Strategies for Individuals with FASD
-I have been diagnosed with FASD, now what?-
If you have been diagnosed with FASD, you need to know that it is okay to talk about it. The information below will help you better understand how the brain works and how you can deal with everyday challenges.
Use the information to help you learn what it means to have FASD and learn strategies for creating the kind of healthy and happy life you want.
Please note that different things work for different people so choose the ideas and strategies that will be most helpful for you in your situation.
Why do I have FASD?
If you have been diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, you may have a lot of questions like:
- Why did my birth mother drink during pregnancy? Why couldn’t she control her drinking?
- How could you hurt someone that depends on you?
- Why do I have to deal with feelings of sadness and frustration?
- Do my friends and family know that I have FASD?
You may be thinking “Why did this happen to me?”
There are many possible reasons. Some mothers do not know that drinking alcohol could hurt their baby. Some mothers do not know that they are pregnant right away so they continue to drink alcohol. Some mothers have an addiction to alcohol and have difficulty controlling their drinking. Some mothers do not ask for help or ask questions about using alcohol because they are afraid they may be looked down on or rejected. Seldom, if ever, is it a willful intention to hurt.
One mother’s story
Betty was an only child who ran away from home at an early age. Her mother was an alcoholic and her father was abusive.
Betty ran away to live on the streets. She became addicted to alcohol, cocaine and heroin.
After a few months on the street, she learned that she was pregnant with twins.
Because she did not have a lot to eat and was taking drugs, her period had stopped and she did not know that she was pregnant until she was almost five months. One twin son was diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) but the other twin did not seem to be affected by the alcohol.
Betty had to visit her one baby affected by the alcohol in the hospital for the first few months of life. Watching her new baby made her realize how her addictions had affected her son’s life. She made the choice to get help and start recovery. Her sons now know that their mom was sick and that she did not know that she was pregnant.
Today Betty has been clean and sober for over 15 years. She is now a youth worker who helps young mothers understand the dangers of alcohol use. She is learning every day and is teaching others. There are many stories of why mothers drank alcohol when pregnant.
Think about how a mother of a child with FASD might feel.
What do you think the mother feels?
- New understanding
How does this story make you feel?
Accept your own feelings.
This may take some time…hours, days, weeks, years. Give yourself permission to release and experience your feelings.
You might also be thinking…
What if it was my father who drank alcohol?
Research says that effects of the father drinking on the unborn baby are not known.
The biggest effects are after the birth when a father who drinks cannot give a lot of support to his family.
What FASD is
Everything a pregnant mother eats or drinks or smokes can be passed on to the unborn baby.
The alcohol in the mother’s bloodstream passes through to the unborn baby.
Some babies are affected more than others. No two babies are ever affected the same way.
Will my FASD go away?
No, FASD cannot be cured and does not go away. It is with you for life. But how you deal with it, and the support you get, will make a big difference.
You are not so different from everyone else. Accept your fears and challenges. Everyone has fears and difficulties in their lives.
A medical diagnosis of FASD, like any medical information, is private. It is your choice who you share this information with.
Know that it is OKAY to talk about FASD with people you trust. Talking about your FASD lets others know what your needs are.
How other people see your actions
In many ways, you are just like other people around you.
Maybe some people say that you have a problem. But you feel that you do not.
Sometimes when you are with people, does it seem like they don’t understand what you are saying or why you are acting the way you do?
Do you sometimes get angry and confused with your teachers and family?
Does it seem like people are blaming you for things over and over again?
At school, do you sometimes have difficulties with:
- Sitting still
- Being on time
- Making the same mistake over and over?
Everybody is different and every brain is different. People in your life see your actions and understand them in different ways.
It is okay to tell your teachers or friends about why you act the way that you do. This will help you tell them what you need. “I have trouble understanding when you speak too fast. Could you please slow down so I could understand you better?”
“Could you explain that another way?”
“I cannot focus anymore. I need to take a break.”
So you have been diagnosed with FASD Now What? A handbook of hopeful strategies for youth and young adults