Raising a Child with FASD

adoptive parents preparing for the adoption home studyWhat is it Really Like to Raise a Child with FASD?

When a woman drinks alcohol during pregnancy, even during the first few weeks or months when she may not even know she’s pregnant, this can lead to many complications, including stillbirth, miscarriage, birth defects, or one of many developmental conditions known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, or FASDs.

Many children with one of these disorders are eventually placed for adoption. If you are thinking of adopting a child who may have an FASD, it’s important to do your research beforehand to make sure this is this right decision for you and your family. This article will go over some of the realities of raising a child with an FASD, give tips on how to parent these children, and offer advice on what to do to find out more about FASDs.

Symptoms of FASDs

FASD is a blanket term for a group of several different conditions related to prenatal exposure to alcohol, including fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder (ARND), alcohol-related birth defects (ARBD), and neurobehavioral disorder associated with prenatal alcohol exposure (ND-PAE). No two children with an FASD will behave the same way, but there are many common signs that may indicate a child has an FASD. These include:

  • Unusual facial features such as a smooth ridge between the nose and upper lip
  • Small head size
  • Shorter than average height
  • Lower than average weight
  • Birth defects such as problems with the heart, bones, or kidneys
  • Poor memory
  • Hyperactivity
  • Learning disabilities
  • Problems with speech or language
  • Difficulty in school
  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Low IQ
  • Difficulty making friends or relating to others

How to Parent a Child with an FASD

One of the most important things to remember when considering adopting a child with an FASD is that the condition is permanent, incurable, and that a child with an FASD will often need continued support well into adulthood. Parenting a child with this disorder is a long-term commitment that will require you to rethink what it means to be a parent. It may also be very expensive, as these children will typically need special educational and developmental services.

Children with FASDs are often incapable of connecting consequences to their actions or learning from mistakes, so correcting bad behavior is often ineffective. Instead, focus on praising good behaviors.
Another tip for parenting children with FASDs is to have clearly defined rules and set routines and to remind the child of them frequently. Because FASDs cause attention issues and memory problems, routines help children manage these setbacks. Additionally, it’s best to give only one instruction at a time, and to be willing to help a child with a specific task or do it for them when they are struggling.

Continue Your Research

This article gave you a basic overview of what to expect from an adoptee with an FASD. However, your research should not stop here. Go out and talk to adoptive parents of kids with FASDs, or read articles and books on the subject. Caring for these children is a huge responsibility, and it’s important to be certain this is the right choice for you and your family.

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