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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Living with Fetal Alcohol Effect (FAE)

I have 5 great kids...they are kind and loving (at least most of the time) and they make me laugh. I'm lucky to have them and I cherish them more than they would ever believe...but some of them have some hefty challenges. Unfortunately, four of the five are not my biological children (I'm honored to parent them in any case!) Fate hasn't treated them equally; all 4 of my adopted kids have post-traumatic stress disorder from early abuse and neglect and two of my kids suffer from the effects of their birthmothers drinking during pregnancy. The impact on these kids is nothing short of astounding...and I wish with all my heart that I could wave my magic wand to make these problems disappear...but it's not that simple.

Here's what I mean...I have a beautiful 13 year old girl who is painfully aware that she is 2 years behind her grade level in school. She is sweet and she works very hard...but she knows that her memory is weak and it takes her a long time to learn certain concepts. She's embarrassed by her learning deficits which are totally not of her own doing.  Ironically, she's the lucky one of my two kids who were exposed to alcohol prenatally. She has mild FAE but she is filling many of her developmental gaps with support at school and at home. Socially , she can be impulsive and is easily influenced by her peers so we keep a watchful eye, trying to balance her need for independence with our concerns for her safety. We believe that she'll complete her high school education and college through sheer grit and determination, growing up to be a functional young woman of uncommon beauty and kindness...she has to weather the storm of adolescence first but she's a gutsy girl who never gives up.

I also have an almost 13 year old who can't read or write beyond his name. Due to the cognitive damage caused by his more severe FAE, he functions much closer to an 8 or 9 year old than his chronological age...he is affectionate, happy, and helpful and doesn't demonstrate much of an awareness of his learning deficits. He is also physically small and appears much younger than his age, a blessing since it helps him to fit in better with his 4th and 5th grade classmates. With special education support, he is progressing at school even if it is a laborious process for him. His rages of a year and half ago are gone now, except for the occasional temper tantrum which blows over quickly. He still likes to cuddle with Mom, something most boys his age would avoid at all costs...but he never had a mom to cuddle with before so we'll make up for lost time with plenty of hugs as long as he likes. It's unclear at this point how he will meet the state standards to graduate from high school; right now, I'm hoping for basic literacy skills. We watch our boy closely since he is still very impulsive and not safety conscious; he also still can't remember our last name, our phone number, or our address...I have the info written in his backpack and in several other places as a safety measure...so his independence is limited to occasional excursions to movies or the videogame store with his "older" siblings (two of them are chronologically only 6 months older than he is) who are armed with cell phones if Mom or Dad are needed. We suspect that the future may hold some form of supported employment and living arrangement for our son; only time will tell how much can be done to offset the damage done by his FAE and early trauma.

If I could have just one wish, I would turn back the clock and erase the alcohol exposure from my kids' lives...

1 comment:

Laura & Dale said...

Just to let you know, they have many Aunts and Uncles who love and care for them so very much. I (we) can't be there every day, but they remain in our thoughts and prayers. They are great young people and Salem is blessed to have all of them in their schools.