By Ann Kagarise
There are experts and there are experts. I don’t have a degree in genetics. I don’t have a PhD in anything. In fact, I don’t understand a lot of what goes on around me without an interpreter. What makes me an expert? My mom drank when she was pregnant with me. I might not understand the brain, but I am still an expert. I have lived with this FASD brain for over 40 years.
I look like the average adult. I have blonde hair and blue eyes. No one would notice anything different about me just by looking at me. Most of what is wrong with me, people can’t see. Unseen things are hard to understand. I know that one first hand.
When I was first adopted as a baby, I was diagnosed as failure to thrive. My toddler years were spent in constant struggle and by the time I hit kindergarten, there was something noticeably wrong. My teacher contacted my adoptive parents and told them I needed testing. FASD was not a diagnosis back then, but the neurologist had bad news. He informed them I had significant brain damage and I would not even graduate high school.
Struggling was all I knew. If I was going to do what the other kids were doing, I simply had to find a creative way to make it happen. Struggling was more than everyday life. It was every moment life. I couldn’t see words like other kids. My eyes did not converge and I had no depth perception. So, I saw two of everything and the world was flat. Yes, Christopher Columbus, the world is flat…to some.
I couldn’t cut like other kids. Scissors and buttons have never been my friends. I knew if I was going to make it in this world two things had to happen.
Number one – I became the most determined kid in the school. I might have gotten C’s, but they were C’s I earned. I learned how to learn. I adjusted. My life has been a continuous Thomas Edison quote. When he was inventing the lightbulb, he said, “I have not failed. I have found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Well, we all know what lights the room at night.
I know what it feels like when everyone in the room knows you are struggling. They told me I would not graduate high school. I got a master’s degree. They told me I would never hit a ball. I practiced hours until I was hitting home runs.
I know there is a lot I am not able to do. Sometimes, that’s hard for me to accept. Sometimes, I blow up in frustration, but I blow up because I care. I blow up because I want to do things on my own as much as my loved ones want me to. I want to understand the world around me as much as everyone else does. I really don’t want to have to look to others to interpret. I want so badly to understand what everybody else understands, BUT, I have to accept that I have to incorporate help in order for me to be my best.
The second thing – I CAN LIVE with FASD. I might not be able to ever figure out my bank account, but I have an external brain that knows how. I might not be able to hear everything that is said, but if one of my interpreters is not there, I can always turn on my tape recorder and play it back later to get all that was said. I might have to rewind a few times to catch all the words because of auditory processing disorder, but I learned a way to beat my own brain.
I found my passions. Sure, there are so many things that people with FASD cannot do, but there is plenty they CAN do. I found I am not the best verbal communicator, but I can write. I love photography. I became a professional writer and photographer. I was a journalist/columnist for almost a decade, wrote a nonfiction book, just finished my first novel and have online photo galleries.
Hopes and dreams don’t have to be gone when a person is diagnosed with FASD, they just have to be different.
Call To Action: What are some strengths your loved ones living with Fetal Alcohol have?
What CAN your guys do? Leave a comment below.
Want More Information Like This? All you need to do is sign up for my free Newsletter.