Heartbreak of FASD

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In the last month, I noticed a series of posts from a friend of mine on social media promoting “FASD Awareness.”  While aware of the struggles children face when they have been exposed to alcohol prenatally, admittedly, I did not recognize the immense struggles of the parents working to raise their affected children and the uphill battle they have in trying to advocate and champion for their children. 

Fetal Alcohol. FAS.  FAE.  FASD?  Many people have heard of “Fetal Alcohol Syndrome” or in more recent years, “Fetal Alcohol Effects.”  And this has now shifted to FASD.

FASD stands for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders.  This refers to the varying degrees of physical, behavioral, and learning problems a child may face for their lifetime if exposed to alcohol prenatally.

FASD ranges from mild to severe and the conditions that may impact each child can vary.  

Some conditions listed by the CDC that may be a result of FASD:

  • Low body weight
  • Poor coordination
  • Hyperactive behavior
  • Difficulty with attention
  • Difficulty in school (especially with math)
  • Learning disabilities
  • Speech and language delays
  • Intellectual disability or low IQ
  • Poor reasoning and judgment skills
  • Sleep and sucking problems as a baby
  • Vision or hearing problems
  • Problems with the heart, kidneys, or bones
  • Shorter-than-average height
  • Small head size
  • Abnormal facial features, such as a smooth ridge between the nose and upper lip (this ridge is called the philtrum)

Particularly in adopted children, it is important to realize that it is impossible to know what your child was exposed to prenatally.  One of the hardest things with FASD is that it involves injury to the brain but is completely invisible.

After seeing the posts from my friend, I reached out to my friend who had been posting for awareness to gain a better understanding of their challenges.  What I heard broke my heart.  Hearing how they have great resistance getting the help and services their children and family desperately need left me shaking my head.  There is such a lack of knowledge and understanding of the impacts of FASD on the everyday lives of so many families.

I asked her what she wishes people knew about her children, her parenting struggles, and how she wishes people would understand her family differently.  

"This is so important. They do not act their age which is so hard because you want them too so bad! And society expects them too. If they don’t it’s bad parenting!"

We know that this is true of any child who has come from hard places and experienced adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).  It is very hard to look at a child that is 14 and looks every bit of their 14 years and to still remember that due to the changes within their brain makeup, they are only ABLE to act half of their chronological age.  (We spoke about some of the challenges of that disconnect in age and maturity in this blog)

"This one is so hard for my heart! One day [my daughter's] brain will be clear and at its full potential. Then the next it’s the opposite. Sometimes I grieve her when she has an off day which is more than not. I don’t get everyday with my daughter. I only get very rare days. All the other days her brain is so cloudy and it’s like she’s not there."

"All these!  It’s NOT their fault. They CAN'T help it. They know they are different and they don’t want to be! They don’t understand why they are different because to them they are normal. They don’t understand their brain is injured."

The mission of 143 Million Reasons is to bring awareness, hope, and resources to the people standing up and championing for the 143 million children unable to live in their original families. 

Our many thanks to Somer for sharing your personal experiences of raising your amazing children.  It is truly our hope and prayer that your words will bring a greater understanding for not only the children impacted with FASD but the parents enduring these hard roads as well.  

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Traci Mai


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