Monday, March 23, 2015

Challenges Of FASD

       When a child has Fetal Alcohol, he is not always able to control his actions or should I say, reactions. Neither does he think very far. In other words he is impulsive. The child will also have good days and bad days. So when he does a certain thing on a good day, he is accountable for his actions but he may do the very same thing on a bad day and this time he wasn't being naughty, he simply didn't think. For instance, once he hammered nails in a tire. On a day when he was able to think correctly and did it out of anger, it would be viewed as misbehavior. On another day when he isn't thinking well, he might do it never thinking about what might happen. He saw a nail and he hammered it, as simple as that. We constantly need to take his brain function into consideration.
   The other evening we were in a public place where there were a lot of people. Joseph doesn't due well in crowds, much less crowds of strangers. I am still trying to figure out what it is about strangers that sends him into a tailspin. I know some of it is the noise, the closeness and the unpredictability but I think there is another piece that I haven't figured out yet. Anyway, a little boy I am guessing to be around 8 years old wanted to play with Joseph. The boy's mom was totally involved with her phone and he was obviously bored. The boy had an Ipad and he pulled it out and sat beside Joseph to play on it. Dean calmly told Joseph to come with him cause he wants to look at something, in an attempt to get Joseph distracted and not hurt the boy's feelings. A bit later the boy opened a snack and offered some to Joseph, Dean politely said, "No, thanks he just had something to eat." This went on until we left. 
   When we were home again Joseph was loud and everything he did was over the top. I called him out and asked what was wrong and he wasn't able to tell me. My gut feeling was it had something to do with the boy at the park and so I coached Joseph along, until he figured out what was bothering him. However he still couldn't tell me why he felt angry about it. I said, "I think you are angry because that boy was being nice to you and daddy didn't let you run and play. You don't have many friends and you would have liked to be his friend." Joseph nodded his head and told me it made him angry. I like to have him think through things himself so I asked why he thinks daddy didn't let him run and play with the boy. Joseph shrugged his shoulders, so I offered to tell him why if he wanted to know. "Daddy didn't let you run and play because there were crowds of strangers around and he was afraid you would get lost. Besides daddy knows how it makes you feel when there are so many people around and he wanted to keep you safe."
   We discussed why Joseph doesn't have friends and his answer was, "Sometimes I don't want to be nice to them." I attempted to get him to understand that to have friends you must always be a friend, not only when you feel like it but like the 100 other times we had this conversation it went over his head. Some days he just feels angry and pushes, hits and kicks his classmates. Then an hour later he wants them to be his friend and cannot understand why they are upset with him. He tries to "buy" friendship by giving his classmates little gifts. I have explained over and over that this isn't the way to make friends but it is the only way Joseph understands. In light of all that, I can understand why he was upset when daddy didn't let him run and play with someone who was offering his friendship. 
   It is very helpful to remember that children with trauma/FASD/RAD etc. are usually half of their chronological age. So at 7, Joseph typically acts like a 3.5 year old. Lia is 3.5 and they are very much alike. They play very well together and think it is so much fun to play tag and hide and go seek together. When I remember this, I can understand why Joseph reacts like he does...he is acting age appropriately in a sense. The hard part comes in when he acts like he is three one moment and an hour later he is acting like a 7 year old. I remember Miss Laura coaching me on this very thing when she saw Braden. She said, "Watch how he is acting and treat him according to that age level. The hard part is constantly adjusting your expectations!" 
      Both Braden and Joseph laugh inappropriately. We couldn't make sense of it until I stumbled across this article. It turns out this laughing at inopportune times can be due to FASD. This laughing business is caused by "messed up wiring" in the brain, the same as so many other odd behaviors. Braden used to laugh when he knew we were frustrated with him. He would do something totally off the wall and I would be trying to help him understand why it was wrong or unacceptable and he would laugh in my face. The first few times it happened, I now think it had to do with his FASD. But he soon learned that laughing when mom and dad are giving consequences is a sure way to upset them. Children with RAD love to see their parents lose their calm, it is what they strive for.
  Joseph does the same thing except he laughs when someone gets hurt. I used to get so frustrated with him because he did it time and again. We would talk about it and I would get him to think about how the other person might feel when he laughs at them but nothing worked. I even asked why he does it and he shrugged and said he doesn't know. That is the standard answer for everything he does so I didn't know if I should believe him. However after reading this article, I believe he probably doesn't know why he laughs. Poor boy. FASD makes life so hard for people! Both the little people and the adults trying to help them grow into upstanding citizens.
    Here is another link to an article about laughing inappropriately. The author has autism and she writes what it is like to laugh at things that she knows she shouldn't be laughing about. She said he brother calls this laugh or smirk, "The Dead Hamster Look" because she laughed when her pet died. Autism and FASD have many overlapping symptoms which is why I sometimes share links to autism sites.

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