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FASD and Autism…

I was recently diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, too. About 3 weeks ago. I have not said anything, here because I don’t know how I feel. There is one thing to think you have something, but then you are actually diagnosed with it. I went through the same thing when a doctor said I had all the characteristics of someone with FASD. I knew that you could have both. I actually wondered if I did. I have heard that people with FASD can have both. I know both can have a lot of the same traits, but I had a neurologist ask me a bunch of questions and he said not only by my answers, but in observing me, he knew I had Autism. Hmmm. Someone asked me how I felt. I didn’t even answer. I really don’t know how I feel about it. I’m not saying this is bad. I have got to know a lot of neurotypicals in my years and I can honestly say, there is not one I would want to be like…lol. So, I’m okay with being on the spectrum. When i wrote Autism Spectrum Disorder, the word that I kept staring at was Disorder. Really? This is a disorder? I want to look up what that means. Wait a second…okay a medical condition involving a disturbance to the usual functioning of the mind.

Okay. I will let that process.

Who says how we process and what we do is a distrubance. Okay. I get that things are not right. But who says that neurotypical brains are just that…typical?…

Just a question. Image


Dear Teacher

Dear Teacher,
I have FASD. I have a hard time hearing everything you say. I try, but sometimes I just don’t understand. It’s hard for me to understand the directions you say. Lot’s of times I forget as soon as you say what I’m supposed to do. I look at others, not cuz I want to cheat, but cuz I want to know what I’m supposed to do next. I know it seems like I’m not paying attention, but I just don’t understand.

I’m not lazy. It seems like I dont want to do my work, but I do. I’m just not sure how to do it. If you tell me exactly what I’m supposed to do a couple of times, I might understand better. You might have to explain it to me with no one else around.

My senses are really sensitive. Sometimes I need breaks from the classroom. Sometimes, I need my own time out from the chaos in the room. It’s hard for me to process all that goes on.

FASD is fetal alcohol syndrome. It just means that my mom drank when I was in her belly. It doesnt mean I’m less than the other kids in the class. I am still very creative and very fun. I love to learn and I love to work. I will always give you my best. I promise and I keep my promises.

FASD means that my brain is not like the other kids. It is wired a little differently and I have to find my way of learning. I have to learn how to learn. Work with me cuz I’m trying to figure out what works for me. If you do it with me and stay patient with me I won’t get as frustrated. Let me know how proud you are of me that I’m working so hard even if I don’t understand and constantly focus on what I’m doing right. Oh, you can tell me what I’m doing wrong or what I’m not understanding, but remind me that I’m still a great kid even if I did something wrong.

See, I’m extra sensitive. My brain just has a hard time understanding so I get so confused with what you are saying or what you are expecting that the harder I try, sometimes my brain just shuts off. And if you get frustrated with me, I think I’m doing something wrong when I’m really trying to give you my best. Do you know what it feels like when people are upset with you and you don’t understand why? You are doing everything you think they want you to do but you are still doing it wrong?

I cry a lot inside. I want to be my best for you and for my parents. I want everyone to be proud of me.

It’s okay to make me an IEP. Call FAS what it is. It only hurts me if you don’t. If I get the right diagnosis, then I get the right helps.

It’s okay that I have this thing called FASD. I can’t change it. It is what it is. Just please don’t make me feel different. Don’t make me feel like what my mom did was so wrong that I feel bad about who I am. Don’t make her actions be who I am.

Thank you,

Your student

Do you want your child to grow up and operate at their FULL potential?

 I am an adult with FASD.
I am asking you to not drink while
pregnant. And please don’t drink while breastfeeding. The baby will be drinking the alcohol right along with you.
If you spent one day with my brain, you would never drink while pregnant.

Do you want your child to grow up and operate at their FULL potential?

Do you want your child to grow up and be able to handle their own bank account and live independently?

Do you want your child’s dreams to become a reality?

Don’t drink while pregnant. This is coming from someone who has it. Trust me! You don’t want your child to have this brain!

