Prevention cannot work if the person cannot understand the messages given. So the whole zero for 9 campaign while it is neat and all will not work (usually) if the person being talked to is FASD. For so many of the people with FASD the message would be better given in a what to do versus what not to do.
We started giving the message of you cannot drink alcohol to our oldest son as soon as he came to our home at 12 years old. We felt very comfortable that we were preparing him. We talked to him of the fact that because of his ethnicity and also his being FAS he should never drink. See V is Native (like my husband) and we explained how with this he will not process alcohol well and being that both of his birth parents had severe alcohol problems his likelihood of handling alcohol well was very high. Due to his functional and developmental level we always explained this in (well I thought) concrete terms but I soon found out how wrong I was.
V came home one day after having spent time with his friends and he was telling me that he needed to go to the hospital as he thought he might have “hurt his head”. He kept insisting that he felt weird. I said “V you are drunk!” He became very angry and said that he had not drank any alcohol. He was very belligerent that I did not seem to care that he was hurt. I thought okay. So we went to the doctor and he did tests (one of which was blood alcohol level). All came back normal but his .182 bal showed that he was indeed drunk. He continued to deny it. I chose not to continue arguing in the doctors office but by this time I was feeling so frustrated that even with the evidence he continued to lie to me.
On the way home he began crying. He said “Mom I cannot be drunk! I don’t know why that test lied. I never drank any alcohol I only drank Vodka!” I sat there feeling floored. Here I had felt we were giving such great messages to him but he did not get what we meant. There was no way we could have covered every type of liquor there is or alcohol out there. I now know that I have to give the message of what they can do not what they can’t. So we say you need to drink milk, juice and water. This helps to reinforce the good nutrition needed for them throughout their lives.
This was such an eye opener to me that sometimes even when we think we are being very concrete we need to really look at who we are talking to and their ability to understand exactly what you are saying. I learn a new one everyday…