This post was written by Mike, an adoptive dad who is familiar with the ins and outs of special needs parenting, to encourage caregivers to support our children well.
From frustrating IEP meetings, to disagreeable doctors, inappropriate church goers, and nosey neighbors. The world is full of people who think we’re making our child’s disorder up, or just misunderstand our reality altogether. The question is, will they ever understand?
No. They won’t. Actually, let me change that…probably…most likely not. This can be a bitter pill to swallow, I know. It is good to begin with an attitude of hopefulness but at the end of the day, many people will not understand your child’s struggles. Disorders like FASDs (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders) oppositional defiance disorder, attachment disorder, or separation anxieties (to name a few) are misunderstood, if not ignored completely.
We are immersed in the day in and day out task of parenting our children. Often this leaves us emotionally spent. It’s easy to let our emotions fly out of control when our children are dis-regulated. But is this causing more damage than we realize?
My son spent the entire car ride antagonizing his younger brothers and asking me the same questions over and over. Three long hours on the way to grandma and grandpa’s house for Thanksgiving. Three hours of giving the same answers to the same questions I’d given countless times before. Three hours of listening to obsessive talk over and over. Three hours of wishing he’d just go to sleep. Three…long…hours.
It’s really, really hard to not take your child’s behavior personally. In fact, it’s downright impossible at times. But I promise…it’s not your fault. Here’s why:
I confess. I used to be really, really mad at my kid. Scratch that: enraged. I was enraged. Every time he acted out, destroyed something in my home, terrorized one of my other kids, hurt my wife, wound up in the principal’s office, did something to the neighbor kid, I saw red. My blood boiled. I would react to him out of anger. I said so many things I regret. I did things I wish I could go back in time and undo.
If we had a dollar for every time someone said, “Well, he doesn’t look like he has Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder,” we’d be millionaires. The truth is, our child’s disorder makes it hard to see the forest for the trees.
I remember the first time my son stepped up to the plate the first year he played baseball. He held his bat like a pro. He not only looked like a miniature major league player, he acted and performed like one. With one swing, he sent a fastball up the middle of the diamond, straight into center field. When the center fielder bobbled the ball, my son had the wits about him to chug ahead, safely into second base. The crowd of parents, including us, went wild. One father turned to me and said, “You got yourself one heck of a ball player there!”
Last month we hosted an online Q&A on FASD with Dr. Ira Chasnoff and Gabe Chasnoff from NTI Upstream and the results were amazing. Two hundred people showed up for the event. We’ve had so many requests for the replay that we’re sharing the audio on today’s podcast.
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum disorder affects an estimated 40,000 newborn infants every year. While those statistics are staggering and shocking, FASD as a whole, is often overlooked, downplayed and even judged in today’s society. Our goal at Confessions Of An Adoptive Parent, as well as NTI Upstream, is to give this disorder a voice and share the truth behind FASDs.
It’s not easy to parent a child with FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder). Ask any one of us who are in this trench…keeping our cool when we’re pushed to the edge daily, is an uphill climb. How can we successfully parent our children when every day is a fierce battle?
The power of calm:
I’m standing at the kitchen sink scrubbing potatoes and enjoying the happy sounds of my sons’ giggles drifting through the open window. That’s when I hear the low growl of unhappiness. Undetectable to most, it is my first warning sign that something is wrong. I turn to see our 7-year-old standing on the driveway, just beneath the window. His arms and legs are ridged at his sides. His fists are clenched tight and his gaze is sternly fixed on something non-existent. I can almost reach his soft blonde hair from my perch but I know I must not reach out yet. I grab a dishtowel as I exit the backdoor.