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This is your brain when its been exposed to alcohol in utero

I wanted to help at my friend’s fundraising event yesterday. I’m never put with the money or any chaotic area when I help. My brain simply does not process fast enough. I feel like more of a hindrance. Yesterday, ended up different than the norm, when I volunteer. My external brain, who by the way makes sure I am always okay in all situations, had to go around and sell 50/50 tickets. After several attempts of her explaining to me the amounts per ticket, I still was panicked. I watched and watched her and my daughter sell tickets. The more they sold, the more I watched, the more confused I got, the more i felt like crying on the inside.
It’s times like those that I really realize how messed up my brain is. i wanted to help in the worst way. I normally set up or tear down tables, etc. I take pictures of the event because it is the best way for someone like me to be involved but still not have to engage fully in any one area. I love to help, but in ways that I’m still working alone, in the crowd. 
One dollar for one ticket. I got that. But six for five or five for six and what if someone gives me a 20 and they only want 5 tickets or 10…I had no idea what to do. I tried and tried to figure it out and the tears were welling up in my eyes because I really realized, I want to help so bad…but…I just can’t.
Kerri, my EB, said to me she was going to go around and sell tickets. She wrote it down what I was supposed to do. She made sure I was okay. I wanted to do this. I wanted to prove I could do this to her and to me. and to my 16-year-old daughter that was selling tickets without even thinking. 
A person came up to the table. Okay, I can do this. She hands me a 20 and wanted 2 sets of tickets. I told her to just take the ones she wanted cuz I couldnt remember how many that was. She looked at me and I said,” do you know how much money I give you back?” So, I gave her the money only for her to come back and say, I need one more dollar.
People came up and asked me about the pricing. I read it right off the paper Kerri gave me. 
I felt an inch big.
If I looked like I had a brain that didnt process like others, than they might not expect me to be like them. But, I look like I should have a brain that works so…
PLUS, I want to help! I want to be able to sit down and take money and give change and be able to interact without my processing going so haywire that I cant think at all. It just shuts down completely.
Kerri wasn’t going to go sell tickets. I told her I dont want to be the reason you cant sell tickets. I wanted her to make the most money she could. So, I sold a few on my own and I started to be okay. I had to be okay with reading from the paper and getting help from those I was selling to. The point is, I did it.
I was proud of myself. I didnt run out and say I can’t. I did everything I could to contribute, even though I knew my brain doesnt function in that area. I love to give back. She said that is why she hesitates to ask me sometimes to help.
Don’t do that please.
Always ask!
We always want to help. We want to feel included and needed. I’m not normally with the money and people. So, I’m fine.  I find my area that I can help and feel comfortable.
I’m a great runner at events. I’m the gopher. I’m the one that will do runs to outside locations to bring stuff in, set up tables. Anything where I can keep moving and not stop to talk to people…lol. It’s true. 
I’m laughing because the day before, on Saturday, I was thrown into another situation where I was out of my comfort zone!! Way out!! Went to Columbus to accept my writing awards. 
They met for lunch. I did not. I don’t do informal meet and greets with people I do not know. Sitting across from people in a dining experience is not pleasant for me, especially when I am meeting them for the first time.
So, I did what I needed. I went to the meeting room when everyone was at lunch. I got the chair closest to the door, before anyone else got there. I got comfortable with my environment.
They instantly put us in a circle…lol. They wanted it to be informal and personal. We were writers. We needed to get to know each other…lol. 
My EB instantly put her hand on the back of my chair and said stay where you are and they made the circle go around me. So, I didnt have to move. Why is it that the teacher (speaker) always seeks out the person who does not want to talk and they keep calling on them?…lol. I dont know if it was written on my face or what, but she kept asking me questions. At one point she said Ann, what is the premise of the book that you just wrote. I just went ummm…well I really don’t talk very well. She said, “I know.” 
Really? You know…lol…then why are you asking me to?…lol. Well, anyway, I said my friend here can answer for me. And she did. My brain instantly went dead as soon as i was asked to speak. It was not a rebellion at all. It went to 0. 
She asked me several other questions along the way and I was able to answer at times, in short sentences. Short, very, to the point, sentences work for me.
Just because I am a journalist, does not mean I am a talker. Yes, I can interview people all day. It is a passion of mine to get to know people. I love to know their hearts and I want to tell their story. The second someone asks me a question…BLANK. I will deflect, I will change the subject, I will find a way to leave a room, I will change it back to them in seconds…
I had asked, very clearly, not to speak during the awards. I was told to speak on the article that won and I asked if I could please not have to do that. I made it very clear, as a matter of fact…lol. First thing I was asked when I went up to accept the award…Can you tell everyone about the article…
We really do know our limitations. 
We really do know our abilities.
We do not say we cant just so we can get out of something.
Now, I can’t speak for everyone with FASD.
I know there is rebellion, but so much of it stems from the fact that we really do get angry that WE HAVE TO ASK FOR HELP. I get scared. Confused. I know I’m going to screw up. I need a guide and sometimes…that pisses me off! (Sorry for the language…but it does.)
AND… the older we get…the angrier we can get about that. 
Needy? Really? as someone called me.
People who are needy want people to do things for them. They dont want to try. they dont want to work like crazy to be independent. They dont struggle and struggle day after day to get through the day and prove that they can.
I spend more time and effort on getting through my day and I can honestly say, even though I need guides,…I am not NEEDY! We simply need help.
Teens and young adults especially can get angry about this. They want to be like their peers. Who doesnt want to be equal with others their age?
The more I realize I can’t…the more determined I get. The more I want to NOT ask for help. I CAN DO IT. 
I got angry yesterday when I saw how much my brain would not work, even tho I wanted so much to help.
My EB does it in ways where I dont even know she is helping. She comes along side and just does with…she normally gives me things that I can just do…She normally notices when Im struggling and she just enters in and I dont even realize she is helping me accomplish what I need to do.
The last thing we need is for people to force us to be in situations where we are destined to fail. No way to succeed because our brains DO NOT work that way.
And I’m not talking about yesterday…cuz she didnt force that. I did. I wanted to help in an area where my brain was not able. Sometimes, we just have to surrender to some facts that are not pleasant.
Sometimes…we just have to realize…this is our brain…
An alcohol affected brain…


