Fetal Alcohol Syndrome can be mistaken for ADHD: iLIVE

26 September 2013 - 17:48 By Tracy Musto
A baby's foot. File photo.
A baby's foot. File photo.
Image: Calmtwood/ Flickr.com

I have a foster son who has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

South Africa has the highest incidence on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in the world. There are hardly any support systems in place for sufferers, nor nearly enough awareness made or even acknowledgement of the dangers of drinking alcohol while pregnant.

So many kids are diagnosed with ADHD when in fact they have FAS. There is only one support group in South Africa and they are even struggling to keep their doors open due to lack of finances.

They are FASfacts in the Western Cape.

FAS is the only mental illness that is 100% incurable while also 100% preventable. It is prevalent amongst all classes of people. It does not discriminate between colour or class. The sufferers do not choose to have this condition. It was a choice made for them by others. 

I also do not always blame the parents as in many situations they are unaware of the Russian Roulette they are playing with their unborn children’s lives. So many also get mixed messages about the dangers of drinking alcohol when pregnant. So many women have stated that they drank while pregnant and their kids are ‘just fine’, etc.  However, in Russian Roulette, there is normally only one bullet in the barrel. Double that up for the chances of having a child (or more) with FAS. Do we really want to take that chance with our children?

There are so many support groups, on Facebook for example, where we can read about the stories of the lives of FAS sufferers as well as their parents (biological or otherwise) and what they go through.

I have been told by quite a few Social Workers that most of the kids in foster care have FAS.  I have also been told about how many are in our prison systems. 

FAS sufferers are often labelled as “problem people”. However, the biggest problem is the fact that they are not properly diagnosed nor given the education nor the psychological support they need in order for them to have the productive and fulfilled lives that they deserve.

I love my foster son as though he were my own, my soul child. However, my heart breaks for every obstacle he comes across and rejoices every time he achieves something new. It is a real emotional roller coaster ride for both of us but he is just so worth it.

I have had people telling me not to ‘label’ him or other FAS kids. I am sorry to say that sometimes you have to have the label.

It is not there to put them into a box as such. It is there to help them out of the box. I recognise that he has FAS and I have had long chats with him about it as well (he is now 15 years old, having come into my heart and life at age six). 

It is so that I understand him and where a lot of the behaviour comes from and to help him to stay on the right path by holding his hand and walking the path with him. 

His condition is not an excuse for his behaviour, but an understanding of it and why it happens. It is to help him correct the behaviour. The kids do not grow out of FAS, they have to be taught how to live with it and will always need support systems in place for the remainder of their lives. 

Unfortunately, we have very few support systems in South Africa.

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