A doctor diagnosed Colin with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) yesterday, and Christian and I are pretty freaked out. I really didn’t believe him at first. We know that Colin’s birthmom used cocaine during the pregnancy and she admitted to some drinking, but we really thought the alcohol use was limited (and it is actually much better for a baby if the birthmother smokes crack than if she drinks alcohol because of the way it is metabolized).
Now that I’ve read some of the traits of FAS though, I’m getting more worried. We still plan to get a second opinion, but I’m definitely stressing. We thought we were going to go to this specialist and get a referral for occupational or behavior therapy and that things would get better. We just felt like we needed some extra tools in our parenting toolbox and that we should be proactive given Colin’s history. However, if he really has FAS, things could get much worse. The doctor even said that Colin might eventually need to be medicated for aggression, and that problems associated with FAS tend to intensify as children get older (mental health problems, troubles with the law, learning disabilities). I know that he is trying to give us worst case scenarios, but the appointment was pretty awful. I was in tears for most of it.
I’ve mentioned briefly that we are having some issues with Colin, but I really had not talked about it much here. Some of it may seem like normal toddler or “terrible two’s” stuff, but we really started noticing it around 12-months (much too early). The OT we were seeing at the time (for his gross motor delays and feeding issues) and I even joked that the “terrible two’s” was at least one milestone he was hitting early.
I’ve been playing “Dr. Google” and these are the symptoms of FAS. I’m bolding the ones that describe Colin:
- low birth weight
- small head circumference
- failure to thrive (he was never officially given this label, but he was very close)
- developmental delay (he had gross motor delays, but seems to be caught up now)
- organ dysfunction (his digestive system)
- facial abnormalities, including smaller eye openings, flattened cheekbones, and indistinct philtrum (an underdeveloped groove between the nose and the upper lip)
- poor coordination/fine motor skills
- poor socialization skills, such as difficulty building and maintaining friendships and relating to groups
- lack of imagination or curiosity
- learning difficulties, including poor memory, inability to understand concepts such as time and money, poor language comprehension, poor problem-solving skills
- behavioral problems, including hyperactivity, inability to concentrate, social withdrawal, stubbornness, impulsiveness, and anxiety
- poor impulse control, poor personal boundaries, poor anger management, intrusive behavior, too friendly with strangers
There is also something called Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE), which means the symptoms are less serious. That seems to fit better to me (and my medical degree from Google).
Colin is pretty aggressive and has impulse control issues. He hits, kicks, pinches, etc. He throws things and kicks his shoes off EVERY TIME he is mad. He runs into people head first. He steps on us or jumps on top of us, and seems to have no idea that he is hurting us.
He wanders off in public places. At the same age, Noah and Zoe would walk some distance, turn around and notice that I was far away, and come back. Colin says, “Bye bye!” and keeps going. He also goes up to random people to be picked up. He has no sense of “stranger danger.”
When we ride bikes in the driveway, we obviously don’t let the kids go in the street. The other day Colin kept going in the street. I picked him up and brought him back several times, but he kept going out. The last time I brought him back, he threw his pacifier out into the street. I picked up the pacifier and started to walk away, and he threw his shoe into the street.
It affects what we can do, too. I would never take the three kids somewhere public without a second adult, because one adult has to be focused on Colin. During the kids’ spring break, someone from Noah’s class planned a playdate at a park. Colin would not stay in the park. I had to keep chasing him and I couldn’t watch Noah and Zoe, so we had to leave. I carried Colin out kicking, screaming, and pinching me (and of course he kicked his shoe off, too). Then Noah threw a fit and started bawling because we were leaving. I was so embarrassed.
We were incredibly anxious about our vacation. On top of the fact that I had a herniated disk and pinched nerve, we knew traveling with Colin would be difficult. That’s why we spent so much d*mn money on the iPod Touches for Noah and Zoe. We knew we would have to be focused on Colin for most of the trip, and we needed Noah and Zoe to be as self-sufficient as possile. We were right to be anxious. He screamed for 45-minutes straight on one of the flights. I mean blood-curdling screaming. I was trying to hold him and calm him down and he kicked me and pinched me the whole time.
We have tried everything. We get on eye level to tell him he’s doing something wrong. We’ve done time outs. He won’t sit still in a time out, so I have to hold him, and then he starts pinching me. We’ve explained “nice touch.” We’ve tried to work on language and signing. We tried re-directing his behavior. We’ve done butt swats (I know it’s not PC to write that here, but we have). We’ve tried to make him apologize and hug Noah and Zoe when he hurts them. We’ve done it all. We are not getting anywhere.
I’m still pretty overwhelmed by all of this, so I don’t know exactly where we go from here. We tried to get Colin re-qualified for First Steps when his first year was up in February, but they did not recommend services. They saw the behavioral issues, but since the gross motor and feeding issues were better, they said he did not qualify (he had to qualify in two areas – I was pretty p*ssed at the time because his history should have counted as the second area). The doctor we saw wrote an order for therapy and an order for First Steps, so I don’t know if that automatically means we are eligible or if they could deny us again. I also don’t know if we have to wait a certain amount of time to have him re-evaluated. We can certainly see private therapists, but it will be expensive and I don’t know how much is covered by insurance. It would also be less convenient, since we would have to go to the therapist instead of having the therapist come to our house. That means additional travel time AND having to find someone to watch Noah and Zoe.
Please don’t take any of this to mean that I have anything but love for Colin. He is difficult, but he can also be incredibly sweet and loving. He’s smart and he’s funny and all kinds of other wonderful things. The doctor asked us what we thought about Torry Hansen, the woman who put her seven-year-old adopted son on a plane back to Russia by himself. I told him I thought it was pretty awful that she sent her child away and didn’t seek out every possible resource to try to help him. The doctor said that he was glad to hear that, because we were going to have a lot of work to do with Colin and that things will probably get worse before they get better. We are ready to do that work. We will do whatever it takes. I’m just really scared and stressed right now.