Wednesday, August 31, 2011

FASD and Learning

Yesterday, as my 8th grade daughter was doing her vocabulary homework, I was hit again by the realization that FASD affects the brain.  Sometimes I forget, because she seems so normal. And then WHAM! I realize why I pulled her out of school and started homeschooling both kids.  All she had to do yesterday, was to pick out the opposite of each vocabulary word.  The opposite of rigid is...floppy.  The opposite of nonchalantly is...carefully.  Now this exercise wouldn't have been difficult for her on many days.  Yes, she might get caught up on what the vocabulary word was, but she could go back to a previous page and look it up.  But yesterday was different.  She got caught up in the directions part because she forgot what OPPOSITE was.  An 8th grader! Not antonym...Opposite!  I know she was taught opposites, both at home and when she attended school until the 5th grade.  It's not me as a homeschool mom who dropped the ball and forgot to teach my kid something so basic.

No, the problem is that alcohol bathed her brain before she was born and things aren't all as they should be.  And unless God heals her, she has and will struggle with memory, balance, decision making, emotions, self control, etc.  One day she remembers something, the next day she learns it new.  I've noticed that things get worse under stress.  When she was in 4th grade at school, she had to do a book report and couldn't even copy the title of the book because of the stress of a deadline.  And stresses can come in the form of having a cold, time of the month, something happening with a friend, birth family trouble (which I think was yesterday's stress), noise, change in routine, etc. One day she would know something, the next not, only to know it the day after. This makes homeschooling her a little embarrassing and challenging for me sometimes.  But at least at home she can learn the material again and again, putting it in another part of the brain, so that it increases the chance of connections being made when she needs to recall it in the future.  And as long as her little brother doesn't tease her for not remembering, we'll be good.

The other day while we were walking with her friend, my daughter asked me why her pinky finger was so small.  Because her friend was with her, I didn't tell her that it was because of the alcohol her mom drank before she was born.  I didn't tell her that her upper lip would have been a little fuller, her face and  her ears changed a bit, her eyes would have been a little larger and would be shaped a little different also.  She is beautiful now, but she would be beautiful in a little different way had things been the way they should.

Sometimes I wish I didn't know so much about fetal alcohol.  I love to learn about things.  But because I love my kids and know how things are stacked against them, I wish it had never happened.  I wish I never had to know, firsthand, what fetal alcohol is. I used to get angry at their birth mom for damaging the kids before they had a chance, but after a while I could see that she was probably affected by FASD herself. The whole family is really messed up, some of whom show the physical signs of prenatal exposure, others just the mental and social signs.  I hope and pray that the cycle will stop with my kids.

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