Pathways to Success
It is about preparing individuals with FASD for adulthood. It is a companion to our first teaching, Pathways to Understanding.
• Do not take personal their attacks; but examine what they say and see if there is any truth in it. Apologize quickly for anything you did wrong and be extremely calm.
• You need to be less intense.
• Teach them to be nice
• Both you and them need to stay calm
• Have someone you can talk to. Ask your kid if they think what they said is valid and ask if they think it was confusing
• At times, you have to love them at a distance. At times, you also have to just accept that this is the way they are. You can always hope that they may have a developmental growth spurt and change. Always love them
• Take care of yourself, and if you are married, take care of each other. Not as a selfish thing, but it is necessary for you to be an effective parent. Raising children with FASD can destroy you physically and mentally because of the stress.
• You will feel like a failure at times.
• Realize that no matter what you do many will make very poor choices and will have to be locked up. Don’t take it personal.
FASD is non-progressive organic brain damage. Persons with Fetal Alcohol do not get worse as they get older. However, they may feel like they are, or they may even appear to be. When a person is young, they are told what to do, when to do it, where to do it, how to do it, and whom to do it with. That is an incredible amount of structure. But as a person gets older, the structure naturally becomes less plus the person is dealing with more adult type issues. They are dealing with sexuality; they are dealing with whether they should drink alcohol or do street drugs. They are dealing with relationships. They are dealing with harder issues in school. So at that point, they may actually appear to be getting worse even though they are not.
• Lack of self-control
• Not learning from their mistakes
• Slow processing, which means it sometimes takes them longer to understand what was said and longer to come up with an answer.
• Unable to communicate
• As they are getting older, there is a lack of incentive, lack of drive
• They often deny that they have a disability
• They often have even stronger feelings of “I don’t need help”
• Choosing unhealthy friends
• Trouble with those in authority/with the law
• Risky behaviors, both sexual and legal
• Academic problems- Often can read at grade level but not comprehend. Math is often a problem, as is abstract thinking
• Running away
• Self injurious behavior or even attempted suicide
• Unstable, emotional and behavioral ups and downs
• Can’t keep a job
• Knows right from wrong, but can’t do it. Might appear to not have a conscious at times
• Totally unreasonable
• Being at odds with parents and others in authority
They often have very normal desires.
• Desire to have children
• To provide for their family
• Their biggest desire is to BE NORMAL
Some individuals with fetal alcohol will have developmental growth spurts in their late 20s to mid 30’s. That means that they can do things that they were not able to do before, such as living more independently, keeping a job, having a relationship, staying out of jail, and realizing they need help.
• 90% have mental health problems.
• 80% cannot keep a job.
• 80% need assisted living.
• 75% of the males and 70% of the females will have to be confined:
-For alcohol and drug treatment. (They are genetically predisposed.)
-For mental health reasons
-For number one, crime. (Not because they are bad, but because they often do not learn from their mistakes, because they are vulnerable and because they make poor choices.)
• 70% will be victims of violence.
• 60% will have problems staying in school.
• Around 50% will have inappropriate sexual behaviors.
• Only 8% of individuals with FASD can both live on their own independently and keep a job.
1st: Get a Diagnosis.
2nd: Get services.
3rd: Learn parenting techniques specific to Fetal Alcohol.
4th: Talk about the really tough subjects. Do realistic life planning and set realistic goals. Then add to normal life skills teaching, teachings based on their goals.
5th: Teach them; try to convince them to stay connected and to accept help.
6th: Train them to be nice.
7th: Be painfully honest with them about their socially unacceptable behaviors and their disability. Put together a team of people to help them. The team could be made up of people from the following areas:
education – mental health – social services – medical – FASD advocate – parent – criminal justice – sports coach – youth leader from an organization such as YMCA, 4H, scouts – youth leader, pastor, or elder from a church – an adult friend – a mature older sibling – relative – Other
Protection – protection – protection
Sexual safety is a must. If they commit a sexual crime it does not help them. You must try very hard to protect them from others and protect others from them.
A person once told me that “regardless of their horrible childhood, regardless of their diagnosis, that at the end of the day you have to protect them from the society and the society from them.”
