FASD with Natalie Vecchione

As a Homeschool Mom and a FASD Parent Advocate, Here is What I Want You to Know About FASD:

  •  Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a lifelong disability that affects the brain and body of those individuals who were prenatally exposed to alcohol.
  •  FASD IS THE LEADING CAUSE OF DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES IN THE WESTERN WORLD. Those who have an FASD have a lower DEVELOPMENTAL AGE versus their CHRONOLOGICAL AGE.
  • Primary characteristics of FASD include: poor working memory, executive functioning deficits, dysmaturity, impulsivity, distractibility, slower processing, inconsistent memory, difficulty with cause and effect, unable to make associations or abstract thinking.
  • A recent 2018 study, published in JAMA,  by Phillip May, Ph.D. of UNC-Chapel Hill found that 1 in 20 first graders have an FASD.
  • NO amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy.  Out of all of the drugs/substances that can be exposed to an unborn child, alcohol causes the MOST damage. 
  • Approximately 80%of children / teens in the US Foster Care System are impacted by an FASD.
  • FASD is a spectrum disorder, each person with an FASD can have different symptoms.  There are 5 diagnoses that fall under the “FASD Spectrum Umbrella”: Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), Partial Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (pFAS), Alcohol Related Birth Defect (ARBD), Neurobehavioral Disorder Associated with Prenatal Alcohol Exposure (ND-PAE) and Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND). FASD results in cognitive, behavioral, health, adaptive functioning and learning challenges.  There are over 400 comorbid medical and mental health diagnoses that can accompany having and FASD. 
  • FASD is a BRAIN BASED disability with lifelong symptoms.  It cannot be cured.  A child or teen with an FASD is not “misbehaving” or “being disobedient”….his or her brain cannot process what is being asked of him/her. It’s not that they WON’T do something, they CAN”T do something.
  • FASD is not limited to one population or demographic, it can happen to any unborn child exposed to ANY amount of alcohol during pregnancy.
  • FASD is the most misdiagnosed, undiagnosed and underdiagnosed of all developmental disabilities.

What Have I Learned as a Homeschool Mom of a Son with an FASD?

  • We MUST meet our children where they’re at so that they can explore the gifts in them.  Learn their interests, support their interests and nurture their growth.
  • As a result of the brain damage from the prenatal alcohol exposure, working memory can be poor. One day, your child may remember something….the next day, they may not be able to retrieve or recall that information. When that happens, shift gears and focus on 

what your child CAN do that day!

  • See your child the same way the Lord sees your child….as a gift, a blessing and YOUR teacher!  I can honestly say that our son’s homeschool journey, especially the past few years taught ME numerous life lessons and strengthened my FAITH in so many ways! 
  • Support your child. Learn how you can accommodate and support his or her needs! Meet your child where he or she is at….
  • Once we discover our children’s gifts, we can nurture and support them so they can GROW and THRIVE.
  • When you see distractibility, learn the gifts that your child can hyper focus on and use those subjects / skills to help in interest-led learning.
  • On the days that you think you can’t do this (and I’ve had MANY of those!), remember that the Lord trusted YOU to teach your child. Take a Rest and Renewal Day. Tomorrow is a New Day. 

Please reach out to me at natalie@fasdhope.com or visit fasdhope.com for more information or resources about FASD.  You can also find our podcast “FASD Hope” where you find your podcasts. 

