Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
My family adopted our sweet little girl out of the foster care system in 2014. We could tell from the first day we met her, that she was dealing with something. Not quite sure what the cause of her many delays were, we started down the avenue of Early On Education. Every home visit and evaluation would bring about stress for both of us. What a huge sense of rejection and failure when your kid can’t build a tower or find the toy under the blanket, or whatever developmental thing they’re supposed to be able to do at that given age. As a mom, I wanted her to be on track so I worked with her and went to play therapies with her. I tried not to worry, I tried not to resent her, but in brutal honesty, I failed. Every time another child passed her in milestones and development I could feel myself disappointed. I hate myself for those feelings.
While in foster care we requested a comprehensive neurodevelopmental trauma assessment at a well-known office in our town. It was there that we would receive her FAS diagnosis. My thoughts and feelings bounced from being surprised to relieved to terrified and several more in between. I had (and still have) no idea what this would all mean. Everything I knew about FAS was from an episode of Law and Order, and let me tell you it wasn’t good.
We adopted her later that year and enrolled her in school. She was in an Early Childhood Special Education class with about 6 other kids. She managed to get through the year and would head back the next. The new year rolled around and with it a new teacher. (The thing is, she does not do transitions…) It was within a matter of weeks that I had to sign papers saying I would not be bringing her back to that school, LOL. So we were blessed in transferring her to an all special needs school in our county. (This new school is where it’s at!) I can’t even begin to tell you how incredibly hurtful and damaging it is for you to entrust teachers, educators, bus transporters etc. with your child and feel as if everything about them is an inconvenience and burden to them. They were so done with her at the first school that on her IEP under “strengths” all they had written was “she likes to read books”. While I will admit that stepping into the “Special Needs” world was shocking and terrifying, I can honestly tell you I couldn’t have asked for anything better! She still has “issues”, we get incident reports home multiple times a week, she hits, pinches, throws stuff, runs away, breaks almost everything, swears, screams, yada yada yada, but they love her. They see potential, they see strengths (plural), they are willing and able to work with her and we are forever grateful!
What is an FASD: “Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) is not a diagnosis, but is an umbrella term (including FAS, ARND, ARBD & pFAS) describing the range of effects that can occur when a developing baby is prenatally exposed to alcohol. FASD is a lifetime disability that affects each child differently. Some children with an FASD have specific facial features and tend to be smaller in height and weight. They often have a brain injury that never goes away. The only cause of FASD is alcohol use during pregnancy. There is no known safe amount of alcohol to drink during pregnancy. There is also no safe time to drink alcohol during pregnancy. Alcohol can affect the baby during every trimester of pregnancy. Unfortunately, FASD cannot be cured. The brain damage that occurs to an unborn baby when a pregnant woman drinks alcohol cannot be changed or reversed. However, people with an FASD can function very well in life when given the right supports. Supports include a stable and loving home or a job coach and placement program”. (https://www.mofas.org)
We have such a long road in front of us. I’m not sure what she will and won’t be able to do. Will she graduate, will she be able to drive, will she be able to work, to live on her own, get married? Will she end up in jail, be taken advantage of, struggle with substance abuse? So many future worries, however we are so focused on getting through each day that I don’t spend too much time thinking about the future. I struggle with the day to day because it seems like I’m the only one she’ll listen to, both a blessing and a curse. Babysitters are non-existent and our social lives have fizzled out. Church is challenging, family gatherings are stressful. It’s a broken record of “she did this, she did that, no don’t touch that, mom she is doing… etc”. Everyone thinks she’s cute but no one wants to take her for a while (and if they attempt to, I get the laundry list of all the naughty things she did). Luckily I have a spouse that lets me go and do pretty much whatever, whenever I want! We also have friends and family who support us and love us. It’s just this crazy ride that I never knew we’d be getting on and sitting in the driver’s seat is this beautiful, energetic, kind, helpful, funny, sneaky, crazy little girl. She tells me I’m pretty and thinks I’m amazing. She also peels her fingernails off and says “hi” to EVERY SINGLE PERSON we pass (half of the time asking loudly if that was a boy or a girl). There are so many days I feel defeated, inferior, not enough, but I try to imagine her as my lifelong bestie, my wingman, my partner in crime. We can’t be mad at the hand she was dealt, it won’t change anything. We can remind ourselves everyday, that she was handcrafted by God with a purpose.
There are new resources and groups on FASD popping up every day. If you need to be connected to answers and help, please feel free to reach out to me. I get it.