ADOLESCENCE – TEENAGERS
I read a book by a gentleman named David Walsh, called, Why Do They Act That Way? He explains how the adolescent brain is not fully developed, and how individuals in adolescence sometimes use a different part of their brain for decision making than they will as an adult. He gives a reason, not an excuse, for their behavior. He also says that structure will help them. He says not to leave them where they’re at, but to help them to get through it. He tells parents to stay connected. He uses the term “don’t give them a divorce.” I know often times for myself, and for many parents that I know, you want to just say, “Oh, forget it,” and just leave them alone during this time. This is not the right answer. They do need help, to keep communicating, and to keep connected. They need structure, and to learn about adolescence.
DEVELOPMENTAL GROWTH SPURTS AND BRAIN HEALTH
• Eat healthy foods. Limit the amount of sugar, white flour, and junk foods they eat. Have them drink water, not sodas and sugary drinks. Keep them away from artificial sweeteners, caffeine, artificial colorings and dyes.
• Make sure they get plenty of exercise and plenty of sleep.
• Have them practice good hygiene including: cleanliness, hair style, and appearance
• Do not let them drink any alcohol, take street drugs, chew or smoke
• Have them read books
• Beware of the way they talk: Fight against negativity. Do not swear. Deal with anger.
You need to be careful of how much time they spend and what type of movies or TV they watch, or electronic games they play. People need to have healthy hobbies. For example: things such as crafts, doing art, helping people, being involved in sports, church activities, and the YMCA. Do something healthy. Teach them to be a hard worker. A person with FASD needs to be around people who care about them. They need to be around people who are also doing good in their lives.
At the same time parents and caregivers need to understand regardless of what they do at times, persons with fetal alcohol may make ridicules choices; it can be a part of their brain damage.
Some of the characteristics of an ideal school would include:
• Staff that understands FASD and who receive training from several different people
• Staff that communicates with the parents
• A team approach to helping the student
• Teaching life skills
• Concrete learning, not abstract
• Being sensitive to the student’s academic needs
• Protecting the student with FASD from other students and protecting other students from the student with FASD
• Teach drive and positive attitude
• The IEP process should be a team effort, bringing in others, such as PACER, the disability law centers, people to advocate, to come together and help set up a program
• Teaching them about FASD
• Having a counselor who will talk to the student about the tough subjects, but they must understand where the parents stand on these issues
• Socially acceptable behaviors
• How to work
• Learning to work would include:
• Understand and teach about the developmental growth spurts
• Teaching them to be nice, stay connected, and accept help
Where ever the person goes to school caregivers and staff should communicate. There should be a team approach to the person’s education.
Relationship between tough subjects, life planning and teaching life skills:
You need to talk about the tough subjects. Then you need to do life planning around those subjects, and then you need to design their life skills teaching around their life plan.
• What do they plan to do when they turn 18
-What if they do not have the life skills to do that
-Will they accept help
• Where a person is going to live
-Living totally independently, which 20% can
-Living with assistance, and what that level of assistance will be, the level will depend upon their needs
-Living at home
-Living in an assisted living center
-For far too many, you need to prepare them for living in a jail
• Medical care – Driving – Education – Relationships – Vulnerability – How they will dress – Communications – Marriage – Sexuality – Life skills – Job – Whether or not they’re going to do alcohol and drugs – Money management
• Types of friends
• Recreation: it could be through the YMCA, a youth group, or an adult group. It could be going to church. It could be sports. Talk about different forms of recreation.
• Guardianship or conservatory
These are the steps to life planning and goal setting:
• Meet with them and introduce the idea (theory) of this to them
• Give them some time to think about it (at least a couple of days)
• Meet with them again (start a file or a binder)
• Start writing down ideas
• Make two lists
• One life goal page (big picture – long term goals – you can use items from the tough subjects list. Listen to the person, do not say no. You will tweak them later.)
• One page for immediate goals (desires to do something – behaviors – character changes – etc.)
