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!

Five Things You Can Do To Help Adoptive/Foster Families Part 1

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 first episode in our series – Five Things You Can Do To Help Adoptive/Foster Families. If you are an adoptive/foster parent, this is a great series to share with your friends, family, and church. It’s a more indirect way of asking for help. Who knows? You may help someone in need just by sharing! Grab a cup of coffee (and some tissues for this episode). Join Sandra and me for some tips and stories!

Why should you help Adoptive/Foster families?

Ever wonder what you can do to support adoption/foster care? Maybe you don’t feel as if you can take a child into your home. Maybe you already raised your children and you aren’t ready to start over. It may be that you have a heart for adoption, but it’s not time for you to walk the adoption road, a few more things may need to fall into place. The good news is, you don’t have to adopt/foster to support it. You can support those who do and it’s not terribly difficult.

External religious worship religion as it is expressed in outward acts] that is pure and unblemished in the sight of God the Father is this: to visit and help and care for the orphans and widows in their affliction and need, and to keep oneself unspotted and uncontaminated from the world.”

James 1:27

We’ve all heard James 1: 27. Sometimes it stings. The directive is for all. But what if, as I mentioned above, you can’t foster or adopt? Don’t stress. There are some things you can do if you’d like to help. For the month of March, Sandra and I share four of the five things. I shared the first one on Instagram Tuesday (@the_whole_house).

Fill in for the family commitments while they get acclimated

If you haven’t adopted or fostered, you may be scratching your head right now, wondering what that even means. To put it into some context, when a family brings home a newborn, they may need some meals delivered, and if the infant is in NICU for some complications/health issues, they may not be able to fulfill some commitments for a while. Adoptive/foster parents need meals as well.

Disappearing Parents

Adoptive/foster parents will disappear off the radar for a while. It’s not because they are not committed to their church body, work, homeschool co-op, school, sport or other activity they had once been active in.

The Bible commands us to visit orphans and widows, There is a reason for that, they may be at home. Maybe the kiddos are grieving a life lost, maybe they are stuck in survival mode, and struggling with being around people.

The family with foster/adoptive children cocoons, trying with every fiber of their being to get these traumatized children to feel safe, leave survival mode and attach. It’s a tough job (with some children), there is no time or energy left for anything else for a season.

So, fill in for the family. Cover for them. Work the nursery their Sunday. Bring the book club or soccer snack. Don’t ask them to volunteer for anything for this season. Drop by with some dinner or strong coffee, but don’t be put off if you’re not invited to stay for hours and chat.

Don’t talk about them at church as if they have back-slidden. They are James one twenty seven-ing it all the way in their home mission field. Pretend adoptive/foster families are away in a foreign country if that helps you put it into perspective. Pray for the at-home missionaries just as fervently as you would those who are abroad!

Adoptive/foster parents, do you have any suggestions?

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.

Homeschooling Mom, Are You Stuck in the Comparison Trap?

A Bear Trap

 
Imagine a bear trap closing on a human leg, bone crunching, blood spurting, immeasurable pain.  Not to mention being stuck.  Stuck in pain.  Stuck in one place until someone comes and releases you from the trap.
 
What does a bear trap have to do with homeschooling?  What doesn’t work for me is the comparison trap.  It’s a lot like a bear trap.  It’s buried, you don’t see it, but once you get caught in it, you are stuck and in immeasurable pain.
 
Four of my children are adopted and had traumatic beginnings.  When they came home, their emotional ages and physical ages didn’t match up.  Their development was delayed and each of them had some learning challenges, all of that topped with learning a new language.  On a scholastic number line, they were in the negative.
 
Comparing a kid to a standard one size fits all is like walking around with a bear trap attached to your calf.  It drains the lifeblood right out of you.
 
#Comparisontrap
 

I Was a Late bloomer

One night at the dinner table, Rafal shared that a boy in his Royal Ranger troop isn’t athletic and the commander encourages him along.
 
“I wasn’t that athletic as a child,”  I replied.
 
“You weren’t?”  he asked incredulously.
 
He was surprised.  I roller blade, ice skate, swim, climb around on rocks with my kids. I’m still not coordinated, but don’t tell him.
 
I was a late bloomer.  While my sister was ready to train for the Olympics in gymnastics, I was doing what I did best at the time- stumbling and falling on my face a lot!
 
“What did you do back then?” he asked.
 
“Well, I was little and skinny.  So I RAN. AWAY, mostly from other kids.”  Laughter.

AGes and Stages

 
Kids are growing through ages and stages at different rates.  Who they are or what they are doing now does not determine who they will become unless we compare and verbally point out what we see as delays.  Get help for your special needs child if you need to. Talk to experienced moms, but don’t rehearse the delays in front of him.  I have taken classes, attended workshops on speech therapy and various seminars to help me teach my children.  I want my children to reach their potential.  I am saying CELEBRATE their victories.
 
