My son looks like most every other child his age. He is growing some adult teeth, has some bumps and bruises and a lot of energy. Sometimes he is shy and sometimes he is full of questions when meeting a new person. Most people notice that he is very handsome, has amazing eyes and a lovely smile.
What they don’t notice are his smooth philtrum, thin upper lip, flat nasal bridge and Short Palpebral Fissure Lengths. They may think that his poor coordination is just because he is a 6 year old. More than likely people don’t notice that his ears have a “railroad track” appearance or that he has an unusual palmar crease.
What most people don’t see is that he has Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. His birth mother consumed alcohol during her pregnancy and damaged him for life. How much alcohol is too much? I don’t know. You don’t know. There has been research that suggests an occasional drink doesn’t harm a child in utero and research that has determined any alcohol during pregnancy is harmful to the fetus.
What do I know for sure? My son has been damaged forever. He is handsome and sweet and curious. He has poor short term memory, thinks everyone is his friend (even the kid who beat him up in kindergarten), and has a hard time understanding social cues. He has poor reasoning and bad judgment skills. He has a hard time expressing and regulating his emotions, especially when he is tired. He is just as content to get negative attention as he is to get positive attention.
Right now he is doing okay academically in school. He can’t always sit still. He is distracted easily. Takes frequent trips to the water fountain. But he does okay academically, so far.
Socially, we are struggling. This frightens me. Will he be bullied because he is different? He seems already to be attracted to kids who can lead him down the wrong path. I think we will spend a lot of time nudging him back.
I see people looking at him when he loses control of his emotions and behaviors in public. Judging him. Judging me. My husband. Our Parenting. Judge not. You are only seeing a small piece of a puzzle.
FASD is a tough diagnosis to swallow. It’s not something we expected to hear. It is going to be a hard road for our son but it is a road that we will walk with him.