Last night, I was at my neighbor's house doing some cleaning for her (be quiet everyone, I know my house is a pit! And I am not going to come clean your house so don't ask. Of course, unless you pay me). I brought Akila with as she has a VCR (ours broke 3 years or more ago), and Akila use to always watch home videos of when she was a baby. She calls them "The Akila Show". Someday, I will get them transferred to DVD.
So I was in the kitchen cleaning (Kathy had her kitchen painted and a new drywall ceiling put in, so there was lots of dust). Akila was in the next room watching the video. It was not annoying at all to listen to myself and Michael in our most annoying baby voices for two hours, going on and on about nothing! She was our first child, and we had that recorder on all the time. For 30 minutes waiting for Akila to say something, or do something cute. Way too long. But she loves watching it.
She calls it the Akila Show, even when Imani and Hezekiah are in it. Zeke isn't on the VHS tapes, we got a new one by the time he came along. We did not figure out Akila's FASD until she was 6, in first grade. When she was probably 2 years old, I always thought there was something off with her. Before 2, I didn't have too many concerns. She did have some very fussy times as a baby- we got her at 5 weeks old. But she hit all the developmental stages on target.
By 2, I knew there was something off. This is when our Pediatrician would always tell me she was fine and to relax. Then, we adopted Zeke when Akila was 3. He was my preemie who was very sick. We were in and out of Children's Hospital and that is when I fell in love with Children's Hospital and Clinics. We switched to a Pediatrician there and on her first visit with Akila, before she knew I had concerns, she caught some warning signs and sent us to a Neurologist. Akila was then diagnosed with Turner Syndrome- we thought that answered the questions regarding her odd behaviors. Little did we know.
Anyway, back to the video. Watching it, or should I say listening to it, and knowing what I know now about FASD, the signs were all there. This is what bums me out about the fact that we still do not adequately train adoptive parents as to what to look for. She was a camera hog, and wanting all the attention constantly. I know, some of you are saying that your typical child did the same thing. Stop. It is very different, and I don't know how to totally explain this. It is over the top camera hogging. It is a glazed over look on her face when she hits baby Imani and is told "no" and "to be gentle", and does it again. Obviously, situations like this, are common with typical kids. But there are no episodes with my other kids doing this stuff on the videos. And if they did, they were more likely to stop when directed to.
There is an intensity about her that you see in these videos, that is still there today. I did have something in my stomach telling me there was something wrong. But I did not know enough what to be looking for. Akila was diagnosed by age 6, which is one of the protective factors that Dr. Anne Streissguth has studied. I do wish we had figured it out earlier. It would have saved several years of banging our heads against the wall. We tried techniques that work for typical brains, but not for the FASD brain. We could have saved a lot of stress, a few pounds (maybe), and a lot of anger.
We really need to start training adoptive parents on some of the early signs of FASD. The truth is that you don't always know if there was alcohol exposure during pregnancy for a number of reasons. I have had an argument with an adoption proponent who thinks that too many people would back out of the adoption process if they were more informed about FASD. I say, that those are the people who should not be adopting then. And I truly believe that the majority would still be interested in adoption, they would just be entering it with their eyes open.
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