How Do You Do It?

(We Went To Ireland)

by Andee Dunn (Jan.1996)


Today someone asked me that question for what must be the millionth time in my life. My first response was, "I just do." That's worked well many times before. Not now.

My next response was, "How would you do it?" Still, it didn't satisfy this inquirer. She was not like many of the others. She needed more. And she needed it from me. Why?

You see, she was like me. Every single day she deals with the kinds of things I must deal with. I've been doing it for over a decade. She began her 'trip' only three years ago. What trip is that? It was our 'trip' to Holland.

It's an insider tip of sorts. We both became parents to children with special needs and by doing so we went to Holland instead of our planned trip to Italy, like most other parents. To fully understand this metaphor you must read "Welcome To Holland" by Emily Pearl Kingsley.


In thinking of an answer to her question I had to think about every aspect of my parenting. Everyday I must help some very special needs get met. Perhaps, I thought, we didn't go to Holland but we went to Ireland. Oh, I did go to Holland about ten years ago with my first child and her special needs. Then again with my second daughter. Holland, instead of Italy, meant an entirely different set of rules; a new guidebook. It served me well. It has served many others just as well.

But now, this unexpected trip to Ireland was threatening to tear our family apart! I needed a brand new guidebook; fast! And they are very hard to find! I needed to know what Ireland had to offer me and my family.


Italy (where everyone else usually went) had beautiful, wonderful things to do and see. Holland (where a few ended up, instead of Italy) had beautiful, wonderful things to offer as well; just not quite the same way. I'd been prepared for either.

When you are first told you are having multiples, your mind envisions carbon copies of everything. You prepare well: all the latest guidebooks, pictures and maps are yours.

Then at some point of your journey you are told, "There's an unexpected change in plans." Your immediate response is to scream, "NO! It can't be! It's not what I planned! It's not the way it's suppose to be!"

Then you calm down and take it all in...slowly. "So where am I?" you ask. Your hostess explains, "You're in Ireland. Welcome!" You think, "So what am I suppose to do now? I can't exactly combine the books about Italy and about Holland to know what's here."

Ireland is beautiful. The scenery is breathtaking. Ireland has a rich history. Touring the countyside and visiting the castles is a wonderful experience.

Ireland also has places showing you the conflict of it's residents. The devastation of crisis, strife, poverty, war. You see the very best and the very worst side-by-side.

You wonder how the people survive. You talk to some and discover they really love it here. You talk to more and discover how such opposites can coexist. You start to find the wonderful and the beautiful things on both sides. You realize, this unexpected change in plans will turn out just fine for you.

But everyone else is busy coming and going from Italy or Holland. They tell marvelous stories of the wonderful times they had. They are excited enough to want you to go. You want to go too. And for the rest of your life, you will say, "Yes, that's what I was going to do, too."

Somewhere in your heart, the pain of that will always be present. It will surface from time to time and hurt you again. That unexpected change of plans gave you a loss that cannot be replaced. It must be mourned.

But if you forever mourn that fact, you may never feel free to enjoy this once in a lifetime trip. You will not see the beautiful and the wonderful things Ireland has to offer.

Our special needs children do not fit the usual pattern of the majority. Our special needs children DO still need special things. Things like therapies...OT, PT, SLT, SI, AT, VT, ST, and many, many, more. Things like standers, wedges, boards, walkers, wheelchairs, adaptive switches, and special trays, helmets and vests, balls and rolls, and so many more adaptive devices.

Our children also have a twin, or two triplet siblings and a few even have more. Multiples: our special children were born as one of a set of multiples. They are twins, triplets, quadruplets, quintuplets, even sextuplets! We, their parents, must work to meet the needs of their multiple relationship and meet their special needs.

It is, on some days, much like a war-torn country. Yes, there are some very beautiful sites; these may sometimes be found side-by-side with some devastating sites. We must cope with both at once. How we handle that challenge may make a big difference in the lives of our children.

They are the most wonderful, absolutely the best ever, highly talented and joyful children in my life. They are what make my trip to Ireland so memorable. They are my reason for not really missing Holland anymore, or Italy. Ireland is home.


Learning how to help my whole family to appreciate our uncommon circumstances has been the most rewarding trip I've ever taken. The unique bonds between twins, triplets and quadruplets are so endearing...watching one support the other without words, but with true feeling, with deep empathy, with a closeness no one else can match inspite of their differences; and watching them push the other to the heights of frustration and the limits of their capabilities is perhaps the best therapy one can have. I sometimes wonder where my older daughters would be now if they each had a twin to share these experiences with today. But, I cannot see how I would've accomplished so much without others being there for friendship, support, education and most of all to give me a bit of their humor while mine is still coming along.

Andee Dunn (MOM to Bryana (7/82), CJ (11/85), Allyssa (7/88) and
Mack (12/91), Rebecca (12/91) & Jessica (12/91) and
married since 9/79 to SHAWN, the computer genius!)
E-Mail  You can reach all of us there!

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