Archive for the ‘2015’ Category


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This topic is for encouraging parents that are in the thick of it.
Today I want to discuss “Tools for survival”

Some parents raising teens with FASD feel like they are going to com bust from the stress.
I was once that parent. I use to wonder if my body parts might land on the wall one day.
I told God numerous times that He picked the wrong girl for this job.
And yet now that we made it through that tough time, I am so glad they are my kids. I have gotten to see the beauty from the ashes.

My tools were these:
I had to talk to someone. I had to vent. But once I vented, I didn’t hang onto the negative. I moved forward to something that I enjoyed and tried to relax. I had hobbies that I kept going all the time. I kept my mind on what I would be doing for fun.
I didn’t dwell on how bad it was. I couldn’t. I would have collapsed. I took it one minute at a time, sometimes. I knew if I made it through this minute that I could live.

I prayed alot. I learned not to complain. Honestly complaining too much brought me down. I kept alot to myself because others would not understand. I didn’t need their negative understanding on me.

I learned to fight. To advocate for my kids. I became their best advocate and I faced the goliath of teachers and principals but with SMART HONEY. What that means is I came in prepared with my stuff and knowledge but I fed it to them in a kind manner. I learned not to be the mother bear who was ready to attack. I learned to be the loving, caring parent who knew absolutely what she was talking about and stood my ground in as kind a manner as possible.
This took years for me to learn. I faced many heart aches and set backs from teachers, for years, before I figured out that they listen better if you treat them with kindness. but run them over with knowledge and confidence.
With my kids I learned not to engage. I learned to protect myself and get away. I honestly learned not to yell back at them and that took a long time too. But it only stressed me out more if I did and I never won with them. I only incited them to react more. I have to state that I am still working on this. 🙂
I learned to state the rules and stand by them. I used to be a wimpy mom who would say something and not follow through. I got tough and when I did, they pushed me less. I followed through. I learned not to open my mouth unless I meant what I said.
THis gave me a sense of management and accomplishment because I didn’t feel so defeated by my kids. It takes strength to do this with kids that have FASD. But I learned with these kids that if you give them an inch, they take a mile. They are so manipulative in many ways.

You don’t have to be a mean mom to be a firm mom. I believed in consequences and I used them. But they were not abuse. They were teaching lessons. I never used consequences when my kid was angry or raging. It was after the storm was over. I should not say never. But I learned that if I did, it only escalated the situation.

These were my tools for survival as a mom of children with FASD.

I could never allow myself to just cry over it daily. It would have buried me. I learned positive ways to fight and stay alive.
Sometimes I have no support at all but God. I even had some very serious health problems in the middle of it all, but I still fought to stay upright.

I want to help others stay afloat.  We can’t give up. We do need to support each other, but we can’t just continue to be falling apart. We have to grab some tools and find what works for each of us and how to stay in the ship.

I have made it through so much. I raised my nine, lost one son to death, had serious health problems, almost died myself many times, have had depression, anxiety, and I had migraines for years that were daily, financial hits that were serious and more. I have learned that I can still be an over comer in all things.
I try to keep the fun in life even in the midst of the pain.

Thank you Lord for keeping me. Today my kids are 20 and 22 and the hard stuff has lessened alot, but they still need my guidance and external brain support.  There are still some outbursts. I am still working with all the same tools.

it isn’t easy still, but God has sustained me and I expect Him to continue.

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Parents are wondering why their kids steal and Desi and I had a nice long conversation today about this. I thought it was very insightful. So I am sharing her words to help you.

This is a message from my daughter Desi. I am going to type out her own words entirely. I will prompt her some with questions.

Mom: Did you think stealing was wrong even when you young?

Desi: Absolutely. You guys taught us from a very young age the basics that taking things from others was wrong, so I knew it was wrong.
But I was always thinking solely about what I wanted and didn’t think of others feelings. Just like normal people, I always knew it was wrong, but I saw something and just took it and then the guilt and the anxiety would set in about getting caught and what I did.

Mom: so you feel this was more of an impulsive act that you did without thinking of the consequences first or before you did it.

Desi: absolutely.

Mom: You didn’t take things outside the home because you feared the law.

Desi: Yes I didn’t look at it as serious, taking from the family. Either way I knew it was wrong, but I didn’t think before I did it. If i did think about anything, it was about simply what I wanted and I didn’t dare ask you for it, as I feared I would be told no. It is tied into the fear of rejection and I would feel ashamed, get embarrassed and angry when I was rejected.

Mom: Do you think getting consequences harmed you?

