Saturday, July 4, 2015

Fetal Alcohol Exposure and Cause & Effect


A friend posted this on FB and even though it is a simple statement that most people accept without question, I want to use this quote to give you a peek into the life of someone who has FASD.

Cause and effect is either lacking or totally missing in someone exposed to alcohol in utero. It doesn't sound like that big of a deal to be missing this piece of knowledge but let me give you some examples and I think you just might change your mind.

If you dig in mom's newly planted flower beds, she may give you a warning or a consequence. If you do it again she will give you a consequence. But what if you cannot associate digging in mom's flower bed and the consequence? What if you see the nice mulch and think how much fun it would be to load it into your dump truck? A healthy brain takes every thought and action and checks them with previous actions. What happened last time I dug in the flower bed? Mom gave me a warning and said I would have to park my truck if I did it again. I don't want to park my truck so I will play in the sand box instead. The brain of someone with FASD doesn't do that. So he digs in the flower bed, mom parks the truck, he walks outside and 10 minutes later, mom see's him digging holes in another flower bed with his sand shovel! This is frustrating for the parent as well as for the child. Mom thinks, "I just parked your truck and now you get a shovel, will you never learn?" And the child thinks, "What is wrong with mom, doesn't she know how much fun it is to dig in this dirt?"

Joseph has difficulty dressing himself because he has poor motor skills. His OT told him to sit on the floor to put his pants on instead of trying to stand on one foot while leaning against the wall and getting the other foot into the correct pant leg. I have gone over this with him countless times. Guess how he gets dressed? Sometimes he falls and hurts himself and I think, "If you would just put your pants on like we tell you to, you wouldn't hurt yourself." Then I remember that he probably never gave it a thought.

If you put hot food into your mouth you burn your tongue. I try to remember to tell him if his food is hot because he will shovel it in without testing how hot it is.

Think about how often in a day's time your brain checks it's "memory bank" and gives you feed back on how to approach a situation.

You know not to cross a street when there are cars going by. Why? Because you might get hit.

You do not talk in the hallway at school. Why? Because one of the rules is no talking in the hallway.

You don't ride your bike onto a pile of feed bags because you will fall off.

You don't continue eating even after you are full because you will get sick.

You put your socks on before you put your shoes on or you will have to go to all the work of removing your shoes.

You don't make holes in the walls because then dad has to fix them.

You don't hammer nails into a tire because the tire will go flat.

You eat soup with a spoon, not a knife or you will have a hard time getting anything into your mouth.

When you are riding bike and there is a rock in the way, you steer around it or you may wreck.

Those suffering from FASD find the world a confusing and frustrating place. Those of us blessed with a healthy brain don't find it that way because we learn from our mistakes and our brains are constantly checking our stored memory and telling us how to handle each situation. Joseph get's very upset when we give him consequences for his actions. He feels it is unfair and we are being mean to him. There is a lot of controversy out there about giving consequences to children with FASD. Some say you shouldn't because it isn't their fault they get into so much trouble, it is brain damage. 
  The other side argues that children with FASD will not always remain children. Someday they will most likely face teachers, peers or employers who will not understand their disabilities and will treat them harshly, so while they are in our care we want to gently, consistently give them consequences until, hopefully new pathways are made in their brains and they are prompted to think through a situation before acting. As one mom said, "I can give my child consequences with love now because someday he will face a world that gives consequences without love."

Can you imagine not understanding why you are constantly getting hurt or why your peer's laugh at you? Joseph feel's safest when he is with Dean or I because he knows we will protect him and he doesn't have to figure out the world around him. When we give him a toy and boundaries such our family room rug, he can play happily for hours. He talks and tells me all kinds of things while he plays. He can handle playing alongside one other person but gets confused and frustrated when he is in a group because he cannot keep up with the conversation and constant action around him. 
   People with FASD need their parents to be an external brain for them. When Joseph is holding his daddy's hand he doesn't need to follow the conversation or worry about trying to keep up with his peers. He is free to block out the noise and what he views as confusion because he knows daddy will keep him safe.

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