In the end F.A.S.D. is a life sentence but is definitely not a death or awful life sentence. It is instead what you choose it to be. Some of us have more ability to choose than others based on our intellectual capacity but we can still choose. Once we choose, the follow through is the most difficult but do-able. If you remember nothing else from this, please remember it’s the little things that need to be recognized and celebrated. It’s the positive reinforcement that F.A.S.D. individuals miss out on most. Above all else, this is a brain and body injury. It cannot be cured but it can be managed as long as you remember it’s about broken switches and finding other connections. Amongst all the struggles and battles that accompany this diagnosis there are a lot of diamonds in the rough if you look for them. Find them, polish them and display them with as much pride as you can muster and yes your child will sparkle with pride and shine with success.
For all the parents who have adopted F.A.S.D. children, thank you. Thank you for choosing one of the most difficult roads, by helping one or more of my ‘FASDlings’ understand that they have potential, can know love, support and acceptance. We are all related under this terrible, preventable diagnosis and therefore unfortunately or fortunately, our family is enormous. You are not alone in this and there is help when you become overwhelmed. Do not try to ‘keep it in the family’ but seek out the assistance that is there. Accepting help is not failure; it really does take a community to raise a child with F.A.S.D.. It cannot nor must not be societies dirty little secret that no one talks about. Most of all when all this sounds like bullshit just remember: you are all that is standing behind this child who has brain damage and one day they will turn around and mean it when they say…
Thanks Mom and Dad, I love you too.
I have learned to love and be loved, I understand that I no longer need to manipulate to survive. I know I am intelligent; I just need a few reminders now and then. I still am the world’s worst housekeeper and have no real plans to try to improve that quality; I just hired a housekeeper instead. I also have terrible organizational skills and when I find my list, I will get right on that. I am the best mother I can possibly be and am extremely proud of my children, both biological and children I work with. They are all healthy, respectful people and they all have good lives ahead of them. So what have I truly lost in the grand scheme of life. Perhaps a few years due to ill health and stress, but I have gained so much more. People are capable and willing to love me, which I once believed impossible. But more than anything else, I like who I have become even though the journey here was appalling at times. I have had many great moments in my life and to dwell on the negative will only contribute to an early grave. What really matters now is that I can love, I can laugh and I can see the beauty in this world. I enjoy it every day as I finally find I am mostly comfortable with myself and I like me. Do I forgive and forget? Had my maternal donor accepted responsibility or just had a few drinks while unaware of pregnancy, then absolutely I could forgive. For me this is not the case and therefore I admit I am unforgiving and will remain so, unapologetically.
If anyone understands what it is like to grow up with a debilitating diagnosis, it’s Elizabeth Baker. Against all the odds Elizabeth has built the life she wanted despite being diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Elizabeth is an engaging, entertaining, and powerful speaker whose message about ‘Focusing on the Positive’ is clear, insightful and most of all, important for anyone diagnosed or living with a child with F.A.S.D. She clearly understands the desperation faced by many individuals with F.A.S.D. and addresses the nuances of behaviors associated with the diagnosis. Elizabeth is able to offer hope and clarity to those navigating the precarious life of a F.A.S.D. individual with compassion and humour.