FAS Treatment Part III

Part III
The second part of the three pronged treatment is ACTIVITY.  Children who suffer from FAS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome) need plenty of outdoor activity.  This outdoor activity needs to be planned, but does not include organized sports.  Children need hours of outdoor play with supervision and remember- a little bit of boredom is a healthy stimulant for some creative play!

“Nevertheless, a growing body of evidence indicates that direct exposure to nature is essential for physical and emotional health.  For example, new studies suggest that exposure to nature may reduce the symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and that it can improve all children’s cognitive abilities and resistance to negative stresses and depression.”  –Last Child in the Wood by Richard Louv pg. 34

Organized sports cannot replace unrestricted, outside play.  Sports remove the ability to be creative, to let the imagination come to life and cleanse the mind.  Kids need to play in a creek- looking for craw-dads, building dams, slushing around hiding from invisible foe.  They need to run through fields playing Little House on the Prairie or reliving the Crusades.  

A snap shot of Ania’s story!

A dozen years ago, Ania was petrified of the outdoors.  Giant pine trees lining our drive must have seemed as if they were monsters waiting to devour her.  With two eye surgeries behind her and a patient mom and siblings, willing hold her hand while she examined the world, her opinion has taken a one-eighty.  At seventeen, she examines nature with a scrutiny that I myself don’t posses.  Armed with only her camera, she tromps into the woods for hours taking pictures of a multitude of flora and fauna. She then researches them in her wildflower handbook.  At this writing,she has thousands of nature photos! 

 *Photo by AWESOME Ania!

Outdoor Activity vs Computer/ Video Games

Outdoor activity is one of the key components in the treatment of FAS. Outdoor exercise relieves anxiety and depression. Free outdoor play allows the creative brain to work. Computer/video games do not allow the brain to blaze new paths, to create, to imagine.( God created us in His own image, He is a creative being.)  Children with FAS experience a brain fog after hours of video gaming. They are unable to organize thoughts or think logically (do math). I have witnessed some of my children losing the ability to speak in complete sentences after an afternoon of gaming.
Playing video games should never replace outdoor activity. FAS children suffer from the damage alcohol has caused. Computer and video games compound that damage by causing more physical changes in the brain. Nick Collins of the Daily Telegraph reports:

“Baroness Greenfield, the former director of the Royal Institution, said spending too much time staring at computer screens can cause physical changes in the brain that lead to attention and behaviour problems.
Technology that plays strongly on the senses – like video games – can literally “blow the mind” by temporarily or permanently deactivating certain nerve connections in the brain, the Baroness said.”

Playing outdoors stimulates problem solving brain power. Watch a some kids build a dam on a small water way.  You can almost see the wheels turning in their brains as they plot and plan, try and retry until they succeed. Take them on a hike and observe nature.  Their brains begin to process the laws of physics as they skip rocks across a pond or climb up a hill to admire the view.  Collect mushrooms and classify them.  Stick some handbooks in your backpack and stop and look things up on the spot.  Keep that brain working!  Enjoy God’s creation the way he intended us to and maybe grow some new neural pathways in the brain.

*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.

FAS Treatment Part II

FAS Treatment Part II

As far as treatment for FAS, I used a three pronged program including:

  1. Nutrition
  2. Activity
  3. Structure

Diet.  The Family Hope Center , a center dedicated to helping children with special needs and developmental delays, recommends a gluten-free diet. I re-evaluated our eating and begun to eliminate even more simple carbs. Two of the Guire family now eat gluten free.  Years ago, I decided on a course of action to add live foods the adopted children. Live foods- meaning in the most natural form-raw. Apples instead of apple pie. Potatoes instead of potato chips.  Raw carrots instead of cooked.

“Basically, raw food (sometimes called live or living food) is food that has not been cooked or exposed to temperatures over 118°F. At that temperature, the natural enzymes in food are completely destroyed. Enzymes are essential for all the chemical processes in your body, especially digestion. In addition, nutrients are chemicals, and when these chemicals are heated it causes chemical reactions – just like in your high school chemistry class – the higher the heat, the more volatile, or destructive, the chemical reactions.”

(Read more here.)

The nutrition in the orphanage tended to be poor, only due to the inability to purchase large amounts of quality  food.  My game plan became to serve as much food as I could in live form-fruits and veggies are always purchased no matter what the food budget happens to be.  These items are more important than empty calorie potato chips, crackers and other junk.  

What kinds of things do we eat?  We avoid (as much as possible) prepackaged foods. Homemade is always better. It tastes better and the body is able to process it. Teresa Tapp, author of Fit and Fabulous in Fifteen Minutes, reminds us to eat God made foods (foods in their most natural form) because that is what our bodies are designed to digest and assimilate.

