Challenged Hope

Grandmother raising Grandchildren with FASD in Hamilton Ontario Canada

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Children’s FASD picture book

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Strawberry & Cracker, Twins with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

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Strawberry & Cracker, Twins with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Front Cover

Strawberry & Cracker, Twins with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Front Cover.

Where to purchase?

Strawberry & Cracker, Twins with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is available from your AMAZON

or this link


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FASD: Support, Understanding, Patience.

What does it mean to offer

an individual with FASD, support,

understanding, and patience?

We hear it a lot. Be patient, they need time. Your understanding would go a long way. Offer support when they feel challenged. But, what does all that actually mean? It is one thing to request help and compassion for people struggling with FASD, but what are our expectations of other people?


A prime example of support happened when my granddaughter with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome recently attended an interview to register for a volunteering program designed for participants with special needs. Now 18, my granddaughter is ready to branch out into the world, wants to volunteer, but needs support to do so. As my granddaughter does not tell time well, she needs prompts and encouragement through the steps to arrive for appointments on time. My support included being sure she got up when the alarm sounded, reminding her to shower, suggesting an appropriate outfit, making sure she ate breakfast, reminding her what records to take with her, driving her to the appointment, and being in attendance with her. That was just the beginning of my support.


There is always hesitation on my part as to how appointments will be conducted, and my granddaughter’s reaction. This time, however, the interviewer understood FASD body language and was able to offer understanding when she saw signs of my granddaughter’s increasing anxiety: her face reddening, her head drooping, her refusal to answer questions, none of which translated as she didn’t want to volunteer after all. Fortunately, the interviewer acted accordingly by giving my granddaughter the choice to continue the interview in the office or return home and complete her registration over the phone. It might sound simple, but you would be amazed at how many people show anger when they sense my granddaughter’s anxiety. They insist she has nothing to be nervous about, and that she should sit up, stop being distracted, and LISTEN, or be dismissed. Misinterpreting signs of anxiety can result in kids with FASD missing out on activities they can handle with support. 


If the interviewer had become irritated by my granddaughter’s anxiety, the appointment would have ended abruptly, but her patience, led her to find ways to calm the situation, speak directly but softly to my granddaughter, and ask what SHE needed to get through the interview successfully. By the end of the appointment, my granddaughter was smiling. Always a good sign!

The result of my support and the interviewer’s understanding and patience, is that my granddaughter agreed to participate in the upcoming volunteer program. The first step of many more to come! So, next time someone asks you to show support, understanding, and patience to someone with disabilities, it doesn’t mean throw them a sickly sweet smile and avert your eyes patiently until they get it. It means having knowledge of the issues associated with disabilities, and how to put that knowledge into practice.

Where to gain knowledge?

Hundreds of worldwide organizations provide assistance for the disabled and need volunteers. If you can’t find a volunteering program in your home town, go further afield: the next city, province, country. Volunteering is a great way to grow, learn, and become the person you are meant to be: one who understands people of all abilities, and able to offer appropriate support, understanding, and patience.

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Hamilton ON ODSP Office.

The Appointment.

I’m sitting in the Hamilton, ON, ODSP office. My grandson has an appointment. Soon, he and his caseworker will walk in and join me. Meanwhile, I take in my surroundings. Cold and unwelcoming, the waiting area easily seats twenty, but only a handful of people surround me. Some sit patiently, others pace. Sitting by the entrance affords me a view of their comings and goings.

A man, I guess to be in his forties, approaches the entrance; his appearance unkempt, his shoes mismatched. Unsure of protocol, he nervously peers around.

A receptionist’s voice strikes the air. “Next!” A number lights up behind her.

Still in the entrance, the man raises his hand.

“Do you have a number?” she calls.

Unsure, he steps back.

“Do you have a number?” she repeats. Her tone is shrill.

He smiles uneasily.

A young woman in the chair next to mine interjects. “The numbers are outside the entrance,” she explains to the man. She points. “There, just behind you. Take one then take a seat and wait your turn.”

He nods in gratitude, takes a number, but remains standing.

“Next!” we hear again.

He strides forward, number in hand. Several people with lesser numbers protest.

“What number do you have?” the receptionist asks.

He looks at the ticket, but shakes his head. He’s unsure.

