A new group has formed in Redding with a focus on supporting grandparents and parents raising children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.
Kathryn Page, president of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders in Northern California, said many people in the group have grandchildren who have frequent meltdowns, their school progress is slow and friendships either few or troubled.
“We wonder if it’s something we’re doing wrong, and we get lots of well-meaning but often useless advice from our friends and even our doctors or counselors,” she said.
“If their moms drank during pregnancy, perhaps before they found out they were pregnant or even throughout, the most likely explanation for this behavior is the prenatal alcohol exposure.”
Paige said the spectrum is a broad range of brain damage, causing children difficulties in “connecting the dots.”
“Reasoning, memory, delaying gratification, understanding others’ feelings, putting up with discomfort are all affected, to different degrees in different people,” she said. “Rarely diagnosed, these folks are often labeled as having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, some also with bipolar disorder or just bad parenting.”
Paige said doctors are mostly trained to recognize fetal alcohol syndrome — a small percentage of the whole spectrum — in which children with the syndrome have smaller eyes, their upper lips are thin, and the groove between their nose and mouth is flat. “But roughly 8,000 people in Shasta County are on the fetal alcohol spectrum, and most of them appear totally normal,” she said.
“FASD is a disability. It’s a physical disability — damaged brain — that shows up as behavior,” Paige said, “behavior, which often looks like it’s on purpose, under the control of the child. If we recognize the possibility that our children are actually doing the best they can with an out-of-control brain — if we can get some help for that condition — our kids stand a much better chance of going on to a happy and productive life.”
FASD NorCal, as it’s known as, is a group of parents and professionals aiming to foster diagnosis, services and support for everyone affected by the spectrum of disorders. The group will be holding meetings soon in the Redding area. For more information, visit www.fasdnorcal.org or call 530-249-1060.