Challenged Hope

Grandmother raising Grandchildren with FASD in Hamilton Ontario Canada


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Special Memories

While reminiscing, I came across these two photos of my grandchildren. First, it’s difficult to believe I took these when my grandchildren were still youngsters and now they are all in their teens; the eldest boy now almost 19.

I have to laugh at the contrast of each photo. The first one I took when they were all dressed in their Sunday best ready for church. I remember how long it used to take me to get them looking that way! The second photo was taken seconds after when the youngest grandchild had run off in her usual running-off way, and the eldest boy had just let off an enormous fart causing the other two to collapse in hysterical laughter and fall back on the couch. I couldn’t resist and snapped the event.

I love both photos, the first because it’s one of the rare photos I have of all the kids together plus, when I see it, a million memories come to mind; the second because, despite their struggles with mental disabilities, they are just carefree kids having fun being themselves.

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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.


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Raising Your Child’s Child

After almost two decades raising grandchildren with mental disabilities, I have become aware of the many challenges parents can face should they take custody of a grandchild. I have posted some of the challenges in the top menu bar of this website under the heading: Raising Your Child’s Child. If you are considering raising your grandchild, please read through the first Eight Chapters and in Chapter Nine discover the many questions you should be asking yourself and others before taking custody of your child’s child.

Contents:

  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1: What’s The Rush?
  • Chapter 2: Invincible or – Invisible?
  • Chapter 3: Grandson plus – Baggage?
  • Chapter 4: Oh, The Expense!
  • Chapter 5: Interests & Supports
  • Chapter 6: Grandchild with Mental Health Disorders
  • Chapter 7: So Many Appointments!
  • Chapter 8: Your Health & Aging
  • Chapter 9: Making an Informed Decision


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A Message To The World From My Mentally Disabled Grandchildren

Is it just my imagination or are people becoming more hostile? I was standing in line at a fast-food restaurant waiting to purchase a coffee, when a young man with obvious mental health problems entered and began walking briskly from table to table shouting hello, waving to the patrons and smiling broadly. Unfortunately, most of the customers turned away when he spoke to them, deliberately ignoring him while stuffing food into their mouths or continuing their conversations with eyes fixed firmly on their companions.

Gladly, the young man seemed unfazed by such ignorant behaviour and made his way to a line-up, where he was met with much the same attitude. Then, disappearing for a few moments, he unexpectedly resurfaced at my side, took my hand in his and kissed it gently, and said – Hello! Hello! Have a wonderful day! – but not one patron cracked a smile, and all eyes were averted in embarrassment. After purchasing a pop, he left the restaurant and I swear I head a collective sigh of relief from the patrons.

You know, this kind of attitude toward disabled people has to stop. I can’t help comparing it to an experience I had as a child. I remember my mother asking me to run an errand to a neighbour’s house. She had borrowed something and needed it returned. She gave me the address and I headed out. When I reached the house I tapped lightly on the door which was opened by a blind woman. I stood looking at her horrified because, instead of eyes, it looked as if someone had pushed two hard-boiled eggs into her sockets. To my own young, perfect, eyes, the scene was frightening, but she sensed this right away and urged me not to be afraid, explained she was blind, asked my name and then invited me inside. Leading me into the living room I was introduced to five adults who were sitting, chatting and laughing, and drinking tea. The atmosphere was alive, and when I was offered cake and milk, I couldn’t help but get caught up in their warmth and friendliness toward each other. Even at my young age I sensed the love and compassion these adults extended to the blind woman. She obviously had many people to call upon if help was needed.

Is it still like that today? Sadly, I don’t think so.

Over the years of raising my mentally disabled grandchildren I have witnessed over and over others’ impatience, coldness, indifference, anger, and denigrating attitude toward them, causing the children more anxiety and low self-esteem while trying to survive in this world. So on their behalf, because they don’t have the mental capability to do it, I am writing this Message To The World in the hope that someone, somewhere, will read it and have second thoughts when turning their back to a disabled child.

 A Message To The World On Behalf Of My Mentally Disabled Grandchildren

  • Dear Relative:Why don’t you like me? I like you! I’ve seen you laugh with your friends and other members of our family, but you never laugh with me. In fact, I always seem to make you frown. Why is that?
  • Dear Teacher: I’m sorry I can’t always keep up with the other students, but I have trouble with reading. I don’t always understand the story you are telling, or the math you are teaching, and when recess comes I try my very best to stay out of fights, but the other kids deliberately tease me and make me angry.
  • Dear Waitress: Please be patient with me. I try to understand the menu, but it takes me longer than others to decide because my learning disabilities make reading difficult and I’m trying my best to count my money. I realize you are busy but it’s rude to dismiss me with a stern look and sigh as you pass on to the next customer.
  • Dear Neighbour: Why do you always invite other children on the block to your kid’s birthday parties, but never me? I like to have fun too, and I’ll buy your child as nice a gift as the others’ do. What is it you don’t like about me that makes you refuse to have me in your home?
  • Dear Friend: I’m sorry if sometimes I say inappropriate things to you. It’s not that I don’t like you, it’s just that sometimes my brain gets overly frustrated and makes me say things I shouldn’t. I love you, please forgive me and be my friend again?
  • Dear Grocery Shopper:Why did you tut gruffly and roll your eyes at me when my emotions broke down. There were so many people in the store, I got anxious and couldn’t cope. That’s why I had a tantrum and spoiled your grocery shopping but, you didn’t have to make a big show of having to walk ALL the way around me to get to the next aisle.
  • Dear Church Member: Please don’t get upset when I can’t sit still through a whole hour of your worship service. I have ADHD and it won’t let my body or brain rest for long. Instead of getting angry at my fidgeting, why not pray for me. That way people will know you really are holy, instead of just pretending to be.
  • Dear Bus Driver:My caregiver is giving me more independence and I want to make her proud of me, so please don’t raise your voice when I’m unsure of how much your tickets are, or when I keep asking you if the next stop is mine.
  • Dear Pool Attendant: Please don’t sigh loudly when I soil your pool. You see, I’m used to wearing diapers, but I was having so much fun that I forgot I didn’t have one on. All the swimmers seemed so angry with me. Are you angry too?
  • Dear Caseworker: I know you mean well, but when you tell me I have to go away for a while so my family can get some peace, it breaks my heart because it’s not my fault. My brain doesn’t work as well as yours and makes me loud and aggressive.
  • Dear Mother: Why did you drink alcohol and take drugs while you were pregnant with me? As you indulged in your secret pleasures, didn’t you care about the struggles I would have to face each day? And where are you? Don’t you want to see me? Even though I don’t know you, I think about you every day. Do you ever think about me? Do you love me?
  • Dear Father: Why didn’t you use a condom? Didn’t you care about the struggles I would have to face each day as a fatherless child? And where are you? Don’t you want to see me? Even though I don’t know you, I think about you every day. Do you ever think about me? Do you love me?

Above is just a sample of the struggles my grandchildren face each day. And people who consider themselves normal have the audacity to rudely shun or ignore them when they are trying their very best to cope with the challenges they have been undeservedly handed. So on their behalf I ask that whenever you meet up with a mentally disabled child, assign at least one moment of your life to trying to imagine the difficulties that child faces each day, and give them a smile. I know it will brighten their day and, who knows, it might even brighten yours!