• Pick out a couple of goals from each list (you will be doing more of them)
• Try hard to make this fun
• Talk about whether goals are realistic
• Keep in mind developmental growth spurts
• Especially with long term goals
• Explore with them whether they are realistic
• See if you can tweak the goals
• Try to make this fun
• when they have reached their saturation point stop and do it again later
• You can always put items on a list to be talked about later
• Do not be pressured into answering questions that you are not comfortable with
• Make sure that you put it on a list to talk about later
• Seek wisdom from others before you answer
• Start making to-do list from their goals
• Try to keep this simple
• Steps involved to reach their goal
• Include: Developmental changes – Skills needed – Behaviors – Changes that they need to make – Educational requirements – Attitude – Finances – Their strong points
• Meet with them on a regular basis
• Check their progress on their to-do list
• This can become a time that you find out what they are thinking
• It can be a special time for the two of you, a time when you work on behaviors, a time when the two of you tweak their goals or their to-do list, a time when you teach them to communicate, a time when you teach them perseverance. It can also be a time when there is extreme frustration, and unfortunately, reason does not always prevail. Be sensitive to them and yourself. Tell them you will meet again, and give both of you some time to think about certain subjects, seek help from others for ideas. Calm down – this can be frustrating for both of you
• When they are doing things which go against their goals list remind them of their goals
• Be patient with both them and yourself; this is a long term process
List of things you need to talk about:
• Sociably unacceptable behaviors – Strong points – Weak points – Where they are going to live – Money management – Life skills – Job – Education – Driving – Relationships – Vulnerability – Types of friends – Sexuality – Marriage – Children
• Communications – Recreation – Jail – Whether or not they’re going to do alcohol and street drugs
Talk about whether they possibly will need a guardianship or conservatoryLIFE SKILLS
Life skills – teach them normal daily life skills. Life skills such as: cooking, having good hygiene, money management, communicating, and being nice. Then you add to that list their personal one from life planning which comes from dealing with the tough subjects. Remember to give them hope.
• Social Security
• Developmental Disabilities Services at the Department of Human Services
• Mental health: both children’s mental health and adult mental health
• County Health Department
• Medical Assistance
• Adoption Assistance (in some cases can keep going until they are 22, even if they have graduated from school)
• Extended or Post Foster Care programs
• Adult Foster Care
• Jobs training: there are job coaches, services to help you find a job, services to help you keep a job, and special jobs
• Private organizations such as:
-NACAC. a national adoption organization
-MNASAP Minnesota Adoption Support and Preservation
-National, state, and local FASD organizations
When I mention counseling, many parents will often show strong emotions of disgust. Many feel it has simply not worked and often times made things worst. It is good for a person with Fetal Alcohol to have someone to talk to in addition to their parents. All too often, parents have felt the counselor made life harder for their child, and the counselor did not understand FASD.
Some counseling models which have been helpful are:
• Story telling
• Positive self-talk
• Cognitive thinking skills
• Life planning, goal setting
• Talking about the tough subjects
• Helping them deal with the fact that they have abilities and disabilities
• Help them deal with adolescence
• Listening to the client but understanding what they say may not be reality. Knowing when to ask the parent. Knowing when to direct the counseling session.
• Someone who will be respectful of the parent’s values
A counselor can be an important part of the team; they can really help. So, try to find a counselor who meets these criteria.
In conclusion, I’d like to say,
We all have many disabilities. Our kids – young adults – need to work to find ways to deal with their disabilities. One of the ways around our disabilities is to accept help.
Remember about developmental growth spurts; it gives us hope, and I teach about them. I teach that just because you can’t do something now, that does not mean you will not be able to do it later; but let’s work on this skill.
I’ve known many really good parents, who have adopted children, that are struggling, or who have struggled for years and years. For some of them things have gotten better as their child has gotten older, and as their child has had a developmental growth spurt. But, let me warn you and warn them, that if they do enough alcohol and enough drugs, they will not have the developmental growth spurt.
• If they do not have a diagnosis, get a diagnosis
• Get services in place
• Teach them about fetal alcohol
• Do realistic life planning and goal setting
• Convince them to stay connected and to accept help.
• Talk about those hard subjects
• Remember about developmental growth spurts
• Have hope
• Remember it’s organic brain damage
• Educate yourself; learn from more than one source. Different teachers will give you different ideas.
• Become a good advocate
• Teach to them to be nice
• Be nice to them
In order to get the most out of this teaching, we recommend that you go to our web site. There will be a section titled, “Pathways to Success,” you can download this teaching. It’ll be in written form. Study it; let it enter deep within your hearts; and into the hearts of the other members of the team. Let it enter deep within the heart of the person you are working with.
Our web site is http://www.hayskids.com
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