Desi: Maybe at the time, but looking back as an adult now when your parents instill the fear of God in you it definitely puts perspective on it. It eventually sticks. I don’t look at it as punishment.
When you are punishing someone, I feel it is negative.
When it comes to people with FASD, if told you are going to punish them, that is a negative word. You have to put it into a perspective that is not negative. Put it into a lesson that is called consequences, but not punishment. It needs to be more of a lesson that teaches, but the consequence has to hurt a bit to teach. It will stick eventually. It did with me as I matured.
Consistency is something that I feel people with FASD need. It will stick. It did with me.

Mom: How do you handle the impulse control today.

Desi: Honestly I kind of grew out of it. I now understand what others feel when their things are taken as if my stuff was taken, I would be furious.

When I worked at the thrift store there was a man who was a pathological liar. He stole money out of my purse and I knew it.
I was livid and wanted to punch in his throat. I was so mad.
Being the one that always took from people, very rarely did anyone ever take from me.
That is sad. I was over here taking things from other people, but they were not being taken from me.

Mom: so the thrift store lesson taught you something?

Desi, no I stopped long before that, but personally feeling that, I know now it is terrible.

Mom: So why do you think you took things?

Desi: because I was too scared to ask for it and that huge fear of being told no and that fear of rejection, and also because I wanted something.


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Reasons why young adults with FASD struggle to hold onto a job:

  • Processing:  Most bosses expect our kids to “hear” at the rate that they themselves are able to hear. Often that is not the case. You cannot tell my daughter three things in a row and expect her to remember them all. or hear all that was told to her.

The brain of a child exposed to alcohol in the womb has blockades in it. Random cells have been killed while alcohol bathed the poor baby’s brain far longer than the mom who drank it. due to immature kidneys that cannot process it out. Alcohol kills cells.

Pour alcohol on an ant and you will kill it Imagine what it is doing in that baby’s brain that is supposed to be developing?  Soon you have dead areas all over that are like holes. They call it “Swiss Cheese Brain”. Then it collapse on itself and is smaller. Children with FAS often have smaller heads due to smaller brains.

The synapse that is naturally set to go from A to Z in the brain has to make new roads to make it. So when this child processes, it goes from A through b, c, d and E, before it can reach Z.

You have told her a group of things to do for the day and she heard the first one and is processing it when you stopped at the third. That third one hasn’t hit Z and you have walked away assuming your employee knows the plan and when she doesn’t do all that is asked, you think she doesn’t do a job well. That is not the case. She didn’t process. or remember all that you told her to do. These kids often need prompts and prompts to do the prompts. all day from an external brain. Most employers are not there to hold the hand of their employees.

Feeling overwhelmed trying to remember and process creates Anxiety. The more you pile on them, the more the anxiety mounts and the more the meltdown risks ensue. This also affects processing and memory further. Can you think straight when you are anxious?

Pace. They may keep up for a while but it stresses their brain to keep up a pace and soon they are in a melt down and one wonders why.

  • Memory. Again, even if you write it down, she will forget the list. The cortex section of the brain houses memory. It is frequently injured in the brain, through alcohol exposure. Often these young people are like old people with Alzheimer’s. It is sad but their working memory is hit hard sometimes.  You have to tell and retell or they often forget. Imagine an employer being patient enough to do that with their employee?

Forgetting medications or inconsistency with taking meds. This leads to mood swings and break downs on days when little things will get to them because their bodies are often in withdrawal. I found pills in kid’s rooms frequently. They were tossed in drawers instead of down their throat. At almost 21, I have to give my daughter a text reminder to take her meds and sometimes still a repeat one to see if she did it when reminded. This can wreak havoc with a day at work if they are emotionally off kilter due to not taking their meds because they forgot.

  • Motivation. There is actually a center in the brain of the frontal lobe that is called the motivation segment of the brain. Our kids are often considered lazy, but it has to be damage in that part of the brain. Too many of them have this in common. They are the ones who simply cannot occupy themselves. They often don’t know where to start on things so they just don’t.
  • Thinking: Concrete, inability to think abstract, or solve problems, often very bad at math. My daughter cannot add two simple numbers in her head or subtract. Yes there are calculators but it is proof of her concrete thinking and inability to solve a problem.
    This causes them to freeze. They see a problem and can’t see their way around it. Their brains cannot sort out, solve OR sequence which is another one.

Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?  They don’t know where to start often. Sequencing requires abstract thinking. You start somewhere and you plan in your mind how you are going to get to the finish. These young adults can’t think that through. It requires too much processing and they get stuck. So they don’t start a project. Often things have to be prompted a step at a time for them to clearly reach the end.

  • Time: Inability to manage time well. Always late. Don’t realize how fast a clock runs. Can’t manage how much time it takes to get ready for work. My son would get out of bed 15 minutes before he was due at work and then couldn’t find anything he needed for work. He could not foresee the issues that it would take for him to get ready and he had no clue how long it took for him to drive to work. Constant lateness gets people fired.

