By Isaiah Boylan
At the age of 8, I was diagnosed with F.A.S.D. (fetal alcohol spectrum disorder). A disorder I realized, throughout my 19 years, not too many know about or clearly understand.
I have always had an open adoption. My birth mom asked my foster mom to adopt me. My adoptive mom and birth mom established a very good relationship while I was in foster care and through this relationship, my adoptive mother came to understand the struggles my birth mom had and why alcohol became a factor in her life.
I was taught by my adoptive mom not to blame my birth mom nor should anybody lay blame. It’s not like she intended for me to grow up with brain damage nor did she know she was causing me brain damage. It’s not like her doctor told her about the risks of alcohol.
What makes life easier on those of us who have FASD? First, understand we are all affected differently but may have similarities. Accepting, acknowledging and teaching others about it helps us understand ourselves and also helps us to advocate for ourselves.
Throughout school, having an invisible disability not understood by many teachers and peers, was extremely difficult. Having those few teachers willing to devote the time and energy to understand me and truly invest and see that I am a smart, knowledgeable and capable human being, gave me the will to continue and hold on to some good memories of high school. I never thought I would say this but I really wish I was back at school just to be in my shop teacher’s class. He really understood me and when I was at my lowest he was the one who made me want to get up and go to school. My mom says it’s too bad the principal and VP did not take the time or make any effort to understand FASD and how I should have been supported. It affected my learning and social interactions with both peers and teaching staff.
I can be very funny, witty and I have many skills. I am a hands-on type of guy. I love working with metal. I can weld, solder, tap and dye. I can sharpen tools and drill bits. I have been trying to do a bit of forging as well. I have a work shop with a few tools of my own, an angle grinder, bench grinder, drill press, vise, dremel, torch, drill, soldering iron and many bastard files to name a few.
I have become a sought after speaker on FASD and my lived experience. I speak to prospective foster and adoptive parents at the CAS in Ottawa, new upcoming teachers through the Faculty of Education at Queen’s University. I have spoken alongside doctors at the 6th Annual Indigenous Child Health Conference in Ottawa as well at Brockville’s Youth Mental Health AGM. I was the Keynote Speaker at the KFLA Public Health FASD Awareness Day Breakfast in Kingston September 2014.
I feel like I am making a significant difference in the lives of those also affected by FASD by speaking up and not trying to repress it. Knowledge should be shared to combat stigma. Society should be open to understanding differences and realize behaviours are symptoms of a needed environmental change.