decided to print a ramp because I am a wheelchair user. I often have problems getting into places with just one step in front of the entrance. I thought it would be good if I could carry one with me on the back of my wheelchair, not too big and not too heavy.”

Sensory Toys

The 3D printing of toys is becoming more and more popular.

The toy industry will be one of the first to realise its full potential for the process – companies like Disney are already building 3D printed toys.

Nobody is working specifically on sensory toys for special needs children yet, but hopefully, in the near future, parents will be able to personalise, create and modify sensory toys based on their child’s specific needs.

Special needs learning

A learning aid built by a postgraduate student at Ahmedabad’s National Institute of Design (NID) may well turn out to be the “holy braille” for visually-impaired children.

The student, Tania Jain, and a Hyderabad-based ophthalmologist, Dr Anthony Vipin Das, created ‘Fittle’, a 3D-printed puzzle that lets children learn the letters of braille and sense the objects the words convey.

With current technology, Fittle can be downloaded through open source platforms from the website and the letters can be printed by anyone with a 3D printer.

This could allow parents and educators to design and print learning aids which incorporate braille.