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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