The effects of drinking alcohol during pregnancy are long lasting…the brain that is damaged can learn in new ways but the almost ‘melted areas’ will continue to remain damaged ALL their lives long. I am not the only parent that has adopted a child with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, I would like to introduce you to Linda. She has written a list of ABC’s that she gave to her child’s teacher to help them understand the struggles her child goes through when trying to learn. We can’t always anticipate the many things we go through when we raise a child with FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder) here are a few:
A – Alcohol. My child was exposed to alcohol before birth
B – Brain. Alcohol use during pregnancy can permanently damage a child’s brain
C – Corpus Callosum. The part of the brain that passes information between the left side (rules) and the right side (impulses), may be damaged or absent with FASD
D – DSI- Dysfunction of Sensory Integration. Sensitive to lights, tags on clothing, over stimulation to voices, noises, smells, etc…
E – Emotional. Emotional volatility and a low frustration tolerance.
F – Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD), the “umbrella term” for the damage when alcohol is used during pregnancy.
G – Give. A reminder to give our children praise for what they do right or accomplish or when they try as hard as they can
H – Hyperactivity. It is many times very difficult to sit for long periods of time
I – Immaturity. Alcohol has melted the ability to create neuro-pathways this has inhibited the ability to grow and mature, immature auditory system, immature visual system and behavior
J – Judgement. The prefrontal Cortex is responsible for making wise decisions, our children have a damaged PFC from the alcohol…they need to be gently reminded of good decisions
K – Kindness. Kindness and redirection is far more effective than punishment
L – Learn. Learning is different for every child but especially our children, none of us know what areas are affected by the damage. Please try all different ways to teach
M – Mental Retardation. FASD is the #1 cause of retarding the brain in North America although many people with FASD will have IQ’s within normal range they will all have some learning disability
N- National Organization of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (www.nofas.org) visit their website as well as their state affiliates.
O – Other drugs. “Of all the substances of abuse, including heroin, cocaine, and marijuana, alcohol produces by far the most serious neurobiological effect in the fetus, resulting in lifelong permanent disorders of memory function, impulse control and judgment” (Institute of Medicine 1996 Report to Congress)
P – Parenting. Although, children with FASD may look as tho it is poor parenting skills, many of us are bright, educated and highly effective parents, please do not be too quick to blame…let’s talk
Q – Quiet time to regroup. Self-regulation is inhibited by this hypervigilant system, quiet, time with little to no activity will help regroup
R – Repetition. Memory issues are very frustrating to our children, please reframe, reteach and repeat often for retention.
S – Sleep Disorders. Sleeping when your brain is damaged is difficult, if our children come into school tired please try to understand them, put yourself in their shoes, and see how difficult learning and functioning in a stressed environment such as school can be to a person that is not sleeping.
T – Time. Time is an abstract concept and is difficult to teach, and because timing is actually a place in the brain, many of our children will have damaged PFC’s and their timing is just OFF.
U – Understanding. Understanding that our children have disabilities, many times unknown to them but definitely not due to anything they did…and yet many times they are blamed as if they are not even trying.
W – Willful. Behaviors may appear willful…but please remember they have brain damage!
X – X-ample. Children need examples of good behavior and good role models, those with patience and gentle souls
Y – YOU can make a difference in the person’s life that has a brain that has been damaged by alcohol. Both a positive difference and a negative difference, I am hoping YOU make the positive difference!
Z – ZERO. Zero alcohol during a pregnancy. FASD is 100% preventable YOU can make a difference! Please spread the word!!!
I want to thank Linda for her words of wisdom…
I also want to thank our daughter ‘Lizzie’ for being so patient with the world…learning how to accept life based on a ‘non-handicapped person’s’ view of what the environment and conditions of the world should be like for her. You have raised your parents to be more understanding and more compassionate because of your willingness to wait on us to ‘come around’ to your needs. The world will learn Lizzie, you are a brave girl to continue to live with that huge forgiving smile as you struggle daily to learn, live and love…and all because of the pleasure of a few drinks of alcohol for one very young, immature, uninformed girl. I want to promise you Lizzie we will educate the world…because FASD is 100% preventable.
Sharing more thoughts…Dr. Lise’
Picture printed with permission by “Lizzie DeLong”