I had it in my head that I was going to go to the flea market to sell my photography. Last week. I had just about everything ready to go…except for me. I got hundreds of photos ready, framed and matted 30 of my best prints. My external brain helped me to think about everything I might need. We got order forms for special orders, a calculator, grocery bags so I can bag items I sell, extra money for change.

I put together calendars, mugs, notebooks, and other items to sell. My external brain helped me make a display board. I got a table for the display and filled two picture books filled with my photography for other options. 
I thought of everything…I thought.
I was getting ready and felt my anxiousness grow. I started thinking about talking with people, doing math on the spot, figuring different orders, and where to park. I knew my senses would be heightened with all the people, etc…which would add confusion. AND I knew I would be doing all of this without an external brain.
Now, I know I have said I don’t do anything new without an external brain, but I really thought I could do this. I mean, I did have it all mapped out. I have this thing about picturing things before I do it. It works a lot of times. 
I was a swimmer and a swim coach. Swimming was one of the things that calmed my anxiousness. Going underneath the water and being consumed by water from all sides so relaxing to me. A sensory thing, I’m sure. Like a weighted blanket feeling. I would swim for hours and I was good at it. (Not bragging…lol.) Hey, when I struggled at EVERYTHING in life and I finally found something that I could actually DO without struggling…I was thrilled!
As a coach, I had my swimmers close their eyes and picture themselves winning. We would do this leading into major meets. I would start them from the gun. Stroke by stroke they would go through the race with a win at the end.
I am an absolute believer in if you are determined and work hard enough at anything, you can be successful! I live it every day and so did my swimmers. 
Now, here I was, the night before I was supposed to sell my photography, by myself, at a market….I freaked. I pictured myself doing it. Over and over. I walked myself through all the steps. I paced. I tried to work through. My anxiousness did not subside.
My external brain (EB) saw that something was not right. I finally told her. I was even thinking about keeping my 16-year-old home from school to go with me the first day. My EB said, “why don’t we just go Saturday. The three of us will go. We will see what it’s like, figure everything out together so you are not so anxious. We will do this together.”
She asked me why I didn’t tell her. I told her that I wanted to do it myself.

I always need help. This time, I wanted it to be different.

