I think at times some of the hardest things to deal with when you are dealing with a child who has Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is that there is the question of honesty. I want to try to show the FASD perspective here. The fact is that so very often when we are talking to our children it is easy to fall into the abstractness of language. We are always using sayings that are abstract. Things like “oh I could just die” or “cat got your tongue”. Okay honestly no cat is holding your tongue and you aren’t going to die. So the fact is we are just talking in sayings that we assume everyone understands. The same goes for saying things like “you let the hamster out of the cage”. The child says “no I did not.” You as the parent are feeling angry as you know that the hamster did not let herself out of the cage so the child innocently staring at you obviously did. So you become so angry as this child is obviously lying! “you did take the hamster out!” “no I didn’t, I never took the hamster out.” So the anger builds…WHY are they lying? You have explained that they just need to tell the truth and that it is in their best interest to do so. You have offered them leniency if they just admit that it was them but still they will not admit it.
In the meantime you go into their room and see a box with a blanket in it all set up to be a bed for hmmm… A hamster? So now things are clicking for you. So now you ask “were you going to put the hamster in this box?” guilty look and a quiet “yes”. “So you were messing with the hamster?” again the guilty look “no”. Finally it is all clicking. “Did you go out to look at the hamster last night?” Finally the child looks up and says “yes”. “Okay did you maybe not close the cage all the way?” “I think I did not close it all the way.” “So you were going to take the hamster and then you decided not to?” Startled look “NO that is not what I did.” Okay so you have it close but not all the way right. The thing is that the way it is being said is whether they will say yes or no. Is this lying? NOPE…this is them not understanding that saying you let the hamster out and you left the cage open are really mainly the same thing but for a child with FASD they are not the same!!!
So now we have to journey through the FASD perspective. How often can the issues go back to the question of wording? If we use too many words or perhaps the wrong words. There are so many times that I later wonder if perhaps I could have said it differently. I used to say things like “pick up your floor”. Okay seriously how do you pick up a floor? Now most of us know what I mean but not everyone. This is not to say that the FASD child is unable to comprehend that is just a very vague and abstract thing. So now we do things like “pick up all of the paper off of the floor.” Then it may be “pick up all the clothes”. Okay when I say only those things all of that stuff ends up on the bed or in some other nook or cranny. So it helps to have a chart or a list of what to do with it and break the job down into steps that are not too vague.
This is the same at school. So “take this home and complete it”. Okay this child never returns his homework. So at the end we find all of the homework completed. “Why didn’t you ever take this back to school?” “I was supposed to take it back?” Missing one word or changing one word can completely change the meaning!!! Try it and you may be surprised and even pleasantly so. Don’t always assume the child is lying. Remember the Diane Malbin motto of “TRY DIFFERENTLY, RATHER THAN HARDER!”