The child with FAS, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, deals with numerous processing inconsistencies throughout each day. Parenting the FAS child is difficult and it is easy to become frustrated or even angry with the child. Many parents who adopted infants and toddlers with FAS, were unrealistic about what it would be like parenting the older FAS child. Many hopeful adoptive parents believed that their love would be enough, or their early interventions would erase the damage done by the alcohol exposure. Once thing we have noticed with our 15-year-old daughter, who has FAS, is that she fails to interpret social and verbal cues. For 12 years, we have had to tell her to apologize to a sibling, a stranger, or us when an apology is warranted. She never says, “I am sorry,” on her own without verbal prompting.
We have explained to her different scenarios when a person should automatically apologize. She has daily examples set for her by her siblings, including her two-year-old sister, and her parents. Apparently, her ability to process information is so damaged, despite having an IQ in the average range, that she cannot figure it out.
During 15 years of fostering children for the state of Michigan, we have helped to parent nearly 100 children. We adopted a daughter who came to us as an almost four year old who is now 15, who has FASD. When she came to us, her diagnosis was cognitively impaired also known as mild mental retardation. Like so many hopeful adoptive parents, we thought it didn’t matter. We thought that with our love and every special service available she could overcome her FAS. In some ways, she has. Today she has an average IQ in the low 90s, and test in the average range for achievement when tests are given verbally. However, life still is not easy for her, or for those of us who live with her. She frequently misunderstands written words making schoolwork 3 to 4 grades lower than her age warrants, a struggle despite an average IQ. She also struggles with writing understandable sentences frequently leaving out words and using incorrect forms of verbs and nouns. We have tried numerous countermeasures over the years; however, she rarely complies with them for more than a day or two, even when they really help her succeed. It is not my intent to make fun of children with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome by this blog. However, sharing experiences helps us keep parenting our FASD children in perspective. Maintaining a lighthearted attitude towards the countless mistakes makes life better for the entire family.