Today in Part II we look at some of the effects of FAS. There is no cure for FAS but it can certainly be prevented. We only need to remember one simple truth – A pregnant woman never drinks alone.
FETAL ALCOHOL SYNDROME – PART II
Children with FAS have significant problems with memory. Concepts learned one day are forgotten by the following day. They may recall details from long ago but cannot remember if they have had lunch. The information is there but cannot be retrieved without prompting. They are accused of lying because their attempts to fill the memory gaps result in confabulation. Being concrete in their thinking, they are unable to take a perspective different form their own and can only deal with the present. They cannot think in abstract terms or consider possibilities in the future.
In areas of personal care, routines of basic hygiene and wearing clean and appropriate clothing are difficult to establish. Handling money becomes a problem. They do not understand the value of items, indulge in impulse spending, loan money or squander it on anyone they meet and are unable to account for large sums of money spent.
The concept of time is difficult such as judging the difference between five minutes and five hours. They fail to recognize the importance society places on being “on time”. Sequencing of events is confusing – what happened and in what order. They are complacent about getting to appointments, to work or to school. They may start out on time but become distracted and never arrive. The urgency of a minor need e.g. doing the laundry may overwhelm the ‘importance’ of keeping a doctor’s appointment.
They are sensitive to touch, light and sound. A gentle bump may feel like they have been shoved. Socks are turned inside out so that the seam does not rub the skin. They may develop mental health problems, be disruptive in class, have trouble with the law, drop out of school and in later life, develop drug or alcohol problems.
Society labels them as stupid, lazy troublemakers and later – jerks or criminals. It must be noted that not all children will have all the attributes of FAS and they could occur in varying degrees.
There is no cure for FAS but they can learn. They just learn differently. They can succeed but their success is not what society views as success. They can be loving, affectionate, artistic, musical and work well with plants and animals. They do well with support and services – special education, vocational programs, tutors, a structured environment. They can go to school and find paid work. Treat them with respect so you can support them.
Structure and routine are the keys to success – writing out schedules, organizing their belongings, maintaining a routine, colour coding books.
They do not like too much noise, too much stimulation so choose a quiet area with natural light. Try to limit interruptions e.g phone calls or visitors. We need to have a kind, caring and sensible approach. If one approach does not work, we need to be ready to try another. There is no manual to which we can refer. FAS is often described as a behavioral problem and so behavior modification is attempted. We should work towards behavior management. Along with structure and routine, we need patience.
Dene people believe that every child is born with a drum in his hand. That person needs to be affirmed, his gift needs to be affirmed so that his drum will be heard.
If we don’t do that – the drum beat becomes weaker and weaker and then you can’t hear it anymore.
In my efforts to learn what I could about FAS, I read a number of publications including “Effects of Parental Substance Abuse on Children’s Development” by Julianne Conry, all of which were most informative.