I posted a question in the online support group I moderate. I asked what was the one piece of knowledge that you wished someone knew about you or your child and your journey with FASD? The answers were all incredible and I will be sharing more of them as I get permission but the one that I am starting with really grabbed me. The answer was simple and yet so important. “Just because I have a disability doesn’t mean I am stupid. I am smart at my own level.”
One of the hardest things about FASD is that while it may be the leading cause of cognitive disability in the western world most people who are afflicted with FASD are of average intelligence. So how is that an issue? Well it is an issue because they know people look at them differently. They know when they are struggling and that others see them as failing in some way. I remember a conversation with one of my sons. He was 12 at the time. I had asked why he wasn’t asking to be with friends or have them over. He said “why bother. No matter what I do I always make them mad. I don’t know what I do wrong but I always do something wrong.” This broke my heart as I realized that he felt like everything he did was wrong.
For so many people who happen to be dealing with FASD they have incredible strengths just like all of us. They do struggle in some areas and may also have a different processing speed than that of someone who was not prenatally exposed to alcohol. So if there is a processing disability the person may take much longer to process the information. This does not mean that they cannot understand just that they need extra time to get all the information sorted in order to deal with it. I had a child placed with me for a time who flunked an IQ test. She totally crashed it because it was 4 questions later that she was answering the first question. I realized after a while that she was answering questions correctly but it was just taking her a long time to get there. She knew the answers and was WAY smarter than her testing ended up showing.
We often judge people based on a very quick snippet of time. So often people who are dealing with FASD are judged as being lazy, stupid or other awful things. Believe me they know when people are feeling those things. My kids no matter their ability level are very good at reading how people are feeling. Self esteem is hit so very hard for people dealing with FASD as they feel constantly judged on a scale that is unfair to them. I know that just the way my kids act around people who truly accept them versus those that don’t is amazing. I look back at the first group picnic we held at my house for our support group. We had over 80 children there all but 3 were FASD. Watching them interact was truly beautiful. They didn’t have to try to fit in as they all did fit. So they were calm and happy. For over 8 hours there were almost no issues and they could just be accepted.