“Bring it here.” She looks at the number. “You are not next,” she snaps. “You are number 32.” She points to the number sign. “This number is 25. Sit down and wait your turn.”

Gingerly, he sits beside the young woman and waits. I hear her whisper. She tells him she will let him know when they call his number. My grandson and his support worker arrive. He hugs me, which is always nice, but a problem has arisen at reception #2. A young man has received a form to complete.

“Read it, and then sign here, here, and here,” the woman is saying, pointing a finger to each area.

“Where?” the young man asks.

“Here, here, and here!” she repeats.

Body language kicks in. I recognize the signs. The young man doesn’t read well. He most likely can’t sign his name. His eyes glaze over as he tries to think of ways to avoid explaining. Both hands press down hard into his jeans’ pockets. He bites his bottom lip.

“Take the form. Read it, and sign,” she repeats.

A kind voice interjects.  “Would you like some help,” it asks. “I have some free time.”

The young man looks up to see a twenty-something blonde who has just emerged from her office. He nods appreciatively. As she leads him to a corner of the room away from glaring eyes, two men stride into the office. Their voices are loud, their demeanor arrogant. They approach receptionist #1. She appears nervous and demands they leave.

“Not without our cheques!” one bellows.

“What do you mean—your cheques?” she asks.

“We are waiting for our fucking money!” says the other.

“You can’t come in here demanding money. You will have to leave!”

“Not until we get our money!”

“If you want to discuss your situation, you must phone the office to arrange an appointment.”

One of the guys strikes a fist hard into his palm. “What’s the fucking phone number?”

She hands him a business card. The other swears at her. They both leave. She calls security. Seconds later, a guard approaches reception. “They left in the elevator,” she explains. “But they might still be in the building.” The guard speaks into his phone.

Thirty minutes later, we are still waiting. The man’s number is finally called, but the young woman who was seated beside him has left. He anxiously raises his hand as if unsure it is his turn. Receptionist #2 checks his number.

“So, what can we do for you today?” she asks.

“I have an appointment.”

Surprise lights up her face. “You have an appointment? Why did you take a number? Didn’t you see the sign?”

He looks around him. She points to a sign taped to a wall beside her, which reads: IF YOU HAVE AN APPOINTMENT, DO NOT TAKE A NUMBER. COME TO RECEPTION AND CHECK IN.

“Well, you are too late, now,” she spits. “Your appointment was half an hour ago. You will have to call to reschedule.” The sign blinks–number 33. “Who is next?” she calls.

Overlooked, the man turns and leaves the office.

It was then I understood why so many people with disabilities are homeless. Many do not know how to read nor write. They don’t understand office protocol, nor the appropriate forms to complete, nor the requirements expected of them, so they believe funding is unavailable. Not all have support workers to help them, so they go without—no income, no home, no food, no clothing, and no dignity.

KATHLEEN WYNNE, it is time to transform Ontario’s ODSP offices

into places of respect, understanding, and support.

If YOU agree, please share this post.

“The moral test of government is how it treats those who are in the dawn of life . . . the children; those who are in the twilight of life . . . the elderly; and those who are in the shadow of life . . . the sick . . . the needy . . . and the disabled.”

— Hubert Humphrey

To discover how I learned to recognize the body language of people who have mental health disorders, join me at the following link and click on my two FASD memoirs and my children’s FASD picture book.

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A Mother’s Tears

The Window

The Window

The Window

I can’t believe I cried on the bus. It would not have happened if I had driven to my dental appointment, but, with traffic heavy and parking nonexistent in the downtown core, I use public transportation on dental day. 

After an intense tooth cleaning, and consultation, I caught the bus home. Five minutes into the drive, the bus stopped in dense traffic, and there it was … the window.

At the sight, my lips trembled. Sudden tears flowed down my cheeks. I could not hold back. Amid my horrendous embarrassment, I stared at the beast. It glared back, cold and indifferent. I imagined my daughter, standing there, smiling, as she had twenty years before.

The previous day she had given birth to her first child. At fifteen she had no idea of what the future held, yet she managed a smile as she spotted me approaching the hospital to visit her and my new grandson. Today, I cried on the bus at the memory of her at the hospital window, and recalled the trauma of the past two decades. 

