ADULTING WITH FASD
I was listening to a Podcast a ways back, and this sentence caught my ears: Meet the child where they are at. I immediately voice recorded that statement into my phone, for later use in my blog. Well, here I am. Here we are. This blog is for parents, educators, doctors, and all those who interact in some capacity with a person with an FASD. So many times in society, I read stories about how someone's child is not doing well in class. They are not following directions, they don't finish their work on time, and their ability to organize the inside of their desk is minimal at best. This child goes home feeling defeated. This child's parents and or guardians receive an email from the teacher, explaining how the teacher is worried about the child moving to the next grade, and how they are slowing down the rest of the class because they have not finished their work yet. Come on, I know you all are nodding your head because you have read an article explaining this issue, or this is your and your child's life.
In my experience, no child learns the exact same way. No child is an expert at organization. I remember being the second grader who was still writing an outline for my book report and the others in my class were well onto their rough draft of their report. I remember feeling rushed, hot tears filling my eyes as I looked down at my eraser stained paper, There were still lots of blanks to be filled in on that outline. I also remember my teacher. I remember her going around the room, looking at our progress. When she came to me, she saw the eraser stains, and she saw the almost non existent eraser. She stood next to me, and looked over my outline. She asked me what my report was about. Let's say it was about Sharks. She wrote Sharks on the top of the outline. Then it was time to fill in Roman Numeral I. My teacher explained the job of the Roman Numeral I was a main idea about sharks. She then wrote down, "HABITAT." She continued to fill out the first part of that outline, with MY TOPIC, not with the sample she had rushed through with the class earlier on the chalkboard. I remember my seat was on the side of the chalkboard though, and I couldn't see it. I was not one who had the confidence at 8 years old to go up in front of the board and review it on my own. Not to mention I would begin to forget what the outline looked like as I was walking back to my seat. When my teacher had finished with the first Roman Numeral and its subheadings, she asked if I could try Roman Numeral II on my own. I think I told her yes. I felt sheepish asking for help, but this teacher MET ME WHERE I WAS AT. Most of the other kids in my class took two looks at the outline on the board, which was about some generic topic, and they were able to transfer the teacher's outline to their own topic. FASD brains struggle transferring directions from one task to another task. To this day I hate outlines, but I remember my teacher, who took time to meet me where I was at. I don't remember how I felt when I went home that day, but I bet you I felt successful. I probably started the rough draft of my report at home, and that was ok. I remember my teacher would give those of us that needed it extra time to finish assignments, and the other children would be able to read quietly. Again, she met me where I was at.
Meeting Them Where They Are At is so important to cultivate a sense of success and confidence in children and adults. About seven years ago, I worked at an insurance company. I was a grown ass adult. I was 34 years old, I had 2 children and a husband, a house, and a full time job. A job I rocked. I had stellar reviews for 9 years in a row. Then it happened. SHE happened. A new supervisor who DID NOT MEET ME WHERE I WAS AT. I understand when you become an adult and enter the real world with a job where others depend on you, including coworkers, supervisors and customers, there are expectations you should strive to meet. I get that. Yet, as an adult with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, some of the expectations were very difficult. One of my job functions was to write out in concise terms how much money I needed to pay a medical claim and why. I can be wordy. I can write a paragraph explaining a point that can be summed up in a sentence. The struggle is real. The supervisor I had though would deny my wordy requests, and the first words were always, "Rebecca, what the? I don't understand your point." My point was in my request, just embedded. Deeply. So I would go back to my desk, and rewrite the request. I would take out extra words, add in others, and resend. Again, she would call me over to her desk. "I don't understand why you can't be concise." OK, maybe you can help me be concise? I knew she was a busy person, and unfortunately once you are an adult many times your superiors and even your peers assume you should be able to write concise reports. Only I couldn't. I know when you are an adult having a supervisor meet you where you are at is asking ALOT, because dammit, you are an ADULT NOW! There are supervisors out there though that will help you. She was not one of them. I became my own advocate in that situation. I went online and searched for tutorials on writing concisely. I looked up key words to use. I even asked my peers. Nothing was good enough for my supervisor. My confidence was shattered after that supervisor. I ended up leaving that company after about 10 years.
I have been at my current job for 5 years. My first supervisor I had, him and I did not start off strong. We butted heads. He would return my authority requests for more money time and time again. I would see him take his glasses off and rub his eyes. I would see him run his fingers through his hair. Many times I would be in tears, having to redo the same task for the fifth time. I was struggling to keep up with the work, and to notate my files to his liking. I was struggling to organize my desktop in a way that was efficient for working. I had 5 screens open at once on any given day which was normal, but how they were organized was not efficient. I had to click on multiple screens to get to the one I used the most. My supervisor actually made note of this. He had my peers help me organize my desk top. It helped so much. He got someone to help me be successful. Then, one day, him and I had a meeting. It was a normal meeting he had with each of his employees once every other week. In this meeting on this particular day, he was asking what strategies I had to make my work more efficient. I started crying. I decided in that moment to come clean. I told him about my FASD. I didn't want to reveal it, because I had told my old boss and she ended up using it against me. I think she felt I would never succeed because I had a disability. My new supervisor though? He looked at me, and he goes, "That sucks. I am sorry." I told him it is why I take longer to get things than others. It is why I am a visual learner, but I need to see things over and over again before it clicks. I thought I would walk out of that meeting and start packing up my desk. Instead, my supervisor emailed me a list of his day, how he breaks up different tasks throughout the day to be efficient. He took the time to understand, and Met Me Where I Was At. I am 5 years at this company now, and soaring through!
I know it can be time intensive to Meet Someone Where They Are At, but it can, and usually does lead to success by that person in whatever endeavor they are pursuing. That success is thanks to you. So please, take time to understand.
I am an adult living with aFetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. As an adult with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, I am constantly searching for sites that share in my quirkiness, and answer my questions i have about adults living on the spectrum. Take a peek at my blogs! They describe daily quirks, and ideas for parents, educators, children and adults living with FASDs.