Once upon a time there was a lady. She was pregnant (again). She had a difficult life, more difficult than we in our lovely middle class lives can imagine. She was stressed. She was having a really challenging time (for a variety of reasons). She didn’t want to acknowledge she was pregnant, because that might lead to interference in her life that she did not want. So she denied she was pregnant. She had a few alcoholic drinks to help her deal with her lot in life (this last bit is assumed, the rest is fact).
There is no joy in hearing that a pediatrician thinks your son has brain damage caused by drinking during pregnancy to go alongside his other issues. And by ‘think’ the comment was, he has Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) but she can’t yet formally diagnose it as we are waiting for some cognitive tests, in the absence of any admittance by his birth mother that she drank when she was pregnant. We have been aware of this real possibility for over a year now, but it was still a complete moment of heart ache for him.
So now, our precious boy is deemed to be suffering from complex neurological trauma and FASD with learning difficulties alongside his attachment difficulties. Which doesn’t take away from the amazing boy that he is. He is caring and loving and empathetic. He mostly wants to please. He is trying hard to not upset most people.
He is struggling big time at school, he cannot access what other pupils his age can, so can be upset by comments when he is doing different work. He doesn’t the unspoken rules. He doesn’t know how to play in an appropriate manner. He is strong believer in rules, and therefore will tell over another child when they don’t follow the rules. He wants things to happen his way and doesn’t get that sometimes other children’s ideas might be better.
He likes to know who is in charge, how they make themselves in charge. He needs to be liked by whoever is in charge, because then he will be safe. He spends a lot of time whilst at school making sure that he is ‘safe’, which doesn’t help him academically.
Because so much effort is taken up in being safe at school, he gets really tired. He doesn’t show that effort often at school – although will chew anything that is close to him when he is anxious. He does however, show how much the school day takes out of him when he is at home. We cope often with meltdowns after school. Sometimes they happen in the car, sometimes he manages to wait until we get home. Sometimes they are short and manageable, sometimes they go on and on and on. Sometimes he just screams, sometimes he aims to hurt.
He needs routine and structure. School holidays are hard. Different is hard. I had plans this holiday to arrange to see some of his school friends, but he is struggling so much.
You cannot know what a child is living with, you cannot know what a family is dealing with. I am grateful that the majority of his class accept him for who he is. They know he is different, but don’t necessarily worry about the different. I am amazed by the understanding shown by parents. I hope that other people who are living with children who are struggling are surrounding by understanding, because it helps.