To read of the details of what happened during those twenty years, read my two memoirs Two Decades of Diapers, and, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: The Teen Years. If you are a caregiver to a child with FASD, you and your child would enjoy my children’s picture book titled, Strawberry & Cracker, Twins with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

Along with my fiction, my memoirs, and children’s book are available from your Amazon or the following link.





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FASD children’s picture book


Strawberry & Cracker, Twins with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Front Cover

Strawberry & Cracker, Twins with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Front Cover.

FASD children’s picture book.

Meet Strawberry & Cracker, twins with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)! With over twenty years of experience parenting four grandchildren with FAS, through my perception of the disorder, I have created the children’s picture book titled Strawberry & Cracker, Twins with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

Illustrated in the first of the Strawberry & Cracker series, titled, The School Day, is the twins’ use of visual aids, the necessity to attend a special needs class, and living with a caregiver other than a biological parent. Initially featuring Strawberry and Cracker’s strengths, the story subsequently introduces the reader to a typical school day in the life of a child with FAS, and the supports required for a successful outcome.  

FASD children’s picture book.

Strawberry & Cracker, Twins with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, the picture book series, is designed to fulfill several needs:

  • To offer children with FASD a fun picture book highlighting daily challenges they can relate to.
  • To help children with FASD accept their diagnosis with dignity and self-respect.
  • To offer caregivers a tool with which to introduce their child with FASD to the disorder.
  • To bring awareness of FASD to the public.

Story by Barbara Studham. Illustrated by Heather Lamb

Genre: Family and relationships/special needs children. Glossy front and back cover. The picture book includes twenty-six inside pages with color images and large print. Size: 8.5” x 8.5”.

Price: $9.99 USD

Available from your AMAZON



Being aware of FASD

Strawberry & Cracker, Twins with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, the book.

Strawberry & Cracker, Twins with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, printed picture book.

Hi, after a busy summer, I am back to blogging about the effects of FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder). My contribution to FASD Day is the creation of my children’s picture book titled Strawberry & Cracker.

Now, you might be wondering how a children’s picture book can contribute to FASD awareness. Well, the two main characters of my book are Strawberry & Cracker, twins with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS).

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is a diagnosis within the range of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, and is caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol. FAS can be responsible for birth defects and complex behavior issues throughout the life of the individual. Having parented four grandchildren with FAS, I have over twenty years of practical knowledge of the disorder, and have used my perception of their struggles to create my children’s book.

The first in the Strawberry & Cracker printed picture book series is titled The School Day, and created to be enjoyed by children of all ages. Highlighted in the story is a typical day in the life of a child with FAS. This includes the use of visual aids, attending a special needs class, and living with caregivers other than parents. Initially featuring Strawberry and Cracker’s strengths, the story subsequently introduces readers to the complexities of the twins’ school day, and the supports required for a successful outcome.

As an advocate for bringing much needed attention to FAS, I aim to use my experience with the disorder to inform parents, educators, support workers, and medical professionals on the adversities associated with FAS. With plans to expand Strawberry & Cracker: Twins with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome into a series, with the help of the wonderful illustrations of artist, Heather Lamb, I hope to highlight the numerous challenges faced by children and families struggling with the disorder.

So, when will Strawberry & Cracker, Twins with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome be released? It is in printing now, so keep posted. As soon as it becomes available I will release the details of price and place of purchase. In the meantime, check out my author’s blog,

Also visit,

and download my two memoir ebooks titled, Two Decades of Diapers, and, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: The Teen Years. Both contain a wealth of information regarding the challenges associated with parenting children with FAS.


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FASD: Childhood Memories

Many children with FASD have fond memories of their childhoods.

Despite the challenges and struggles associated with parenting a child with FASD, the child will often remember their childhood with fondness. Despite the child’s complex behaviors involving meltdowns; screaming, and defiance, which the caregiver would rather forget, the child appears able to ignore the troubled times and recall happier moments.

For example, all four of my grandchildren with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), who I parented from birth, are now teenagers. Their “do you remember when…” recollections include special family days at Port Dover, Wild Water Works, and Confederation Park. The play area at McDonald’s also holds fond memories, as does shopping at Walmart for new shoes, and toys at Christmas. Though I remember them being difficult to control during our outings, I’m pleased when their recollections include a portrayal of a happy me.

My two ebook memoirs on parenting grandchildren with FAS

are available at the following links, and many other ebook distributors.