“Mom, why isn’t Doodlebug growing up?” Boy, that is a hard one to answer and also to answer in a way that a child who is affected by Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, FAS, can understand. So we read books and talk a lot about what it means to have a brain that is different. The problem is there is so very little to read for a child who is FAS about being a child who is FAS. We found a book called Forgetful Freddie, the world’s greatest rock skipper, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. I do recommend this book as it is a pretty good representation of FAS. We also found a booklet called “Tad and I”. This unfortunately is out of print. However is great resource but is for older children really.
I have had parents say they did not think it was a good idea to tell the child that they have FAS or any type of FASD. Well I guess I don’t agree. It isn’t a crutch unless you let it be. I always tell my children that while they may be diagnosed with FAS or whatever the diagnosis is but that doesn’t mean they cannot do something. It only means they may need to do it differently. So while perhaps it may be a bit harder at times they can still accomplish it. They may need support from others but they can do it. Build on the strengths but still expect them to be able to succeed. Support and encourage. So telling them only helps them to understand. I am sure I have shared this but the first time we told “D” that he had FAS he cried. He felt as though finally his “shortcomings” were not his fault. I cried to realize he felt that he wasn’t “right”. That just broke my heart that he felt so out of place in his life. He said he always felt he couldn’t ever do anything right. We always try to build up our children’s self esteem and yet somehow that wasn’t happening for him. At least he didn’t feel he was ever accomplishing anything right. One of the issues with this is that sometimes their perception of a task is skewed so then even when they are accomplishing the task they may feel they aren’t.
I know in kindergarten Ray would feel bad all the time that she couldn’t get her assignments done correctly during center time. Finally what we discovered was she was listening to all of the directions for all 3 centers and trying to make all of these directions apply to whatever center she was at. The problem is obviously this wouldn’t work and yet all she got was she wasn’t doing it “right”. Trying to make sure that the child understands the task and then praising the outcome can be hard. So sometimes what is helpful is to praise other things, things that are very concrete. Their beautiful eyes, their beautiful smiles… How do you understand the concept of kindness? So perhaps praise the fact that they let a sibling or friend use a toy, etc. Use very concrete messages and try to find things to build self esteem often. I know when I get praise it just makes the rest of my day shine.
So why isn’t doodlebug growing up? Well he is he is getting taller. He is expected by the world to behave a certain way. The issue is he is still a very little boy inside. I feel sad to realize that while once people were happy with his hugs and “I love you” now people are off put by it. The sad thing is watching how the other kids worry about how people react to him. They so don’t want him to be hurt. I think we all realize that unfortunately we cannot protect our children from the world forever. We just try to minimize the bumps along the way.