September 9th was International FASD Awareness Day. Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, the most common non-genetic cause of learning disability in the UK, is thought to affect 2% of the UK and US populations, though some people claim that is a huge under-estimate, with up to 5% affected. Within certain communities – care experienced children – it is significantly higher, with perhaps a third of adoptive children receiving a diagnosis. That is a challenge in itself, with only relatively recent wider recognition of this disorder, above and beyond the facial characteristics which only show on a small proportion of children affected.
FASD is an umbrella term for people who have neurological difficulties resulting from exposure to alcohol in the womb. It impacts on growth, memory and learning, behaviour issues such as anxiety, and physical problems with hearing and sight. The fact that it is entirely preventable is a keystone of the campaigning groups in this country and elsewhere; with a great deal of frustration about responses to government advice to reduce or eliminate drinking in pregnancy.
Parents report an array of challenges at home, including issues around behaviour; and many children will struggle at school. Dr Raja Mukherjee, Britain’s leading FASD expert, working at the National Clinic for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, warns that, without appropriate support, 90% of children go on to experience mental health problems as adults, and many end up homeless or in prison. To mark International FASD Awareness Day, Adoption UK released a report, commissioned by the Scottish Government, which looks at the challenges associated with diagnosing FASD and offers recommendations for how health, social care and education authorities across the UK can better tackle the condition among care experienced children.
For more information about FASD, link to support groups and organisations. Within the UK groups such as NOFAS-UK and FASD Network UK provide information, support and training, or follow Dr Mukherjee on twitter for a range of links and discussions.
I was a bit surprised when this book first dropped through my letter box. I hadn’t offered to review it and so for a while it lay on a very tall pile of “books to read when I have some spare time”. But of course the title should have given it away…
If anyone was thinking that love is all that’s needed, or was tempted ever to say that “all kids do that”, then this is a book for them! Not that it’s all doom and gloom by any means. Adoption stories are statistically more often positive and affirming, but it is a sad fact that as many as a third of families will experience real struggles (see Beyond the Adoption Order) and Ann Morris quietly and without drama shows us both sides of the coin. Continue reading
On Sunday 28th August, Hannah Meadows posted on her website “But they look so innocent”: Our CPV experience – an account of living with traumatised primary aged children, and the family’s attempts to access help. The post was picked up by many people over the next couple of days, with significant twitter comments, and then also featured as a Mumsnet Blog of the Day. Hannah’s is by no means the only blog to raise the issue of child to parent violence in recent weeks. As schools returned, other parents spoke out about the stresses faced by their young people and the impact this has on mood, regulation and behaviour; and a quick tweet asking for contributions brought many other families and issues to my attention. Discussion ranged from the difficulties in being believed that there is a problem, professional understanding of the issues, lack of resources and the impact of budget cuts, the problem with “quick fixes” and being encouraged towards courses that are too brief, to what happens when misguided help makes things worse. Some of these issues are all too familiar, but others are important considerations which, perhaps, have not been sufficiently addressed in the past.
One of the people who replied to my comments was Scott Casson-Rennie, adoptive parent to three sons and Regional Manager in the Development Team (England) for Adoption UK. Scott, who tweets as @GayAdoption Dad, kindly agreed to contribute his thoughts and experience for this post. Continue reading