Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: Living with the most harmful, yet preventable prenatal disease

Kate Murphy of Times-Mirror writes about 16 years old Anzhella Glasgow who is living with FASD.  The Glasgow’s adopted Anzellah and her older brother Robert from Russia.  FASD is a very harmful disability yet is can be prevented by not drinking while pregnant.  Here is the rest of the article.

Anzhella Glasgow, 16, shows her mom some love before the heading off to the first day of 10th grade at Freedom High School. Courtesy Photo/Lisa Glasgow

On June 23, 2000, Lisa Glasgow and her husband adopted 12-month-old Anzhella and her older brother Robert from Russia. When Glasgow met her daughter for the first time, she knew she wasn’t healthy, but she wasn’t going to walk away from the adoption. She didn’t know it at the time, but Anzhella was a victim of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

“When you get the diagnosis or realize your child has a disability, you aren’t ever emotionally or financially prepared,” Glasgow said. “When I was asked if I wanted to adopt her I felt it was meant to be, that I would become the parent that she needs.”

Anzhella was very small for her age and developmentally delayed. She started seeing a speech therapist and an occupational therapist, then at age 2 went into the early childhood special education program in Loudoun County Public Schools, while doing private therapy as well.

The school’s services provide early intervention and access to the curriculum. There’s no expectation of healing, only to help her grow and find success in the classroom and beyond.

In Anzhella’s early years, the Glasgow’s thought her development was just delayed, but at 5-years-old the gap still hadn’t closed. Dr. Ronald Federici, a clinical neuropsychologist in Manassas, diagnosed Anzhella with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

Acknowledging the disability was tough and the grieving process was hard for the Glasgows because all of their expectations for Anzhella’s future changed.

“You have to come up with new expectations and dreams,” Lisa Glasgow said. “Once you do that you realize there is hope and joy, it’s just different than what you had originally dreamed of for your child.”

Anzhella faces daily struggles physically and cognitively. She will be dependent for the rest of her life

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) affect millions of people in the United States. Each year more than 40,000 babies are born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and other alcohol-related birth defects. It is the leading known cause of mental retardation and it is 100 percent preventable.

The only cause is prenatal exposure to alcohol, which can happen at any time during a pregnancy, even before the mother knows. Any woman of childbearing age is at risk of having a child with an FASD if she drinks alcohol.

According to the Center for Disease Control, there is no safe amount of alcohol a woman can drink during pregnancy or when she might get pregnant. The only way to prevent FASDs is to not drink alcohol. All types of alcohol are equally harmful. A glass of wine is potentially just as harmful as six tequila shots. Alcohol can cause problems for a developing baby throughout pregnancy, but it is never too late to stop drinking. The sooner a woman stops drinking the safer it will be for her and her baby.

Alcohol causes more damage to a baby than any other drug and causes serious physical, mental, behavioral and/or learning disabilities with lifelong implications.

People with an FASD are vulnerable to a range of difficulties, such as failure in school, substance abuse, mental illness and involvement in the criminal justice system.

The cost to the nation of FAS alone may be up to $6 billion each year in support services.

For one individual with FAS, the lifetime cost is at least $2 million. People with severe problems, such as profound intellectual disability, have much higher costs.

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