Natalie Vecchione is an FASD parent advocate, homeschooler, podcaster, but MOST importantly… a wife and mom!
Natalie and her husband, John, adopted both our son and daughter via domestic adoption. They began homeschooling  7 years ago, when they noticed how many accommodations their son needed (who was later diagnosed with an FASD). Their son finally received an FASD diagnosis when he was 15, when he was also hospitalized for Bipolar Disorder…and it was one of the darkest times of her life as a mom. 
In those dark times, the Lord used her brokenness and filled her with the Holy Spirit to use her journey to become a parent advocate and help other families not to feel as alone as she had on her journey. Natalie began advocating for FASD by being a peer support mentor, co-facilitating a parent support group and she was selected to participate in the 2019 North Carolina Exceptional Parent Leadership Conference. She certified in Mental Health First Aid and she has also been a Board- Certified, Music Therapist for 25 years. Recently, Natalie volunteered as a board member and social media coordinator for several North Carolina nonprofits. In April  2020, Natalie began her new adventure in the world of podcasting through producing and hosting podcasts about FASD…. and she became a “Mom on a Mission with a Microphone”. In October 2020, Natalie and her husband co-founded their own podcast, website and ministry –  “FASD Hope”. The mission of FASD Hope is to provide awareness, information and inspiration to people whose lives have been touched by Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). Natalie & her family lives in the farm country of North Carolina (US) with their 6 year-old daughter (who began homeschooling last year) and almost 19 year-old son (who graduated from homeschooling and he is now proudly working part time as a carpentry apprentice and studying online in  computer coding / part time). Natalie is thrilled to begin this new adventure of FASD Hope and the “FASD Hope” podcast series and share awareness, information and inspiration about FASD and serving the Lord through their mission / ministry. 
natalie@fasdhope.com
http://www.fasdhope.com/
Instagram – @fasdhopeFacebook – @fasdhope1Pinterest- @fasdhope1Clubhouse – @natalievecc 
https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/fasd-hope/id1534406836

Listen to Natalie talk about FASD on this week’s Podcast

Introduction to Natalie Vecchione

by Natalie Vecchione of natalie@fasdhope.com

Getting to know me

My name is Natalie Vecchione. My husband and I met at ECU almost 30 years ago. After living in various states along the East Coast. Our family settled down in North Carolina for over 4 years and we currently reside in rural Johnston County, North Carolina. We have a little hobby farm under 4 acres & we are converting one of our detached workshops into a tiny house for our son in the next year or so he may have interdependence.

The Journey doesn’t end when Homeschool Ends

The journey doesn’t end when homeschool ends, it just begins with a new chapter. We were blessed that the Lord built our family through domestic adoption. We’ve been a homeschool family for 7 years. Our daughter is 5 1/2 years old and has Childhood Absence Epilepsy. We began homeschooling our daughter last fall. Our 18-year-old son has a Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) / Bipolar Disorder and other diagnoses. He finished his homeschool journey in May 2020, he is working part time as a carpentry apprentice and he is also studying computer coding online (part time).

Accommodation for our Son

Although our son had many, comorbid diagnoses, he did not receive his “official” diagnosis of having a Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) until he was almost 15 years old. We began homeschooling 7 years ago, while we were living in NY, as an ACCOMMODATION for our son’s multiple physical, developmental and learning needs (which we later learned that he had a Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).

What our Son Could Do

We were weary and tired of hearing everything that our son couldn’t do and we wanted to start focusing on what he COULD do. Our homeschooling adventure has been a challenging but an exciting one and both of our children (who are 13 years apart in age….God’s Orchestration!) have homeschooling paths are unique and strength based.

We always knew that our son loved to work with his hands and that he was very creative.  When he was younger, he enjoyed “hands-on” science experiments, art projects and building things. He also enjoyed outdoor activities, exploring nature and physical activities like skateboarding, scootering and lifting weights. We quickly embraced that our son was a KINESTHETIC learner.  Throughout his homeschool journey, I learned how to accommodate in ways that would help strengthen his ability to learn and retain information. For example, we practiced and recited spelling words while he would ride his scooter or work on math facts while bouncing on the trampoline.

