Terry Caliendo

ON October 1, 2020

A Typical Parenting Moment from the Parent of a Child with FASD


I've written in other articles on this blog about how I am a parent of an adopted child with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). Our son with FASD is now 7 years old. And we also now have a 15-month-old son that is, thus far, developmentally on track.

When our child with FASD was 15 months old, he struggled in a lot of ways.

I don't have a great memory and I wish I had documented with better detail our daily struggles with having a young boy with FASD. At the time we were struggling just to learn how to help him and ourselves; any free time was put into our own training and education about his issues.

Today I was watching our 15 month-old, developmentally-on-track son play with a toy and some memories came flooding back.

I watched our young boy play with a toy that is beyond his capabilities. He didn't get mad that it didn't work. He can put the record where it goes and click the play button over, but hasn't grasped the concept of moving the player handle over the toy record to get the music to play.

Watching my developmentally on track son play as a parent of a child with FASD

He didn't get mad. He just played with the toy. And he played with the toy for at least 10 minutes, if not longer. No anger. Just put the record on, took it off, flipped the switch, and tried again. I can tell he knows what he is doing isn't quite right but he didn't get upset.

As I watched in awe of him playing at peace, I realized how difficult our first experience with a 15-month-old was due to his FASD.

Our son with FASD would rarely ever play alone like that. And if a toy was even mildly frustrating, he would get so extremely upset with it that he would ultimately end up breaking the toy or hurting himself from his anger.

And once the anger set in, it would often escalate into a "rage" tantrum. He couldn't 'self soothe', nor could we as parents calm him down.

If you tried to hold him to calm him down, he would attack and try to hurt you. If you left him to stew in his own anger he would ultimately end up hurting himself.

It was a very difficult position to be in as a parent. And it was awful to have to watch a little boy that you love so deeply struggle so much.

Once he got to the point of "rage", the day was pretty much over. He would struggle for the rest of the day and the slightest frustration would set off another rage tantrum.

The days with rage tantrums in the morning were the worst, because you had to get through the rest of the day and you knew there would be more rages to come. We felt lucky on the days when it was towards the end of the day where we could put him to bed after the rage burned out and left him tired enough to go to sleep.

Heavy tantrums were multiple times a day and rage tantrum days were multiple times per week.

So to see a young boy play with a toy beyond his capabilities and not escalate from frustration to the point of hurting himself or me is new for me. Its fun to watch and I wanted to document it.

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