I remember when I was just a young boy being told that someday I would go out on my own. I would have to take care of myself and eventually I would have my own family. This is a regular dialogue that most youth will hear from their parents or caregivers, but what does the future hold for our kids with FASD? I hear a lot of talk about independence when we are planning the futures for those with FASD. But, I rarely hear the question being asked, “can they even live independently?” The truth is some folks will never be able to live completely without support. So, instead of stressing about what we can’t do – let’s worry about what we can and will do. So, what do we do about it?
When we push independence on people with FASD they develop the belief that they don’t need anyone’s help with anything. WRONG! When we as caregivers give these folks this type of responsibility and expectations, it only slows us down in the future when we try to set them up with long term support and build up their necessary circle of care. Now, I am not saying that they are incapable of living on there own at all, in fact many do with the right supports, but we MUST change the focus from INdependence to INTERdependence.
Let’s look at it this way – as we get older we too become more dependant on people. We learn to become dependant on our spouses, friends, family and various services to help us with our difficulties or any area’s we may lack in, ie. cooking, cleaning, gardening, laundry, etc. Here’s my example: there would be no way that I would could have this blog with out the help of so many great people, my house wouldn’t be as clean and my finances would be in a huge mess. I need help with all of these things and I am sure that there are things that people help you with. By pushing independence on our kids with FASD it becomes an exaggerated expectation that could lead to a horrible outcome. We have to remember that homelessness starts at birth for people with FASD.
So what is interdependence and how does this help people with FASD?
Interdependence as defined by Wikipedia is the, ” interconnectedness and the reliance on one another socially, economically, environmentally and politically.” As we are all fully aware people with FASD have many deficits that will hinder them from total independent living. Therefore, as a caregiver it is so important to teach your loved one with FASD that it’s ok to ask for help when they are having trouble. While, I am not suggesting doing everything for them, but what I am saying is lose the “they will figure it out” attitude . One of the young men with FASD I work with was stuck on the fact that he wanted to take the bus to meet a friend; so I told him it was OK, but he would have to go to the store, purchase the bus tickets and take the bus on his own. The reason I was doing this is because if I had said no, we could have had a major breakdown and because I know him, I didn’t think that he would go through with it because of the amount of steps required to actually get on the bus. Through out my time working with this young man I would tell him everyday that if he ever got in trouble or didn’t know what to do, to call me from his cell ph0ne and I or another staff would help him. Well, he called my bluff and got on the bus. As I sat there worried like crazy (because that’s what we do) wondering if I should have just put up with the meltdown, I got a call about an hour later and it was HIM!!! He was scared because he didn’t want to ask the bus driver for a transfer. I was very excited that he had actually called for help! I asked him where he was and the response I received was, “umm I’m at a convenience store.” Of course, I laughed a little on the inside (and it’s ok if you do too). My response was, “ok pal, I need some more information” and the response I received was, “Umm…there’s a chinese food store next door.” Now, I laughed out loud and so did he. So, I told him to ask the store owner the address. When I picked him up he had that ‘I’m in trouble’ look on his face, but my reaction was the opposite. I told him how proud I was that he called and was glad that he was ok… and then I took him to McDonald’s.
The point of my story is I made it ok for him to ask for help and because of that, the situation was resolved. He left feeling happy that he took the bus on his own and not that he got lost and scared. As caregivers, let’s put some more focus on having your child with FASD not only ask for help, but to accept help when we see that they need it. If your successful at this you will have a better chance at making sure that they are happy and safe for the long term, which is the ULTIMATE GOAL.
Source: Wikipedia, interdependence definition
Call to Action:
Have you ever had a similar situation where your child with FASD accepted or asked for help and it saved them from a situation that could have turned out worse?
Please leave a comment below and share your story!!!