Working in His Giftings

When he was 16, our son participated in a two-week carpentry camp  (for teens with special needs), where he learned his gift of carpentry and woodworking.  After many phone calls and emails, I was blessed to find TWO amazing carpenters who saw the blessings that our son had to offer and they took our son on as their apprentice. His last two years of homeschool were the best….in addition to completing his required subjects, he spent many hours in the wood shop (and “in the field”) learning his trade in the best way possible….hands on.  Our family also enjoyed the fruits of our son’s labor (cutting boards, bowls, custom designed woodwork, keepsake boxes and even a custom-made desk for our home office)!  Most importantly, we were blessed to be able to help our son grow in the gifts in which the Lord blessed him.

*Please reach out to me at natalie@fasdhope.com or visit fasdhope.com for more information or resources about FASD.  You can also find our podcast “FASD Hope” where you find your podcasts.

Natalie Vecchione is an FASD parent advocate, homeschooler, podcaster, but MOST importantly… a wife and mom!
Natalie and her husband, John, adopted both our son and daughter via domestic adoption. They began homeschooling  7 years ago, when they noticed how many accommodations their son needed (who was later diagnosed with an FASD). Their son finally received an FASD diagnosis when he was 15, when he was also hospitalized for Bipolar Disorder…and it was one of the darkest times of her life as a mom. 
In those dark times, the Lord used her brokenness and filled her with the Holy Spirit to use her journey to become a parent advocate and help other families not to feel as alone as she had on her journey. Natalie began advocating for FASD by being a peer support mentor, co-facilitating a parent support group and she was selected to participate in the 2019 North Carolina Exceptional Parent Leadership Conference. She certified in Mental Health First Aid and she has also been a Board- Certified, Music Therapist for 25 years. Recently, Natalie volunteered as a board member and social media coordinator for several North Carolina nonprofits. In April  2020, Natalie began her new adventure in the world of podcasting through producing and hosting podcasts about FASD…. and she became a “Mom on a Mission with a Microphone”. In October 2020, Natalie and her husband co-founded their own podcast, website and ministry –  “FASD Hope”. The mission of FASD Hope is to provide awareness, information and inspiration to people whose lives have been touched by Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). Natalie & her family lives in the farm country of North Carolina (US) with their 6 year-old daughter (who began homeschooling last year) and almost 19 year-old son (who graduated from homeschooling and he is now proudly working part time as a carpentry apprentice and studying online in  computer coding / part time). Natalie is thrilled to begin this new adventure of FASD Hope and the “FASD Hope” podcast series and share awareness, information and inspiration about FASD and serving the Lord through their mission / ministry. 
natalie@fasdhope.com
http://www.fasdhope.com/
Instagram – @fasdhopeFacebook – @fasdhope1Pinterest- @fasdhope1Clubhouse – @natalievecc 
https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/fasd-hope/id1534406836

You can listen to my interview with Natalie below. Make sure you join us next week when she shares about FASD!

The Language of Rest

Last week, I talked about “When Trauma Affects Your Ability to Listen to Your Body.” I finished the article with:

THE FOREIGN LANGUAGE OF REST

Why? I didn’t know what my own body was telling me. I didn’t know how to cue into it. I still struggle with knowing what it’s trying to tell me. It’s as if we don’t speak the same language. It says, “rest” and I don’t speak the rest language. It’s foreign to me. I put my self-imposed to-do list above my body’s needs. Not good. I understand there are things we have to do as women, moms, and grandmas. Whatever your title is, there are tasks or appointments we should keep. One of those appointments is with ourselves. Did Jesus care for the needs of his own body? If so, how? 

Today I’d like to spend a few minutes on the language of rest and how Jesus understands the needs your body.

When do you rest?

  • Do you wait until your body is completely depleted?
  • Do you schedule rest?
  • Do you work your body as if it has infinite energy and then are flabbergasted when it shuts down?
  • Did you know enough about your body to know when it’s telling you to rest?
  • Do you feed your body the food it needs to work well?
  • Do you fuel your body often?

