Challenged Hope

Grandmother raising Grandchildren with FASD in Hamilton Ontario Canada


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FASD Teens and Substance Abuse

Teens with FASD often struggle with interpreting the body language and expressions of others. This became apparent to me through my youngest grandson’s inability to sense threatening behaviour or, at the least, the depth of the threat; often seeing the behaviour as comical, or engaging. This struggle also reveals itself through his misinterpreting the positive intentions of those in the medical field or police force. Often, in social settings, he mistranslates the social cues of his peers causing strife or offence among the group. Because Teens with FASD struggle in this area they are more likely to be influenced by unsuitable peers and as a result get into criminal activities or substance abuse.

Contacting your doctor for preventative strategies is always a good idea. There are also websites that offer strategies should you need help:

 

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FASD Teens and Directions

As with youngsters with FASD, teens with FASD also struggle with following multiple directions, often saying, and looking as if, they understand when in fact they don’t. Although repeating directions can be tiring, success depends on only one or two directions being given at a time.

My experience with raising teen grandchildren with FASD has been that if the requirement needs multiple directions, for example: tidying their room, they were more likely to succeed if they knew where everything “goes”- those books go together on the shelf; your jeans belong in this drawer (label); the fitted sheet which goes over the mattress is sewn at the ends (show them); etc.

As they struggled to understand, tidying their rooms with them several times at first and repeating where everything belonged helped. The next time I showed them how to make the bed plus ask them to put a few things away. This allowed for the multiple directions to be understood at a slower pace until it was “locked in” and they understood the requirements. I realize it’s all so time consuming, but in the long term single directions will save time and energy and produce successful results both for child and caregiver.

Of course, nothing is ever perfect, but that’s okay because I don’t expect perfection from anyone. And even now I will offer to help my grandchildren tidy their rooms as they have accumulated lots of “stuff” and get confused as to where it all belongs, but that’s okay too, as it’s time spent together and that’s never a bad thing!


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FASD Teens and Change in Routine

Teens with FASD struggle, just a much as youngsters with FASD, with change in daily routines, tasks, and unexpected schedules like: medical appointments, outings, bus trips, trips to the hairstylist or clothing stores; anything or anywhere which is not part of their everyday habits. One way to combat their stress and potential behaviour issues during such changes is to explain in advance what their week will look like and what will be involved via a chart posted to the fridge.

My teen grandchildren with mental disabilities always ask how long the appointment or errand will last but, as they have difficulty understanding time, I try to describe time in events, not hours, such as: “We will be back by lunch/supper/bed time.” For some reason, when they have the return time locked in, they are much more comfortable with the idea of going somewhere, or doing something unexpected which tells me just how much they see their home as a foundation of security and the outside world as an intimidating place. The assurance of the return to their home seems to be the deciding factor to their agreeing to the change in routine, and lessens the anxiety they might otherwise experience during an outside event.


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Teens with FASD have trouble determining what to do in difficult situations and often won’t ask pertinent questions as they want to be accepted by peers. They will often accept any request in order to join in and be part of the group.


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FASD Teens forming Friendships

Teens with FASD often struggle to form friendships, so it is vital they interact with other teens who face similar challenges. My teen grandchildren are enrolled in a Comprehensive Class at school which affords them the opportunity to find friends among their classroom peers, while experiencing friendships with non-disabled peers via the school’s Best Buddy program.


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Understanding Teenage FASD

With the exception of my youngest granddaughter, my grandchildren are now teenagers. While I appreciate the extra time I now have to explore my own identity after years of discovering my children’s and then my grandchildren’s, raising teens with FASD is not much different from raising youngsters with FASD. Both stages bring their own fun times, surprises, achievements, challenges, and stress, but one thing I’ve noticed with FASD teens is their struggle to achieve independence which, of course, raises concerns over what happens when they eventually leave home.

With guidance and support, non-disabled teens usually achieve independence, but FASD teens need guidance and support just to get through each day. Without that support they can become disoriented and anxious, unsure of what step to take next, especially regarding daily routines like bathing, brushing teeth, regular meal times, laundry, managing allowance, etc; all aspects of life necessary for successful independence.