Friday, March 3, 2017

Does Your Child Know He Has FASD?

Does your child know he has FASD?
If so, when did you tell him? 
If not, when do you plan to tell him? 

How do you tell a child that his brain is damaged because of alcohol, which is a preventable disability? 

How do you explain that he will never be like children his age, or do you just gloss over the topic and hope he never asks?

I think every parent has to know when, how and if they are going to share this information with their child. It depends upon the child's ability to understand, process and not abuse the information. You probably won't be doing your child a favor if you tell him his brain is damaged if he is unable to understand that he is different.

We struggled with this issue more when Joseph was younger and the gap between him and his peers wasn't as large. This gap made him appear to be less affected by alcohol and we often wondered how we will explain things to him when he begins to ask questions. At 9 years old, he is still very much like a 3 or 4 year old and thus far the question hasn't come up.

A few years ago on one of his good days, we were riding on the trail wagon. There was a warning sign on it stating the dangers of operating it while under the influence of alcohol. Joseph was reading the sign so I took the opportunity to explain what alcohol is and how it affects the body. I causally added, "Your birth mom drank alcohol when you were in her belly and it hurt your brain. That is why you feel so frustrated sometimes." He looked at me and said, "Does that mean I will have to wait until I am 16 to drive the trail wagon?" That was my signal that he couldn't process what I was trying to tell him. From time to time I will make a statement concerning his struggles, opening the door for questions but so far he hasn't asked for more information.

While it would be so nice if Joseph's brain were healthy and whole enough to ask questions, it is a blessing that he is unable to realize the depth of his disability. He is quite content to have mom and dad be his external brain and as long as everyone requires strict boundaries, he feels safe and secure.

Earlier I mentioned abusing the diagnosis of FASD. Many children with this diagnosis have times when they are able to use their disability to their benefit. As parents it is our responsibility to teach our child that this diagnosis is not an excuse for negative or irresponsible behavior. However we must be aware that there are days when our child is unable to take responsibility for their actions and we need to advocate for them in these situations.

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