See, FASDers DO NOT want to rely on others. We WANT to do it on our own! 
Surrendering that is soooooo hard!
I’m an adult. I want to do adult things…by myself. 
Oh, I got the routine stuff down. I can do that stuff all day by myself. I love the independence. I have no problem shopping in the same stores and going to the same coffee house. 
Throw in something new…and I’m done.
I started to have my own little pity party. I even started to cry. I had to get to the point that I was okay having someone do this WITH me. I had to let myself get to the point where I would ASK FOR HELP.
I am not the best at asking for help.
“I CAN DO IT MYSELF” I want to scream.
Reality sinks in and I have to look at myself in the mirror…and again…surrender some tough stuff.
I can do anything the first timewith help.
Once I can rid of all confusion in a situation, it can become routine and eventually I can do it on my own.
I found myself angry. I got pretty upset that I HAD to ask for help.
I had to be okay with who I was and this disability.
Doing anything new is scary for someone with FASD. 
Yes, we might throw a fit about it.
We might get angry because honestly…we really want to do it by ourselves.
We are actually pretty smart people…we just have a brain that doesn’t work like everybody else.
AND we are smart enough to know this.

We watch everybody in the room understand what’s going on when we are confused.

We KNOW we can’t process like everybody else.
It takes us longer. We DO know that.
That is why we have to surrender to the fact of letting someone help us until we get it.
Once we realize that you helping us will help us get independent in a certain area, we are going to work that much harder.
We give 110%. 
Always have.
I was always one of the hardest workers in the pool.
I was always determined in the classroom despite my confusion.
It’s the surrendering and accepting that was harder for me.
With time, we get there…but we need our little fits along the way as we recognize and realize that we are different. That we aren’t able to do something that everybody else can do can be frustrating. 
I have to realize that if I don’t ask for help, I will just get stuck. I will probably not do it at all. That is an incentive for me.
Surrender and ask for help. 
Problem solved.
Eventually do it by myself.

Side note: Added after I wrote this: An FASDer (RJ from Flying with broken wings) just said this to me about this blog…We have to remember that giving in is not giving up. That is AWESOME! Love it! True! 


All I hear is blah, blah, blah (reposted from my blog on FASDforever)

My blog that was posted on Jeff Noble’s FASDforever. Thought I would repost on my blog. It was originally posted and can still be found on FASDforever website. With FASD, it is hard to hear what others say, a lot of times…hence the title All I hear is blah, blah, blah. Well, I’ll let you read it…

There are experts and there are experts. I don’t have a degree in genetics. I don’t have a PhD in anything. In fact,  I don’t understand a lot of what goes on around me without an interpreter. What makes me an expert? My mom drank when she was pregnant with me. I might not understand the brain, but I am still an expert. I have lived with this FASD brain for over 40 years.

I look like the average adult. I have blonde hair and blue eyes. No one would notice anything different about me just by looking at me.Most of what is wrong with me, people can’t see.
Unseen things are hard to understand. I know that one first hand.

When I was first adopted as a baby, I was diagnosed as failure to thrive. My toddler years were spent in constant struggle and by the time I hit kindergarten, there was something noticeably wrong.  My teacher contacted my adoptive parents and told them I needed tested. FASD was not a diagnosis, back then, but the neurologist had bad news. He informed them I had significant brain damage and I would not even graduate high school.

Struggling was all I knew. If i was going to do what the other kids were doing, I simply had to find a creative way to make it happen. Struggling was more than everyday life.It was every moment life. I couldn’t see words like other kids. My eyes did not converge and i had no depth perception. So, I saw two of everything and the world was flat.  Yes, Christopher Columbus, the world is flat…to some.

I couldn’t cut like other kids. Scissors and buttons have never been my friends. I knew if I was going to make it in this world two things had to happen.  

Number one, I became the most determined kid in the school. I might have gotten C’s, but they were C’s  I earned. I learned how to learn. I adjusted. My life has been a continuous Thomas Edison quote. When he was inventing the lightbulb, he said, “I have not failed. I have found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Well, we all know what lights the room at night.

I know what it feels like when everyone in the room knows you are struggling.They told me I would not graduate high school. I got a masters degree. They told me I would never hit a ball. I practiced hours until I was hitting home runs.

I know there is a lot I am not able to do. Sometimes, that’s hard for me to accept. Sometimes, I blow up in frustration, but I blow up because I care. I blow up because I want to do things on my own as much as my loved ones want me to. I want to understand the world around me as much as everyone else does. I really don’t want to have to look to others to interpret. I want so badly to understand what everybody else understands, BUT, I have to accept that I have to incorporate helps in order for me to be my best.

