Challenged Hope

Grandmother raising Grandchildren with FASD in Hamilton Ontario Canada


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FASD Feelings

Kids with FASD often believe their feelings or opinions are worthless, therefore it’s important to distinguish and label emotions so the individual can more easily recognize and express their feelings.

http://www.fasd.alberta.ca offers a booklet titled: FASD Strategies and Solutions. There I found a page on Feelings and Emotions which reads: “…. teach emotions in a concrete way (e.g. smiling means happy).”

  • A “check-in” time for internal feelings will help in stating which feelings are physical and concrete.
  • After an outburst, talk about what your child felt during the meltdown; for example, a beating heart, sweaty hands, hot face. Attach the concrete feeling to the meltdown so she can begin to identify what feelings are connected to certain behaviours.
  • In order to be able to act appropriately to any emotion, your child must first have some way to recognize concretely what she is feeling. That feeling must then be named and “rules” for appropriate reaction to that feeling must be made.
  • Create a “feelings” dictionary, using line-drawings of complete stick men rather than just facial expressions for those most common feelings the child is likely to experience. A complete body can show more than just a face and is much easier for the child to associate with what he is feeling. Have one emotion per page.
  • Always name emotions very clearly. With teens and adults, name the emotion first and then follow with the words their friend’s use (“angry” vs. “pissed off”).
  • To encourage emotional expression, use a gingerbread man outline drawing and simple colour codes (e.g. red for anger, blue for sad, yellow for happy, and gray for blank). Have your child colour on the gingerbread man where he has those feelings. This can give you a quick and immediate idea of the state of emotional health (e.g., red in the head and the hands is a good indicator of being ready to “lose it”; gray in the head and on the body is a good indication of being “shut down”). this will help, especially when the child is not able to verbalize her thoughts and feelings.
  • Once the feeling is identified correctly, have a simple plan to help the child. For instance:
  1. “Losing it” – use calm down technique.
  2. Caregiver is “ticked off” – stand still, look at caregiver and listen.
  3. “Tired” – lie down and rest.
  4. “Frustrated” – have a list of physical activities that she can do and have her choose between two.
  5. “Angry” – express it physically in a previously identified acceptable and safe manner.

Do not expect: 

  • Insight
  • Application of yesterday’s learning to today’s experiences
  • That the child will remember a feeling from one time to the next without support.

The child will not necessarily be able to understand the emotions of others just because we were not able to help her understand her own.

 

 

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FASD: Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

Three of my mentally disabled grandchildren have a confirmed diagnosis of FASD (Foetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder) a term used to describe the full range of permanent birth defects caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol, FAS being one of them, and knowing the habits of my daughter when she was a pregnant teen, I am sure all of my grandchildren suffer from FAS.

But how to deal with the problems and behaviours associated with this diagnosis?! One of the ways to help my grandchildren with the challenges they faced living with FAS was through a consistent daily routine. It soon became obvious to me that allowing my grandchildren to live each day identically afforded them the reassurance that YES they could cope with the obstacles life placed before them without becoming overanxious or withdrawn. And that YES they could enjoy their playtime with peers as long as they understood the routine and what was expected of them, and that their daily playtime would hold little change, (sorry, but children’s large birthday parties are a huge no-no for children with FAS. They feel out of control and out of their depth re their coping skills). I also discovered that all of my grandchildren needed a solid anchor, which for them was me. As long as I was in view and easily accessible their demeanor told me they at least believed they could cope with daily living.

And even today, many years later, despite the fact that I am usually not more than ten feet away from any one of them, they constantly “check” on my whereabouts with “Hi, Mom!” or “I love you, Mom!” whenever they change rooms, or walk downstairs from their bedrooms. This has become their strategy to confirm their anchor is still well-chained, and firmly fastened! (Giggle: I am blogging in the kitchen and my granddaughter just walked in from the living room and said “Hi, Mom!” even though she saw me just a few minutes before. Which validates I really do know what I’m talking about!) If you are a caregiver to a child with FAS, expect to be “peeked” at many times throughout the day. No, they are not spying on you, or trying to listen in on your telephone conversations, but are just comforting themselves with the fact that you are available should a problem arise that they feel they can’t handle. Without their anchor close by, they will be less likely to try to work things through themselves.

There are many books available on the subject of FASD, and if you feel your child might be suffering the challenges of FASD, call your doctor for an appointment and ask for a referral to a paediatrician who specializes in children’s developmental delays. Although FASD is not an actual diagnostic term, there are three diagnosis that fall under the umbrella of FASD: Foetal Alcohol Syndrome, Partial Foetal Alcohol Syndrome and Alcohol Related Neurodevelopment Disorder. To get a diagnosis under the FASD umbrella means your child could qualify for specialized support programmes and other positive community resources. Ask the paediatrician any questions you have, how to manage your child’s behaviour, and request to be directed to workshops and resources in your area.