Answering these questions is a great starting point. For me, I used to wait until my body was shutting down before I rested. Now I schedule rest. I do sometimes still get flabbergasted when my body says, “STOP!” For instance, (last week) I’ve had two Easter Egg hunts on consecutive days, followed by a doctor’s appointment the next day, and then more days of outings, including hiking, church, grocery shopping, running errands, and date night. Reading the list exhausts me. In fact, today I’m suffering from an introvert hangover after all the peopling I’ve done. (If you’re an introvert and want to know more about the science, embracing your introvert-self, check out Holley Gerth’s – The Powerful Purpose of Introverts.) How did you answer these questions?

Getting to Know YOurself

  • Do you know yourself?
  • Do you know what stresses you?
  • What energizes you?
  • What exhausts you?
  • Which foods give you energy?
  • Which foods leave you feeling wired, tired, bloated, or fill in the blank.

If you read last week’s article, you’ll know I followed the voice of trauma and survival mode for years. I didn’t know myself at all. I even went so far as thinking I was being sinful if I took time to know myself or do anything for myself. If you think that way, it’s not true. Not Biblical. Not how Jesus sees things. He not only promises to give us heavy-burdened, trauma-driven, codependent, perfectionists REST, He says He will “ease, relieve, and refresh our souls.” (Matthew 12: 28,29) Read that again and take a deep breath or two. Jesus cares about you and your body. He listened to and knew His own needs. Even though he is God, as a man, He became tired and needed a break. He needed rest and He knew the apostles did too. After they told Jesus all they had done and taught-

He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a little while”—for there were many [people who were continually] coming and going, and they could not even find time to eat.

Mark 6: 31

Find A Co-regualtor

On a comment on my Instagram post last week, I mentioned when we need to use the same parenting tools we employ with our kids who have experienced trauma with ourselves. We need to re-parent ourselves. Maybe you missed the season of co-regulation in your childhood. Maybe there was too much chaos in your home (or is now), and no one helped you know what your body was telling you. Basic things such as hunger, thirst, need for rest, and what we feel (anxiety, excitement, depression, uncertainty, joy) – all these feelings we need co-regulators guiding us. EVEN if you are an adult, you may need a co-regulator and some re-parenting!

I started the practice of reporting all I have done to my husband. It’s not for approval’s sake. It’s so he can weigh in and advise me. He’s often told me – “You do more on a rest day than most people do on a work day.” I had no clue. I thought everyone worked the way I did. Maybe you are the same and you don’t know how much you really push your body. Find someone to help you regulate until you can do it on your own. Do you have someone in mind? If you don’t pray about it?

Do you speak the language of rest? Share in the comments!

*If you struggle with knowing what your body is telling you, take some time this week and answer all the questions in this article in a journal or on you phone. If you struggle with knowing the answers, you may not speak the language of rest. Ask a trusted close friend or spouse to help you begin to recognize what your body is telling you or find a counselor.

FIVE THINGS YOU CAN DO TO HELP ADOPTIVE/FOSTER FAMILIES PART 4

Sandra Flach, of the Orphans No More Podcast, joins me again this week for the Positive Adoption Podcast series on the book Five Things: A Tiny Handbook for Foster/Adoptive Families. We’re sharing the last episode in our series – Five Things You Can Do To Help Adoptive/Foster Families. If you are an adoptive/foster parent you may struggle with your child’s meltdowns but he acts like an angel in public. This week’s topic – don’t be fooled by a child’s superficially, engaging behavior.

Last week we talked about not judging the parents by the child’s behavior. There is another side to this coin…

On the other hand, don’t be fooled by a child’s superficially, engaging behavior.

Some children with attachment, self-regulatory issues will behave horribly in public. Some will look like angels and leave you wondering why Mom doesn’t feel like coming out in public anymore. Take your cues from Mom and Dad. Something is not right. That quiet or gushingly cute child may be malicious and hateful to her new/foster  parents at home. She is in survival mode. She has learned the angles and may have had to act that way to get by in her early life. It’s a survival mechanism she has to unlearn so she can really be part of a family and have authentic relationships, not superficial ones.

