Watching the kids play this weekend helped me to reset my spirit. I know that some days it is so very hard to just enjoy things. I know that so often we become lost in the behaviors that are associated with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). We begin to obsess on how to “teach” them to stop these behaviors. We want to teach them cause and effect somehow. We begin down this slippery slope of obsessing over the behaviors and forget the underlying root cause of organic brain damage. This is so very hard as what we see and deal with daily is the behavior. We forget that there is a physical cause for these behaviors. I ask if your child were blind would you assume they would outgrow this or learn to see? I know that with this disability it is easier at times to see it on a day by day basis. I do not mean that watching the child struggle with this disability is easy but it is one that is a bit harder to forget the underlying reason for their need for support. With this child who has vision issues would you take away their cane as they need to stop using this as a crutch? No we would not we would see this accomodation as a positive help. I have 3 children who are visually impaired and I know that this is something where we accept the accomodations and are glad for the ones that work.
I know that I struggle at times not to become so completely wrapped up in the behaviors that I find most disturbing. Stealing…okay well this is a bit misleading as it is really misappropriating. The thought process often is that of the toddler who sees what they want and takes it. There is no thought of it belonging to someone else. There is also the impulsivity of it all. So one of the best parenting things to do is to limit their ability to steal. One of my close friends has taken to sewing her children’s pockets shut or else making clothing with no pockets. This helps them have less ability to steal. When a person does not have the ability to look outside of themselves and their needs they cannot understand that what they are doing is wrong. The FASD child struggles to outgrow this stage of egocentricity. Now this is a stereotype as not all FASD people take things. Depending on the area of the brain affected by the prenatal exposure to alcohol is dependent on what behaviors are seen in the person.
It is very hard to live with someone who struggles to be able to empathize or even understand that what they are doing is hurtful to others. It may be hard for them to see that their actions are hurtful to anyone else. This does not mean they don’t care or even that they cannot care but that they are not able to “put themselves in your shoes”. They cannot generalize enough to do the “how would you feel if?” The more we try to change the person’s environment to accomodate their abilities the greater the successes. I know and have heard a lot that it seems wrong to put a lot of the work back on the parent. The fact is that we have the ability to learn and change our behaviors. We can model to our children this ability. The fact is that at least while the FASD person is trying to learn what you want they may never fully get it. I have a dear friend whose husband has FASD. He cannot have access to their money ever. He will gamble it away. When he hears how they are struggling financially he just knows he can take it and win enough to fix it all. Even though it has never ever worked for him this makes a great deal of sense to him to keep trying. After all he sees others on TV and other places winning and solving all of their issues. He never means to empty their bank account and is very shocked when he does but he continues to do it. He is a 40 year old man who has a lot of support. They have learned that the only way to keep him from doing this is to not allow him to have any access to their money.
We all have to find the best way to deal day by day but we have to also remember to look at the root cause of the issue. Remember that FASD is a physical disability that is seen in the behaviors it manifests.