The second thing is that I can LIVE with FASD. I might not be able to ever figure out my bank account, but I have an external brain that knows how. I might not be able to hear everything that is said, but if one of my interpreters is not there, I can always turn on my tape recorder and play it back later to get all that was said. I might have to rewind a few times to catch all the words because of auditory processing disorder, but I learned a way to beat my own brain.

I found my passions. Sure, there are so many things that people with FASD cannot do, but there is plenty they CAN do. I found I am not the best verbal communicator, but I can write. I love photography. I became a professional writer and photographer. I was a journalist/columnist for almost a decade, wrote a nonfiction book, just finished my first novel and have online photo galleries.

Hopes and dreams don’t have to be gone when a person is diagnosed with FASD, they just have to be different.


See the world through my eyes

Pull up a blade of grass, sit down, and get to know me.
Sit quietly with me. I love your company, but I love the silence.
Get up close and look at the fabric of a tree. The wrinkles on its trunk tell a story.
Watch the wind catch the wings of a bird as it soars.
Look at life as if you are looking at it for the first time…every time.
Look at a puddle as an invitation.
Just try to walk past a button on a wall without pushing it to see what it does.

Look at a rubber band as something to snap or send flying through the air.
Watch a spider spin its web and focus on an ant that is carrying more weight than its body.

Watch my eyes dance as I think of something fun or mischievous to get into.
Look at everything as a toy.

Watch me do what is the impossible.
Watch me soar and LIVE when I was told that it wasn’t possible.

Look at the determination in my eyes.
Know that there is hope…not defeat.
Know that there is a passion for life
Know that there is purity and innocence behind my eyes
Know that my desire is to please and to love deeply
Know that I was given a strong will. One that will make it despite the disabilities.

Watch me figure out the world.
Watch me realize my gifts and talents.

We love the simple things.
We see the depth in things that many people miss.
A kiss on a cheek to someone who needs hope.
A hand on a shoulder in support.
A wiping away a tear for someone who is hurting.

We feel deeply.
We hurt because we let you down.
We want nothing else than to do what is asked.

Don’t give up on us.
We aren’t giving up on you.

Frustration can lead to anger that can lead to things we didn’t plan on doing.

No. I did’t want to blow. I didn’t want to hit the wall in frustration.
I didn’t mean to make you mad or upset about what I didn’t do or what I didn’t understand.

I’m trying.
I’m giving my all, but…but…

sometimes its like your talking a different language.
sometimes its like I can tell you see me as different.
sometimes I can feel your frustration when I’m not doing something right.
sometimes, my all doesn’t feel good enough.

Not for you.

It is for me.

It has to be.

I’m happy.

I will let go of things in five seconds or less.
I don’t remember what happened anyway…short term memory problem.

I don’t want to focus on the hurts and my disabilities.

I want to focus on the joys that this life offers.

Take a picture.

Every picture shows the world in a totally different perspective.
In a way that we never would have noticed before.

You might see kids running.

I see their playfulness.
I see the field they are frolicking through.
I see the grains in the field and the colors.
I see the smiles on their faces as they enjoy the blue skies while the butterflies are on the flowers nearby.

I see love everywhere.
I see positive.

My blowups and frustrations are but mere blips in the day.

They are not who I am and they do not define me.

The dance in my eyes defines me.
The skip in my step.
The smile on my face.
The joys that surpass anything I CAN”T do….defines me.

I don’t focus on what I CAN’T DO.
I only see opportunities and possibilities.

I get angry because people say I can’t.

I can…
Do it with me.
Not for me.

Don’t look down on me because I might need a little help.

Be patient. because if you stay long enough you might just get a piece of this joy.
You might just get to know the real me.
you might just get to see a glimpse of what is behind this thing they call FASD.

Ah…that is not Who I am.
That is just a thing I have.

A birth defect.
A mark on the brain.

So, our brains our wired differently than yours.

Look up, does your brain see what mine does?
Do you count the stars and smile when you can find the big dipper and the small one?
Does your brain see the beauty in a cityscape?
Does your brain see the shapes and figures in the architecture?
Do you stop and refresh in the sound of silence?
Do you smell a flower with your eyes closed and feel peace?
Do you get excited when you can share with another person the simple things in life?

Look a plane.
Look a flower.

I do.
I have FASD.
I’m a person.
I’m not a disability.
I have a future.
I have talents.
I have gifts.
I have hope
I have laughter
I have orneriness.
I have…
I love…
I care for…
I want…
I need….
I am…