Living in the moment. Inability to see the future. They don’t remember the past often either. Every day is ground hogs day. Brain trauma causes this through memory, processing and inability to plan. .
This causes them to lose their train of thought about where they are supposed to be, talk too much with someone on the job. They often lose track of TIME. How fast does a clock go? Can you and I sometimes figure out if we have only a minute to spare?  They cannot. They are in that minute and they stay in that minute.

I am an artist. I can sit down and work on a project and hours can go by and it will seem like minutes. That is how their whole day can be. They are not tracking time. They are just here now and doing what has to be done here and now and not thinking ahead or keeping time on the clock.  This is in the frontal lobe where planning is supposed to take place. But they have road blocks in the planning section. So their plans are scattered and not organized.  They are here and now and that is about all they know often.

An employer might find his employee with FASD chatting with another employee and forgetting that they are supposed to be working. Or there is a certain amount of work that needs to be done in a day and that employee just can’t get it done. He or she can’t plan how to get it done. They may need prompts on the steps to the end and/or they may forget all the jobs handed to them that day, so they start on one job and take their time and oops, where did the time go? Time?  It takes planning to manage time and planning has been injured.

  • Organization: Losing things. Yes. All the time. They can’t find their name pin, their hat, their shirt, their shoe, all required for work. Again due to lack of organization. This creates chaos in their rooms, apartments etc. They often look like the hoarders that we wonder how they can live in all that trash. They don’t know how to clean out the trash as that takes planning, processing, sequencing and memory.
  • Hygiene: This has improved with my kids, however it is often common with kids in their teens and lower functioning children. Not brushing their teeth enough, showers or hair care. Hygiene also takes planning, motivation, memory and processing. They forget.
  • Lack of impulse control:. Easy peasy. They do things without thinking it through because they don’t process well. They don’t remember. They don’t plan.
  • Complete self-centeredness, they are often unable to see others have problems too therefore they don’t show compassion on their coworkers or their attitude may make others upset easily.

Sometimes they don’t get along well with others.  Many have attachment issues and PTSD and all sorts of mental diagnoses like Bipolar, depression and anxiety.

They are sensitive often about everything people say. Again this is concrete thinking, not able to process where others are really coming from and no impulse control and they jump to conclusions and once they have their mind made up that things are a certain way, it is hard to help them change it because anger takes out all processing. Then they can lose focus on work and start fights/arguments or possibly tell lies about someone to get them in trouble, as to get even. They cause triangulation on purpose due to their emotional instability.
They are often Insecure about themselves and a desire to make themselves look better than their coworkers and have jealousy etc. Emotions are often right on the surface of a person with a traumatic brain injury which is what FASD is.

  • Lying:  Not admitting to making a mistake on the job, when probably the boss can see who is at fault. But our young adults lie for many reasons. Impulse control, protection, not processing through to the truth, etc.
  • Stealing: OOPS, taking things from their place of business that don’t belong to them. Often this is rooted in the center of the brain that doesn’t recognize sense of ownership. Also they see it, want it, and take it. No impulse control. Not processing through to the why they are doing what they are doing.
    It can give them a high to get something new. A drug so to speak. AWE see it, want it, Oh that feels good, but not processing through that there is a consequence for doing it.

Not always learning from consequences. Yes they can learn but their brains take much longer than a normal brain does to “Get” things and for them to stick in their memory banks. Some kids are worse at this than others.

Inability to realize that they will have consequences  for their actions therefore losing jobs and not meaning to lose the job, just living in the moment, not remembering the danger of their crime, lying about having done it etc.

  • Sensory issues. Last but not least I want to touch on the fact that many of our kids have sensory overload every day. Light and sound is louder and brighter to them and this overshadows their ability to function well, think clearly, stay focused and often triggers meltdowns.

Recap:  A traumatic brain injury is scattered and unpredictable where it lands. Often much is in the Frontal lobe.  It causes our young adults with FASD to struggle in many areas and some days can be worse than others.  Some days it seems that the brain is clicking along and others they are not remembering, processing, sequencing, planning, controlling impulses, and they are on over load from too much sensory and people.

It is a far more complex life for them and it takes most of their energy just to keep up with their brain. So adding in a job with lots of parts and pieces and expectations can be hard for some of them. Not impossible. My son is working part time as a cook and he has kept his job for two years.  I think there has to be a few pieces in place that can help. Doing the same things daily is a big one. Working with people who treat you with kindness and understand you and what you are dealing with helps.

An employer who doesn’t mind repeating himself throughout the day in a patient fashion.

An employer who “gets” being an external brain to the young adult with FASD will go a long ways toward success of that young adult’s ability to hold onto their job and become successful in life.