Watch Mom and Dad for an accurate picture

Look at Mom or Dad  for an accurate picture. Is Mom haggard? Slurping her second cup of coffee an hour into the field trip? Do her eyes keep darting towards the child as if she is unsure of what the child is going to do? Does she have the worry hunch? Is she too perfect looking, hair, makeup, clothes, as if she is covering up, hiding herself? Or better yet, ask her, and be firm, wait for an honest answer. If you can’t or she won’t talk, set up a coffee date. Go out of your way to make it easier for her. Walk a mile with her. Hear her. Pray for her. 

Sometimes the best thing you can do for adoptive parents is listen. Don’t correct. Don’t interject. Just listen. Support them in prayer and acknowledge that you don’t have all the answers. They don’t need all the answers.  Sometimes what is needed is some validation. Tell them they are doing a good job.  Support and care for them (and their children) in this adoption journey.

Are you an adoptive/foster parent?

Do you often feel alone in your journey? As if NO ONE else knows what’s going on in your home?

Because, which  of us stands on the sidelines of the soccer field and says to the neighboring Moms, “How are you coping with the effects of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in your child?” or “Is your child finally attaching or what?”  “How are those adoption/foster classes going?” No. The truth is most adoptive parents don’t say a word about what they are dealing with on a regular basis. They just try to blend in and look normal. How do I know? I am one of them.This is a great handbook to encourage you and let you know, you are not alone. Plus, it’s full of tips, real-life stories, and some great resources. Grab your free copy today.

When Trauma Affects Your Ability to Listen to Your Body

“Listen to your body,” a few friends have told me recently. But what does that mean? If you grew up in an alcoholic, codependent, legalist, neglectful,  or abusive environment (or married into one)- this advice may stump you as it did me. 

My Body Didn’t get a say

Growing up, my body didn’t get a say. I was bossed around by others’ feelings or opinions whether it was intended or not. I didn’t tune in with my body in those early years. The trauma tuned my body out and I lived in survival mode.

Fast Forward to my adult years, marriage, building a family through birth and adoption. I was BUSY meeting the needs of others. My adopted children, who had experienced early trauma, sent me back to the land of codependency. Before I realized it, I was feeling what their bodies were feeling.

I knew nothing of what my body was telling me. I cut it off. Silenced it. Pushed it. Overdid it. Crashed it. Abused it. Starved it. Over fed it. All the while, I told myself I was offering my body as a living sacrifice by taking care of others. (Not accurate, by the way).

A Diagnosis

In the middle of my child rearing years,  after years of health struggles – I  finally received a diagnosis -CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), hypothyroidism, and later Celiac disease. My sister located an amazing doctor in Pittsburgh (Dr. Pierotti),  who has helped me tremendously. With his understanding of the body, how it all works together, and immune system function, I began to get some energy back and lose the brain fog. I won’t go into detail about the treatment (you can pm or email me – positiveadoption@gmail.com, if you want to know more). 

Pushing And Crashing

What happened next is super sad. I began a cycle of pushing and crashing. This cycle lasted for years. As soon as I was able to function, I began doing ALL the things I was doing before. Then I began reading about adding  margins to my day, scheduling rest, stopping before exhaustion, all kinds of great information (check out Toby Morrison’s book and youtube channel!) I would try to implement some practices with success and then go right back to pushing and crashing.

The foreign Language of Rest

Why? I didn’t know what my own body was telling me. I didn’t know how to cue into it. I still struggle with knowing what it’s trying to tell me. It’s as if we don’t speak the same language. It says, “rest” and I don’t speak the rest language. It’s foreign to me. I put my self-imposed to-do list above my body’s needs. Not good. I understand there are things we have to do as women, moms, and grandmas. Whatever your title is, there are tasks or appointments we should keep. One of those appointments is with ourselves. Did Jesus care for the needs of his own body? If so, how? 

Next week – How to tune into what your body is saying and how Jesus took care of his.