I think that no one will ever say that it is easy to live with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). There is nothing quite like it truly. For those who have FASD, those who care for them and really anyone who is in daily contact. Thus saying it is not necessarily a bad different just very different. I know in the very beginning of our adoption journey I had never ever imagined adopting children who were prenatally exposed to alcohol. Actually when we filled out our initial paperwork the two things that we had stressed we could not parent (feeling we did not have the skills) was FAS and Reactive attachment disorder. I know at the time I felt very strong about this. When we got our first foster children we never knew at first that there were any issues. I remember with D feeling like we had lucked into the most well adjusted child ever. I mean a 3 years old who came in and called us mom and dad and was just so sweet. After about 2 months I thought what the heck am I doing wrong. He has become demon possessed! He was soon diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). It wasn’t long though and we were just sure that something was missing. Yes he was RAD, oh boy was he ever, but there was something else going on. Everyone including his therapist could see it. Something just didn’t fit. Soon he was diagnosed along with R and doodle with FAS. This finally explained the differences. By now we loved these 3 children with all of our hearts. I know we had never thought to adopt 3 and 3 with so many needs but by then well there was no going back. When it was fact that they could not go home we knew that we would not ever give them up. So we tore up our thoughts about no RAD or FAS. We began to educate ourselves. I knew in order to raise these kids right we had to know more.
So we learned all we could. It just seemed so incredibly negative. That was almost 9 years ago. I look back and think of my attitude. At first so absolutely heartbroken. So defeated. I know that if we had stayed there it would be nothing but negative. The fact is my kids struggle with feeling as if they are not “right”. They worry about fitting in all the time. This struggle is where some of the biggest issues comes for people with FASD. Their ability to feel at peace with themselves and realize that their accomplishments matter and are just as worthwhile as others. I know that this is where having a family that supports them emotionally is so important. That being said at times we struggle as our children decide that they have to find their own way. They want to “fit in” and be “normal” (what is normal anyway?) We cannot force them to accept our help. So we have to let them go and we have to sometimes watch them struggle in ways we want to fix and can’t. I know with our oldest we have had to let go and realize that as much as we want to fix it we cannot. He is now in prison due to his inability to make the best decisions on his own.
The thing that I know the most is that no matter what we have to decide how to deal with life. We can decide to look at all the negatives. The fact is that life can be negative whether you are dealing with FASD or not. There are a lot of reasons to struggle. If we spend our days thinking of all the negatives well I guess we could just give up. I know that I have chosen to live by the positives. The fact that while V is in prison now we gave him 6 safe and loving years and we love him still. He was in trouble with the law when we got him and those 6 years he had not trouble. Yes he chose to leave but now he is closer than ever to us. This was a true test to him and his attachment as he cannot believe that we are still here for him. I have tried to explain that families don’t abandon children when they are in trouble. Family is forever. I also look at all of the wonderful things my kids have taught me. They have taught me that I own nothing that is more important to me than my children’s self esteem. So I don’t need to get angry when something breaks. It just isn’t worth it. We keep extra window materials in the shop for when a window breaks and anything that I cannot stand to lose is in storage so it isn’t an issue.
The only thing that can truly be changed in the world of FASD is attitude. The rest is brain damage so really we have to learn that. We have to learn that brain damage is not something we can just will away. We have to look at what to change in order to make the journey more positive. We can change how we look at it. When we do everyone’s attitude can change. We can learn acceptance and love. This is the greatest gift we can give the person who has FASD see if we love and accept them they will love and accept themselves. It truly is all in the attitude!