Too much sugar in a FAS child can give them a pseudo drunk experience. Why? Alcohol turns to sugar in the body.  Watch a FAS child following the day his sugar ‘high’, he will have a ‘hangover’ reaction, dark circles under his eyes, emotional, head-achy, he craves more sugar, is more sensitive to noises, lights and sudden movements, and unable to focus.

Mondays have traditionally called hangover days in my household. Weekend events, especially Sunday morning donut- classes provide too much sugar for my FAS children. The aftermath is two days of recovery and brain fog.

Juice is full of sugar, therefore it is only served in moderation, a small juice glass at breakfast is enough.  We drink water for the rest of the day, with some occasional glasses of milk.  FAS children have a difficult time reading their bodies’s signals and more often than not may walk around slightly dehydrated. Soda and tea both are diuretics and drain the body of vital fluids. In some extreme cases, parents need to measure water to make sure a child is hydrated. The brain and organs need water in order to function properly! 

The most important issue in feeding your child is to examine their nutritional needs and go from there.  Have they been lacking in protein? Complex carbs?  Have they been fed refined sugar and foods with no real nutritional value?

Rafal was born with a cleft palate and the orphanage staff had a difficult time getting food into him. When he came home to us, I began using my food processor to puree whatever we were eating, so that he could eat it too.  He began to gain weight immediately.

My children don’t always agree with the eating plan prescribed, but they don’t have too. Take the authority given to you as a parent and parent. My kids still do not jump up and down with joy when I require them to add some salad to their plates or enjoy every green smoothie recipe. When they are away from the home, I am sure they consume their weight in potato chips and cookies. I make home made muffins and energy bites to compensate for sugar cravings. A little grace goes a long way. Legalism will only push the child into a search and hide sweets pattern. What is eaten at home should be varied and occasional ‘food parties’ will not kill the overall strategy. The more live and God made foods served to the child, the better. Build those nutritional blocks when you can instead of throwing up your hands and giving up because the family ate junk food all week end!  
More Friday!

FAS Treatment Part I

FAS treatment

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!


*This is part III of a series on FAS, if you haven’t been following along, read part I and II to catch up!
Children like Rafal need more supervision than other children so their impulsiveness doesn’t get them into serious trouble.  Children with FAS ( and other capital letter syndromes) don’t mean to cause harm, they just don’t have the self-control or cause and effect thinking to keep themselves safe.

Over a decade ago, the Guire kids and I were at a friend’s house.  I was administering the standardized test to my friend, Patty’s daughter.  Patty, in exchange, was watching my children.  It was a warm spring day and the little guys played outside in the yard.  Gregory and Hunter slipped across the creek and into the woods.  The next thing I knew,  Patty burst into her home office, yelling, “Gregory started a forest fire!”

Fire trucks screamed up the driveway while an acre of undergrowth burned.  Gregory sat expressionless, watching his blaze eat away at the forest.  Hunter, weepy and repentant of not blowing the whistle sooner on his fire-starter brother, sat on the porch steps with his head in his hands.

 Wisps of smoke rose from the blackened ground and a firemen in heavy boots came for Gregory. He pulled him aside and lectured him on the danger of playing with fire.  I lectured myself  on trusting my children to someone who didn’t know how closely they needed to be watched.  I was horrified that Gregory had burned an acre of ground, but relieved that no one had gotten hurt.

On another occasion, Gregory came inside and said, “Mom, come outside and watch me!”

I followed him outside, watched him climb a tree, I opened my mouth to praise his agility when he came flying out of the tree, only to land on his stomach at my feet.  Air gushed out of his lungs in an audible whoosh.  I leaned over to comfort him, I stood dumbfounded when he jumped to his feet and staggered, breathless into the house.  I stood in the yard, a moment more, attempting to sort out the scene when a child’s voice spoke from the tree.

“Mom, he saw this guy on TV jump from branch to branch.  He thought he could do it.  I told him not to!”

This kind of behavior shows lack of understanding in the cause and effect realm.  Most children do some things impulsively-grabbing a cookie without asking, dipping fingers into icing (at the age of 2 or 3), dumping all the books on the floor from the bookshelf, just to see how it feels.  But, prolonged misunderstanding of cause and effect and impulsive behavior that endangers humans or animals is a result of a more serious syndrome.  If these stories are resonating with you and you think that your child may be suffering from FAS or another letter syndrome, it may be time to do some personal research.  If your child has already been diagnosed with FAS, then you may want to find some support and continue to self-educate.

