Thursday, November 1, 2007


This post with have two parts - two very different topics. I'll start with the "lighter" one...

After reading book after book on adoption and newborns I decided to give my brain and emotions a little break and decided to read some light-hearted 'chick lit.' A friend shared her collection of Emily Giffin novels - "Something Borrowed," "Something Blue," & "Baby Proof." I enjoyed the first two books and breezed through them in a few days, but Baby Proof was a much slower read. The story was narrated by a woman who did not want to have children and divorced her husband because he decided he did. I just couldn't connect with her character and often became angry at things the character said about women who wanted children. I easily connected with the character's sister who went through fertility testing until the the last few chapters where she met a random pregnant university student in a shoe store and had such a great connection with the university student that one month later she was at home with her newborn adopted baby boy! That was soooooo not realistic. You don't just meet a pregnant woman while shoe shopping at Thanksgiving (American), pay the fees to her agency and bring a baby home days before Christmas!! There wasn't enough time for her & her husband to take the PRIDE course or to have a home-study conducted!!! I'll admit that I naively thought it would move that quickly for Grant & I....if only we lived in a chick-lit world filled with perfect timings and page limits to force a quick and happy ending.

Moving on to topic two FASD...

I attended a two-day course on "Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder in our Schools" last week and my eyes were opened very wide! I had many misconceptions and an out-dated understanding of FASD. I will share the points that really impacted me and will not only influence the way I work with children on my caseload, but will better prepare me to interact with people who have FASD.
  • FASD is not in the DSM-IV and not a recognized diagnosis in many school boards. Therefore, students who require supports in order to succeed in a school environment are not eligible for essential accommodations and services.
  • FAS, FAE, pFAS, ARND, ARBD, PEA, FASD = all are labels for damage from prenatal exposure to alcohol.
  • FASD is a lifetime challenge. It is organic brain damage caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol.
  • The facial features commonly associated with FAS are only present if there was alcohol exposure between days 18-21, a time frame in which many woman are not even aware they are pregnant. If exposure to alcohol occurred between days 18-21 the characteristic facial features are typically only recognizable between the ages of 8 months and 8 years.
  • During any given week in Canada 10,000 babies are born
    • 20 of these babies will be born with full FAS (incl facial features)
    • 100 of these babies are born with Alcohol Related Neuro-developmental Disabilities
    • 77% of women with one child with FAS will have another child with FAS
  • FASD is an invisible physical disability - The exposure to alcohol kills cells and changes neurology. Our brain controls our behaviours and when there are changes to the brain due to alcohol exposure changes to how we can control our behaviour will occur.
  • Often ADHD is incorrectly diagnosed when FASD is a more appropriate diagnosis. Characteristic "red flags" that a person has FASD not ADHD are:
    • 1. acts young for his/her age
    • 2. cruel to others/bully
    • 3. does not demonstrate guild or remorse
    • 4. lies, cheats & steals
  • The following is a list of symptoms/characteristics of a person who has FASD - keep in mind that the "S" stands for SPECTRUM and a person with FASD can fall anywhere along the spectrum from being highly functional and successful to requiring many support systems in place.
    • Brain dysfunction - rigidity & perseveration = just can't stop; therefore, assure ability to achieve and have closure
    • Primary behavioural symptoms - behavioural symptoms that most clearly reflect changes in brain structure and function: 1. Dysmaturity, are younger developmentally (average age of emotional maturity development is 5years) 2. slow auditory &/or cognitive pace 3. memory problems - will have on and off days 4. in the now - difficulty predicting outcomes 5. difficulty abstracting, planning, starting 6. impulsivity **these behaviours are symptoms of FASD and are not willful; therefore, we must support these behaviours not punish them.
    • Secondary behavioural characteristics - defensive behaviours that develop when there is a "poor fit" between the person with FASD and his/her world/environment. These behaviours are preventable: 1. Fatigue, frustration 2. anxiety 3. anger 4. shut down, avoidance, blame 5. poor self-esteem 6. isolation 7. depression 8. poor impusle control 8. poor personal hygiene 9. problems with transitions 10. trouble with time concepts 11. trouble handling & keeping money 12. no fear 13. aggression 14. in trouble with law (will re-offend same crime over and over again).15.....
  • Accommodations:
    • FASD is an invisible physical disability
    • Brain structure & function is changed permanently
    • Behaviours are symptoms, they are not willful
    • Trying harder to change behaviours makes things worse
    • Recognizing the disability & providing accommodations prevents problems
    • This is what we do for people with more obvious and physical disabilities
Janet's Paradigm shift!!
One of the presenters shared a recent research study published stating that in South Africa neurological changes were evident in babies born to women who worked on vineyards and drank 4 glasses of wine, each glass at a different stage of the pregnancy. I used think it was okay to have a sip or glass of wine here or there during pregnancy - I will NEVER think that way again. I am glad I attended the course as I now have a clear and accurate understanding of the impact alcohol has on the developing brain and the permanent life-long damage that occurs and most importantly that FASD is a preventable disability.

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