Just Ask My Children: Pregnancy and Alcohol Don’t Mix

Andrew Peterson Double Pic3Nothing in life has ever been easy.

Honest words from my son Andrew when he speaks to thousands of young people each year.

In elementary school most kids couldn’t understand me when I spoke. Some laughed and called me names…  

But for six years, my speech therapist believed in my ability – making me practice harder…

After a decade of physical therapy, I could finally move my arms and legs in a smooth motion. I joined the cross country team and gained valuable self-confidence…                                                         

But so many people still focused on what I couldn’t do…

You see, Andrew and his three siblings have permanent brain damage from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Entirely preventable IF a pregnant woman abstains from alcohol.

Yet Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder still affects tens of thousands of newborns each year, in spite of 25 years of research – with the effects sometimes not appearing until late in elementary school. Talk about denial! And talk about early childhood trauma in the womb and beyond.

A baby acts fine now. But what about later?

That’s when the pace of learning increases. Students are expected to apply previous acquired knowledge – with a damaged working memory. In turn, they are unable to consistently remember from day to day. Meanwhile, social cues are misunderstood. Language is misinterpreted and then misused.

Without the ability to fully understand cause and effect relationships, critical thinking skills are limited. As is personal judgment. The same mistakes are made over and over again.

People uneducated about FASD only see the outward behavior, not the invisible brain damage.

And boy can they be unkind. No wonder many children with FASD have disrupted school experiences and ongoing depression.

Interestingly, most kids have splinter skills – often possessing talents in one area while unable to read a clock. Unable to count money. Unable to consistently follow a rule.

Why?

Unlike other drugs that can harm the unborn, alcohol is a teratogen – which means it changes cell development within a fetus.

Forever. Irreversible.

FASD brain

In other words, an unborn baby consumes alcohol each and every time the pregnant birthmother drinks. And the fetal development taking place at that point in time disrupts – with the central nervous system easily damaged no matter the day.

The result. Kids on the fetal alcohol spectrum are out of sync – always a few steps behind their nondisabled peers, as their brains work overtime to process information.

governor's adoption partyMy four children included. Totally unfair to be dealt such a blow that will last throughout life.

Thus the need for FASD prevention and addiction treatment – the kind that my children’s birthmother never received. Countless people watched her drink during pregnancy and did nothing. Only shame.

Yet don’t forget the significant human and financial cost. Special services for one of my sons have already exceeded $1 million.

Even with those expenditures, nothing in life has ever been easy.  DCP

_________

Craig Peterson publishes EACH Child every Tuesday. To subscribe, open this link and “Like” the page. EACH Child is Special: Working Smarter Not Harder to Raise Every ONE

To follow Craig’s progress in writing a book about raising his six children with special needs, click here: Adopting Faith: A Father’s Unconditional Love

To follow Andrew’s inspiring story, “Like” his special Facebook page. Andrew Peterson Goes for the Gold

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