By Rob Moore
As more and more information becomes available about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, it is sometimes hard to understand what type of impact FASD can have on a person. However, I can tell you from my own children, it is not a scary diagnosis, it is just part of who they are.
FASD is a permanent brain injury which will impact each person differently which is why it is called a spectrum disorder. It has no bearing on intelligence so you can have people with very high intelligence, medium intelligence and low intelligence impacted by FASD. Our three children reflect this as well. FASD will normally impact in the areas of emotional control, abstract thought, higher prevalence of physical and mental health issues but again every person is different.
However, people with FASD also have amazing strengths and with the right supports can live productive and independent lives. My oldest daughter does struggle with impulse control, budgeting her money, understanding abstract ideas and staying calm in emotional situations. However, her overall health is very good, can apply concrete knowledge to several applications and developing self-awareness. She was sharing the other day that she recognizes when she is in a BLAST state. When she is Bored, Lonely, Angry, Stressed or Tired, she knows she needs support. She has gotten very good at going to people and telling them I need you to listen to me. I have not met a lot of 17 years old with that level of self-awareness. She also watches videos constantly to learn how train her horses and recognizing their signs of communication. It is fascinating to see how people constantly like teaching her. She is really good at paying attention, never quitting, and believing in herself. And because she starts at such a lower level than most people, I find people really like to see the amount of progress she will make. Teachers and Managers are always saying when you think about where she was when she started and where she is now, it is incredible.
My middle daughter is the very typical middle child. She is constantly learning from the mistakes her older sister makes and does everything in her power to avoid making those mistakes. She loves to please others so she constantly has a smile on her face, loves being with others, and is so welcoming. She watches cooking shows constantly and is very good at duplicating a dish she has watched someone create. While she does struggle with the math calculations in recipes at times, she has learned on her own measuring set what 1/3 tablespoon looks like and so on. If she needs to double a recipe, she does the recipe twice. Her emotional regulation is fantastic and has no anxiety about anything, but again needs support with abstract thought and has hearing loss which impacts her at times.
Our youngest son hates being called the baby of the family. He easily has the largest independent streak and strongest personality in the family. He is incredible at watching others perform tasks and copying them. He is demonstrating the ability to problem solve and recognizing how the same skills can be applied to different situations. He will get ideas of what something should look like and spend hours getting it just right. Again, for a ten year old, his self-awareness is really impressive. He has a very good understanding of what he needs for a work environment and how to manage some of his struggles. He shared with his counselor that he uses his anger to keep himself safe. When he feels threatens, he is going to be very aggressive. However, he is still learning when it is appropriate to use your anger. He is still learning it is not appropriate to use your anger when Dad tells you it is bedtime. While his concrete thought is good, he does have some medical concerns and challenges with emotional control. He doesn’t particularly get anxious about things in general, but really doesn’t like change.
There are no doubt our lives changed after our children came to us, especially in the area of sticking to routine. However, we have lived the alternatives of having no family and loss of children so for us our children absolutely are the greatest blessings in our lives, and we would have it no other way.