As I mentioned before, the treatment listed for FAS in most medical books, journals and websites is to avoid drinking alcohol when you are pregnant. I became increasingly frustrated as I researched and rammed my head into this advice again and again. So, what do you do if it’s too late? Are you on your own? Give up hope? Sit in a corner and cry? Have a fit with the FAS child? The second little bit of advice I found on adoption blogs and personal adoption websites was to get the child diagnosed. This seemed to be a pinprick of light in the darkness. Find out what is wrong. Find the root of the problem that the child is facing. That is a starting point, but what next. All the capital letter syndromes: ADD, ADHD, SPD, RAD, Autism (and the list goes on) have loads of information on various treatments once you get into some serious research. But, FAS is the unmentionable syndrome. I know. I found out through my own pursuit of information to help my child.
Several years ago, I was sitting in my doctor’s office alongside my husband having an energizing conversation about life and family when I asked, “What do you do about FAS and what do you know about it?”
“Why do you ask?” was his slow downward shifting reply.
“Our youngest son definitely has it.”
Silence. The doctor’s face instantly changed from interest to disapproval. (Unmentionable)
He stared intently at me.
“He’s adopted,” I reminded him.
“Oh, yeah,” he laughed. Disapproval vanished. Jerry and I re-told (briefly) the adoption story and the syndromes that had assaulted our four adopted children.
“Our youngest seems to have more symptoms of FAS than the three older children.”
“That’s because alcohol in the system is residual, the last child born in a sibling group (to an alcohol consuming mother) will receive more of the effects of the alcohol in his body. You can get a blood test done to test for ammonia levels in the blood.”
Wow. Information. Hope. The Bible says in Isaiah that my people perish for lack of knowledge. That’s how I felt in my pursuit of knowledge for my children’s sakes, I was dying of thirst and my doctor had just given me a drink. Walking out of that office, I felt renewed, re-energized and Jerry and I had an answer to why Rafal struggled more than the others when it came to the effects of FAS. I determined to research on Rafal’s behalf.
We were spending an afternoon at Barnes and Noble for an annual book fair that my homeschool group (THESIS) participates in. Some of my children were leading story time and others greeted incoming customers at the door. I had time to browse. I headed to the educator’s section and perused the available material on the capital letter syndromes. Audrey joined me. We read chapters of books on Autism, SPD, ADHD read sections aloud to each other and rehearsed the results as they applied to our family.
“That’s interesting, he had this symptom from the SPD book, he can’t stand to be touched unexpectedly,” Audrey shared.
“I know, I can’t come up behind him and touch his elbow or he goes ballistic. I didn’t know so many of these syndromes had overlapping symptoms. I’m going to see if the store has anything on FAS.”
I checked the Family/Baby section and found about a bazillion books on What to do When you are expecting, how to raise boys, girls, well mannered children, a minute selection of books on adoption-none on FAS. So, I marched up to the preppy kid working at the command center in the middle of the store.
“Do you have any books on FAS?”
“What?” He looked up from his all-knowing computer screen.
“Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.”
“Oh, I think that would be in psychology,” he exited his post and strode quickly down the aisles of books. I followed almost at a run to match his long strides. He made a quick right angle turn and then stopped.
“Here you go,” he said pulling a book from the shelf, he handed it to me and then vanished.
I held the book in my hand and turned it over. It had pictures of model-like, beautiful girls inside. I turned the pages, there it was again, “the best way to avoid FAS is to avoid consuming alcohol when pregnant.” The girls looked tempted. Would they drink? More information about why an expectant mother should not drink. Great information. Wonderful advice. Just not what I was looking for. I shelved the book and went back to the command center.
“That’s not what I need. Could you see if you could find anything else? I need something on the treatment of FAS.”
Preppy Kid looked up from his computer screen, confused. “That’s all we have in the store. I can search the computer base and see what else is available. If there is anything, I could order it for you. You’ll have to pre-pay though.” He looked back down. The computer hummed and then papers flew out of the printer.
“Here you go. He handed the paper toward me and then jerked it back and began reading the titles to me. Do any of those sound like they will work for you?”
“Let me see,” I took the paper and scanned the titles. Medical books, mostly, at two or three hundred a pop, “is this it?”
“Yep. Do you want me to order any for you?”
“No, I think I need to do some more research on these other titles and I don’t want any professional medical books. Thanks.”
Preppy kid looked back at his computer screen and I walked back to the children’s section feeling more dejected with every step. That’s it, huh?
“What’d you find, Mom?”
“Oh, hey Audrey, they don’t really have anything, how about a cup of coffee?”
I had hit a brick wall. Where do you go when the information you need hasn’t been published yet? Blogs. Websites. Unpublished Thesis and medical research papers online. That’s where I had been looking. I continued to research and work out my own plan of salvation (for my children) with fear and trembling. These are some of the things I learned by trial and error. I rejoiced when I found a medical paper online that confirmed what I was doing, I attempted new strategies when I read about them in other books about the other capital letter syndromes. I amassed a library on SPD, ODD, ADHD, RAD, Autism, and more. Amazingly, I found that these syndromes have many overlapping symptoms, so it made sense to try some of the recommended treatments.
I just want to point out before I go on that there is no medical cure for FAS, by that I mean there is no magic pill to take that will alleviate all the symptoms. I do not dissuade anyone from seeking medical attention from a doctor, I do say that so that expectations placed on the doctor are not too high. I do know that the treatment for FAS is multifaceted and hands-on, time consuming, but exponential results can be reaped for the child’s sake in the long run. I also know that when you are treating a child with FAS, you are usually treating a child with RAD and symptoms of ADD or ADHD, just the nature of the beast. Research all of the CAPITAL LETTER SYNDROMES. What I have done is to put down what has worked best for my children, along with what has failed miserably.
*The strategies that I will share in this week have helped my children. I am not a medical doctor or a psychologist. The strategies that worked for my family have worked for others, I gathered them through years of research and trial and error attempts. Many times my research confirmed my inner inkling or suspicion. Please read through each suggestion with this in mind. Do not take my advice over your mother’s or father’s intuition. Do try it if you have your own confirmation that this is what you have been looking for. More Wednesday!