My family’s annual Fetal Alcohol Report Card arrived, just in time for our 20th International FASD Day. Symbolic. The 9th day of the 9th month emphasizes the importance of an alcohol-free pregnancy.
That’s right. Zero alcohol for the entire nine months. 0 – 4 – 9
This simple, straight-forward behavior eliminates exposure to alcohol in the womb. In turn, it prevents permanent brain damage. Maybe a little, probably a lot.
I call it Russian roulette with a fetus. Who would take the risk? Unfortunately, a growing number of women worldwide still drink alcohol during pregnancy – which negatively affects fetal cell development, particularly in the brain.
The consequence is a force that wreaks havoc – an invisible disability that brings intense judgment to innocent children. And their parents alike.
I know from experience.
At my house we also recognize families who model healthy pre-natal choices. That includes my niece Shannon and nephew Andrew (the original Andrew Peterson) – and their spouses Chet and Vanessa.
Both mothers abstained from alcohol throughout their pregnancy this past year – with the support of their husbands. And as a result, their sons Ben and Luke have a great start in life.
That’s something that four of my children never received.
Yes, each year brings new accomplishments – and reasons to celebrate. But the challenges never go away for my children – now young adults, 20 years since being adopted.
Our detailed report card offers a stark reminder of the the life-long impact of drinking alcohol during pregnancy.
The brain damage is permanent. Reducing the effects is a never-ending work in progress. One that requires incredible patience to minimize shame.
MANNERS & KINDNESS A-
From years of modeling at home and public school, manners are usually appropriate and not forced – especially when others show courtesy. That kindness offers a casual reminder which allows like-minded behavior to be mimicked. In general, dispositions are friendly. The desire each morning to have a good day is obvious.
Regular routine provides the structure to minimize critical thinking – a lasting deficit of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). However, inconsistent situations immediately create uncertainty. That’s when mistakes happen without willful intent.
The larger problem is the ongoing difficulty to learn from those mistakes. The same ones happen over and over. Although “cause and effect” reasoning has improved from the teen years, it remains a huge obstacle.
As with judgment, routine is essential. It supports organization. Without routine, a lack of organization appears evident – while disregarding the honest effort to do the job right in the first place. Laziness is not at play, although some jump to that conclusion.
Measurable improvement is evident in the ability to ask questions. This enhanced level of personal awareness subsequently aids the organizational process early in the task. No doubt, it produces a better outcome – along with overall self-esteem.
This area demonstrates significant growth. Moving from one predetermined activity to the next predetermined one no longer creates frustration and refusal. Unannounced transitions may still generate aversion to the task.
Fears have become a two-sided sword. On the plus side, a newfound willingness to try new experiences has emerged. They no longer induce instant anxiety and shut down any attempt to engage. On the negative side, risky behaviors do not raise the necessary level of age-appropriate fear – until an ugly and alarming incident occurs, usually more than once.
PEER RELATIONSHIPS C+
Social cues continue to be difficult to distinguish. Not everyone wants to be their friends. At the same time, not everyone is out to get them. Knowing the difference remains a personal struggle. Meanwhile, new acquaintances can easily take advantage of their impaired brains – and their kindness. The adoptive parent and extended family members know better and have become a greater source of comfort than in the past.
MONEY MANAGEMENT D-
Without question, this area remains the most troublesome. Repeated failures arise from impulsive thinking – which leads to extreme difficulty delaying gratification, even when the all-important cell phone bill needs to be paid.
In many cases the spending results in purchases that quickly lose their appeal. Then the same cycle sadly starts again. Efforts to save money haven’t produced meaningful results. Hopefully they will in the future with repeated emphasis.
OVERALL PROGRESS C+
The above-average progression is notable. Very encouraging. Indicative of substantial efforts on the part of many people. Whereas someone unfamiliar with the devastating effects of fetal alcohol exposure might dismiss this achievement, it is nonetheless a sign of forward movement and true momentum in real time. Some with FASD never get there.
The continuation of routine will maintain predictability. Supportive individuals will always serve as external brains. The combination of the two guarantees a reasonable level of success – now and into the future. DCP
For more insight into Fetal Alcohol Spectum Disorder, you are welcome to click on the following links and read past blogs.
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 learn more about Adopting Faith: A Father’s Unconditional Love, Craig’s soon-to-published memoir about raising six children with special needs, click here: Adopting Faith: A Father’s Unconditional Love
To follow my son Andrew’s inspiring story, “Like” his special Facebook page Andrew Peterson Goes for the Gold