2. It is important to leave enough time for a child with FAS to move from one activity to another. It may help to set a timer for 3 minutes and let your child know that when it rings it’s time to stop playing and get ready for school. It is said that children with FASD are 10 minute children living in a 10 second world. It LITERALLY takes some of my kids more than one minute to process what it is I have asked them. When I am expecting some kind of response they have not yet clearly understood what I am asking for. I already expect motion to be happening and they are still processing. When I am ready to do something I want to do it right away. Slowing down long enough for the things I have said to be processed is HARD – especially because all of the kids process at different speeds. In our house we have seven different people operating on seven different speeds and I want mine to be the one everyone is tuned into – and it isn’t!
3. It’s not just moving from one activity to another. It’s moving PERIOD. Sweet Mother Mercy, I have two EXTREMELY slow children. I will never be on time to anything again in my life and being late will be the death of me.
4. Managing money can be very confusing for people with FASD. Money and the value of money are hard to understand. $20.00 for a chocolate bar and $20.00 for a pair of new shoes may both seem like good prices. Money is an abstract concept. This means that while you can touch money and hold it in your hand, what money can buy or what money can do are “ideas”. Ideas are difficult to grasp. My oldest son took money that he had and tried to give it to a child in his class for Valentine’s day. He thought $20.00 was a nice gift to give someone – it WAS a very nice gift - but not appropriate! Thankfully the kid realized this was not something my guy should be doing and gave the money back to him. Had it been someone else I am not certain he would have had the money returned.
7. All children tell stories. Children see the world differently than adults do. But, children with FASD have a hard time knowing the difference between reality and fantasy. I have one son who lives in a fantasy world and one son who cannot comprehend anything that is not 100 percent concrete. In fact, we have to remind him that it is ok for his siblings to use their imaginations. He used to get frustrated and tell us “Mom, CJ is using his imagination again!” He would tell his brother to stop it. Because he does not like anything that is not real, he absolutely did NOT want the tooth fairy coming into his house and putting money under his pillow when he lost a tooth. The thought of a little flying fairy that he could not see absolutely drove him crazy, but it did save us some money!
8. This same “literal” boy causes me grief in other areas also. He is out playing on the hill before the bus comes and I see the bus approaching and call out for him to “go to the bus”. He goes – but does not take his backpack. I have reminded him this morning already about three times to take his backpack and I STILL have to take it in to the school for him. When I ask him why he went to the bus without it he says, “Mom, you said go to the Bus. You didn’t say take your backpack and go to the bus”. While “normal” parents would say he needs to learn from leaving his backpack at home that if he forgets it he goes without it. The thing is he really DIDNT forget it. He did exactly what I told him – and if I keep his backpack at home he won’t actually learn anything because his brain is wired differently and he doesn’t “learn” from that – he is actually confused by it. He would not understand why I didn’t bring him his backpack when I was the one who told him to go without it!
10. Some children with FASD are very sensitive to touch, movement, light or sound. Because of the way their brains work, children with FASD may be so focused on what they hear, see or feel on their skin that they can’t focus on other things. When children have oversensitive senses, they may need to shut down. Or they might act out and act badly as they try to stop the thing that is bothering them. I can’t have the television on when the kids are getting ready for school in the morning. Some kids can’t do two things at once (watch television and get dressed.) some of our kids are very bothered by clothing and the longer they are dressed the more agitated they become. We were doubtful that they could make it through a school day without disrobing, so far so good.
12. Sensitivity again – this time as it relates to stimulation. We don’t play the radio in the van when we drive. The sound of the tires on the road and the wierd echo of voices in the car is too much for some of the kids, in addition the speed at which the visual stimulation is passing them by, a car trip is a nightmare for some of our little’s. Playing music would literally be adding fire to that storm.
13. The biggest difficulty I have faced in raising children with fetal alcohol comes not from them, but from adults in the community. People who don’t understand that we are raising children who have PERMANENT, UNCHANGEABLE, BRAIN DAMAGE. They look at the kids and think they look normal - so they should act normal. They have an expectation that my eight year old should act eight – when in reality he is socially about 3. They think we are permissive because we “cater” to our kids. I know I have a lot to learn, and to remember, and to adapt, but it would be a whole lot easier with the support of more people in the community than with their judgement.