It is a frustrating arena to do battle in.  when I began my research, all the articles I found stated that the treatment for FAS was ‘not to consume alcohol when pregnant’..  Gee thanks, but what do you do if its too late for that?  I read the lists of symptoms and then the treatment over and over.  I knew the symptoms.  I lived with them personified.  I devised my own plan of attack.  Thankfully, by the grace of God, I did some things right!  Thus far, I’ve only listed the results of FAS.  In the next week, I will lay out the plan of action that I followed and address the other consequences related to FAS, including the assumption that all these children also suffer from ADD or ADHD.
Join me next week!


Facial Features of child with FAS

“…some studies have estimated that at least 80 percent of children in the US foster system have been removed because of  substance abuse problems in their families, and it has been reported that 20 percent of the children from the former Soviet block nations and Romania have Fetal Alcohol syndrome, with another 60 percent having been exposed prenatally to alcohol.”-Raising the Hurt Child

My children were part of the percentage that were exposed prenatally to alcohol.  They aren’t just a number in a book, they are people who have to suffer long term effects for a choice that their birth parent made for them.  They are the world’s youngest abuse victims, given alcohol in the womb.

“When you drink alcohol, it enters your bloodstream and reaches your developing fetus by crossing the placenta.  Because a fetus metabolizes alcohol more slowly than an adult does, your developing baby’s blood alcohol concentrations are higher than those in your body.  The presence of alcohol can impair optimal nutrition for your baby’s developing tissues and organs and can damage cells.”- Mayoclinic.com

I became very frustrated when I began my research on FAS and all the alcohol related syndromes.  Articles I read stated that the treatment for FAS was to avoid drinking alcohol while pregnant.  That didn’t help me at all, I knew how it happened, I wanted to know what to do after it did!

What I did find out confirmed what I thought,  Rafal’s impulsive scalping behavior was due to his FAS. Once I knew that my adopted children had been exposed to alcohol in the womb, I wanted to know what some of the long term effects were.

Signs of fetal alcohol syndrome may include:

*distinctive facial features, including small eyes, an exceptionally thin upper lip, a short, upturned nose and smooth skin surface between the nose and upper lip

*heart defects

*deformities of joints, limbs and fingers

*Slow physical growth before and after birth

*Vision difficulties or hearing problems

*small head circumference and brain size

*mental retardation and delayed development

*Abnormal behavior such as a short attention span, hyperactivity, poor impulse control, extreme nervousness and anxiety


“While some children and adolescents with FAS have IQs that range from as low as the 20s to as high as 135, the majority of the children have IQs between 85 and 95, which is the low to normal range.”

*lower IQ scores
*difficulty with behavioral regulation
*social deficits
*poor judgment
“causing difficulties in day to day management in the classroom and home.”

*learning disabilities
*poor school performance
*poor executive functioning (including organization of tasks)
*understanding cause and effect
*following several steps of directions
*poor balance
*problems with writing or drawing

Behaviorally, many children-
*have short attention spans
*exhibit hyperactivity

So, what do all of these lists look like in the form of a child?

First of all, in Rafal’s head wound story, he personifies the impulsive behavior angle with his self-scalping and his inability to comprehend cause and effect.  His anger toward anyone who pointed out the fact that he was sporting a huge gash on his head exhibits social deficits.  His idea that everyone should ignore his gash to make him feel better, not reality.  

But, on the flip side of the coin is a child with a fantastic imagination.  The Native American became so real in his mind that he imagined himself  to be a little boy attacked by the savages.  He found the tomahawk (girl’s razor) sitting on the rock (sink).  Suddenly, the savage sneaks up behind him and viciously scalps him, blood squirts out, brains ooze out of the top of his skull.  But, he is brave!  He doesn’t cry out.  He wouldn’t cry out.  Instead, he bites down on his own cheek just to smother the cry that resounds within his belly.  Whew!  He has survived the scalping.  He examines his wound in the mirror.  Mirror?  What’s this mirror doing in the middle of the woods?  Oh no, he realizes, I’m in the bathroom.  No Indians.  No savages.  Just a double bowl sink splattered with bright red drops of blood.  Reality check.  Audrey is downstairs.  Soon, Mom will be back from the store.  Rafal retreats from the woods (bathroom) and ventures back into civilization to face the other settlers.  Mom comes in, sails through the kitchen, depositing Walmart bags on the island, patting Rafal on the shoulder in the middle of the motion.

“Mom, what happened to Rafal’s head?”

Incidents like this can make me bitter or better.  I’ll admit, I was aggravated at having to drive a half an hour, taking an afternoon away from school to travel to the dentist to be told that Rafal had bitten the inside of his cheek.  However, the whole incident became a family story to be told with humor, around the dinner table.  We are not laughing at Rafal, but letting him know, we all do silly stuff and it’s okay, move on.
Part III on Friday!