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One of the top questions I get from people considering adoption or foster care, is whether or not they think they can manage a child with FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder).
The sad reality is that there are multiple myths and misconceptions out there on what children with FASD are really like. Now hold on, you may already be parenting a child and are thinking I am about to sugar coat it. That, I will not do. Instead, this post will hopefully give a glimpse into the true life of parenting children with FASD; the good, the bad and the ugly, and provide better insight into whether or not it is right for your family. I don’t like to tell only the challenging parts, because that is leaving out who these children really are; precious gifts from God. I also don’t like telling people only the happy pieces, because then someone might take on something they are not prepared for, which ultimately can lead to an adoption breakdown. So I will give you both but focus on the FASD related aspects. Please keep in mind, however, that FASD is a spectrum disorder, so no two children are alike.
A Day In The Life
We start off our day very early, usually 5:30-6:00am. Two of my kids require medication before they can interact with any other human beings. I discuss meds for kids with FASD/ADHD in another post, but let me just say, we waited years to do it out of fear, and when we finally started, it was a GAME CHANGER. I actually don’t know how we parented beforehand. The meds take about half an hour to start working, so in that half an hour, anything goes. One of the kids doesn’t like anyone being near him. Not in the same room, not on the same level. So we send one into my bedroom, and the other into the living room. The one who doesn’t like anyone near him is bound to spout off swear words over someone breathing wrong or a because a pillow is out of place. We don’t swear in our house, but they still pick these things up. The other one who comes upstairs acts similar to a child who just ingested 5 cans of cocoa cola.
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Once the 30 minutes are up and the meds have done their dutiful job, life returns a bit more to normal. My third child wakes up and takes her meds calmly, and the cocoa cola one is now as calm as a cucumber. In fact, her sweetness has come out and she is my main helper in the morning. She loves it when I give her tasks to do. She eagerly gets herself ready for school all on her own then does tasks like fetching items, getting breakfast for a little one, or packing the lunches. She beams with pride as she is given these important jobs.
The one who couldn’t handle anyone near him has now calmed down and quietly gets himself ready for school. I recall before meds that I had to have Daniel stay home from work just to have someone who could get him dressed. Those days are now long gone and he does everything from brushing his teeth to getting his back pack ready, all on his own with simple reminders. You still have to be careful not to upset him or he might have an outburst, but for the most part there are no more issues during the morning routine.
My third child, the one who woke up last, is now attempting to get dressed for the day. By attempting, I mean sitting on the floor and crying. She gets easily emotional over anything and is likely upset I am not letting her wear a sports bra on it’s own to school or some other silly item not appropriate for the school day. She usually takes half an hour before I have to go in the room and physically dress her myself. If we remember, and choose the outfit the day before, this is all avoided. It seems simple, get the outfit ready the night before and have a smooth morning. Yes…in theory. Until you see the night routine mixed with the memory of a parent with 8 children.
The kids then all pile downstairs for breakfast and into the car. There are a few act of war attempts regarding who gets the front seat, but other than that they all work together helping me load the babies and take out any bags of garbage. They are great helpers.
The ride to school is…well…I don’t want to scare anyone off of parenting but driving is one of THE MOST challenging aspects of the day. They are 8 kids, most with special needs, all in WAY too close proximity with each other. The drive usually involves hitting, screaming, tattling, unbuckling, pulling over, and a general sense that the world must be ending for each and every one of them. I could never do a reality television show just because of our driving life.
Once we get to school they do quite well during the school hours. The three who have diagnoses require an aid, but for different reasons. The one who can’t have anyone near him, requires an aid for academic support. He is in a regular classroom with his peers and gets along great, without any behavioral challenges. Most people at school have no idea of his behavioral challenges at home. His psychologist once said that he is able to hold it in at school, but once he feels safe at home he lets it all out, thus resulting in a challenging evening. My cocoa cola daughter needs her aid for behavioral support, but academically is doing great and can likely attend university. She has ups and down at school and has required a few different techniques to make sure she thrives socially, but is doing well. My last daughter requires academic support and a bit of extra encouragement in class, but otherwise does well too.
During the day I have the 4 babies. None of them are diagnosed with FASD yet, but we have our suspicions. The goal of the day is to keep them all alive, and each day I succeed. That is all I have to say about that. (I’m joking, but I will focus on the ones currently diagnosed)
After school I pick the kids up from school to find them all in different states. My son is exhausted and easily triggered. My cocoa cola daughter’s meds have begun to wear out and she is once again acting like she has just had the sugary caffeinated drink, maybe only 2 this time. My third daughter is pretty casual at this point but talks about a million miles a second (which is actually quite endearing). We now spend the afternoon driving the kids to their various activities. If there is one thing I have learned, it is that keeping them physically active results in better behavior. The more occupied they are the better. The girls do cheer and dance, and my son does basketball or parkour. They do great at these activities and are able to participate just as well as their peers with a bit of extra support from their coaches (minus the odd incident). By the time we get home it is dinner time and what we affectionately call crazy hour.
Dinner time is crazy time. There is no better way to explain it. Food is usually flying (mostly from toddlers), everyone is refusing to eat some portion of their meal, and nobody is talking quietly. Some days it is calmer and we all chat about our day and smile and drink our waters, but some days we take turns negotiating with the children to somehow finish most of their dinner. We find ourselves saying “Put the cat down,” “Don’t put your food in your milk,” “Keep your clothes on,” “No standing on the counter,” and “you don’t need you pet rock right now” throughout the meal (again, most of those are toddler related lol).
After dinner is my favorite time. It is snuggle time. Each of the kids are extra snugly and all love their snuggle time with mom, dad, or their brothers and sisters. You can find them reading to each other, playing a game, or watching a show. They also each do a 10-minute tidy and help mom and dad get the main floor rooms to a reasonably tidy place. Babies go to bed quite well, and we start the gradual bedtime routine for each kid. My two oldest boys share and my oldest girls share, but putting them to bed at the same time results in the same outcome as placing two fighting fish together in a bowl, so each child goes to bed in order of age. As long as this is done, it goes relatively smoothly. If ONE child is not asleep before another is sent to bed, it all falls apart. The problem is knowing if they are actually asleep or just closing their eyes. We have yet to master this art and have great nights and terrible nights of getting all the kids to bed. Sometimes the girls are asleep by 7:30pm, sometimes by 10:00pm. It is hard to know what kind of night it will be. Once asleep, however, all our munchkins stay asleep. By 10:00pm we have adult time and I take a couple of hours to do something with Daniel or by myself to wind down from the day. This usually involves a show, blogging, working from home (I run an adoption charity), or organizing something.
There you have it! A day in the life! There are definitely challenges, but also a lot of things going really, really well. And keep in mind, I have A LOT of kids with FASD. If you are considering adopting only ONE child with FASD, you might only be facing a couple of these challenges, as opposed to all of them. My husband and I may not have realized what we were getting into all those years ago, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. Our kids are each sweet, caring, affectionate, funny, loving children and we love them to bits! On top of everything else, it is easy to spend countless hours laughing with our kids and having fun.I encourage you to research and get to know children with FASD and consider having one join your family.
If you would also like to find out how cats helped our kids with FASD, click here!
Or find out my Top 10 Sensory Toys for ADHD and FASD.
Finally, be sure to find out Why You Should Reward Your Child for Bad Behavior!
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