  • If Susie next door wins the regional spelling bee and your child through equal time and effort can spell ten words, then don’t compare.  CELEBRATE!
  • If your child participates in the Social Studies Fair and speaks in front of the judges with tears streaming down her face because of social anxiety. She did it afraid.  CELEBRATE!
  • If all the high schoolers at Co-op are taking A.P. courses and your child took two years to complete Algebra I, but he conquered it. CELEBRATE!
 
Don’t get stuck in the comparison trap. It’s a painful place to be, instead enjoy each age and stage your children are in!
 
 

Idealism Versus Reality

Grab a cup of coffee, sit with me for a minute  Let’s talk. With some personal introspection, I realize that I am an idealistic Mom living in a realistic world. Are you? When I’m writing a blog post about nutrition and eating whole, God-made, natural foods, I forget the fresh fruit my child ate at lunchtime and beat myself up for not always eating healthy food like so-and-so. Huge idealistic mistake. The reality in this scenario is adding more whole food to our diet, not arriving at perfection in just one day (or week or month).

The Social Media Trap

Social media can paint a perfect picture of others’ lives. Guess what? Facebook lies. So does Twitter, Instagram, and other social media sites. Social Media only shows part of the picture. The viewer can walk away with a false sense of reality– an ideal, so to speak.  The lie is that everyone else has a perfect life. I listened to the results of a study on social media on a radio talk show. The study had found that people who frequently check Facebook (or other social sites) are more likely to be depressed. I think this is because they get a false sense of reality. They walk away believing the lie.

Blogs can have the same effect. I read blogs to get information and encouragement. That is great if  I take the advice with a dose of realism. The blogger who posts a great recipe with glorious photos still struggles with day-to-day living just as much as I do. Do you fall into the comparison trap?  Does everyone else’s life look better on media sites than yours?

Moms can be deceived into thinking that everyone is doing a better job than them. Todd Wilson, author of Lies That Homeschooling Moms Believe, asks:

Do you believe the lie that everyone’s…

  • Kids are smarter than your kids?
  • House is cleaner than your house?
  • Meals are better, healthier, and more organic than your meals?
  • Life is more disciplined and more spiritual than your life?
  • House is more peaceful than your house?
  • Marriage is better than your marriage?
  • Doing a better job than you are?

If you do, you are believing a lie. It’s a trap that can keep us stuck in depression and anxiety. Instead we must believe we are the best Moms for our kids. We are working toward ideals without getting stuck on perfection. Remember, we’re looking for progress! Not a comparison trap full of lies.

This list applies to all Moms

This list applies to all Moms, but there is especially pressure on stay-at-home moms. Moms who jump off the career path to stay home may believe that their home should be perfect. It should be organized and clean, meals should be organic and healthy, their spiritual life should be top-notch– just because a household administrator is their full-time job. But those ideas are ideals to strive for, not a measuring stick to JUDGE by.

Moms Raising Kids With Capital Letter Syndromes

For Moms raising children with any of the capital letter syndromes (FAS, ADD, ADHD, Asperger’s, RAD), the burden of daily parenting can be overwhelming. Exhaustion gives way to self-judgment. When Mom is too exhausted to clean the kitchen completely because she has been helping a child through a meltdown, she tends to think other moms have perfectly pristine kitchens. When a busy schedule results in a fast food dinner, Mom imagines every other mom is preparing organic food from her backyard garden. A busy few days resulting in no clean underwear for the kiddos can send Mom into a tailspin after watching a Tide commercial: surely, every other Mom has all the laundry clean, folded, and put away? Her own laundry hangs out on the family room couch. Add a layer of stress from what is going on in the world, and we can believe others are coping better than we are. While we take a nap every day or watch movies in the afternoon instead of clean, we are sure everyone else is out there solving all the world’s problems. Throw that sort of thinking off. Take it captive and replace it with “I’m doing exactly what God called me to do right now.” If you feel as if you need to do more, ask God to open a door and wait, not worry, compare, and carry the weight of the world on you. Jesus already did that.

Encourage One Another in Love

Sisters, we must all press on toward the goal (Philippians 4:14) and forget what lies behind. We should encourage one another in love, giving advice or suggestions, but not heaping condemnation on ourselves or others.  I share my experience and my failings.  In no way have I arrived.

 We confess our failings to Him, He will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (I John 1:9). And our failing here isn’t our inability to maintain a perfect house or parenting well– it’s diminishing ourselves needlessly in the midst of REALISTIC daily life. Let’s admit it, girls, we are the worst when it comes to slamming ourselves. We cannot be introduced to another lady without doing the self-judgment assessment- Look what she is wearing, I don’t own any trendy jeans like that. She is thinner than me!  Prettier!  I bet she makes homemade, organic bread.  She is so put together.  I bet she can do math in her head instead of on a napkin.

Leave Self-Judgment Behind

Let’s leave the pit of self-judgment behind, confess our sins when we need to, and move on. Don’t let your ideals guilt you to death. Plan out your priorities according to your day, and then use it or lose it. When you can’t use your schedule perfectly, use it imperfectly, and thank Jesus for His grace and progress.Let’s continue to encourage one another and press on to the ideal, but let’s live in reality!