Challenged Hope

Grandmother raising Grandchildren with FASD in Hamilton Ontario Canada


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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the reassurance that YES they could cope with the obstacles life placed before them without becoming overanxious or withdrawn.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.

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