‘If you really try hard, you can do whatever you want!’: Regina woman excels while dealing with FASD
It has taken years, but soon Midori Harth will complete her certificate in youth care work.
In January, the Regina woman plans to enrol in a two-year youth care diploma course at Saskatchewan Polytechnic. She’s considering putting those credits toward a four-year social work degree — which could be her next career step.
The educational milestones are signs of success that are particularly significant because the 28-year-old has Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).
Harth started the two-year youth care certificate program in 2010.
“I’m finally getting there so I’m happy,” she said.
During her school years, Harth overcame many challenges.
“If it wasn’t for my mom, I don’t know where I’d be right now,” she said. “My concentration was kinda everywhere. The learning was hard too. Certain things were harder. Math was really hard, but English was pretty good, science was hard, but biology was fun!”
Right now, Harth is balancing her studies with working part-time as a nanny for a Regina family.
She and her mother, Lisa Brownstone, were among those who gathered at Four Directions Community Health Centre on Friday for an FASD Awareness Walk, which ended with a barbecue at the Indian Metis Christian Fellowship.
“We’re here to support everybody else who lives with FASD and to encourage them to be proud,” Harth said. “If you really try hard, you can do whatever you want!”
Brownstone’s adult son also has FASD — so it is a subject dear to her heart.
“It feels great to be amongst people who live with and know and understand what people with FASD face every single day,” Brownstone said. “People with FASD have brains that work differently. Because of that, they learn differently, think differently and move differently. They may have problems with different parts of their body and we live in a society that has a hard time with difference.”
Brownstone is heartened by the growing body of knowledge about FASD.
“My oldest was born at a time when almost nothing was known about FASD,” she said. “He’s now 36 and the world has changed incredibly in terms of knowledge … The research work being done here in Canada is incredible and so we have a growing knowledge about how to prevent, how to diagnose, how to provide interventions across the ages.”
Despite those positive changes, she believes the common belief that everyone with FASD is violent and ends up in jail must change.
“That’s just a small part of the population,” Brownstone said.
A number of activities were held in Saskatchewan on Friday to mark FASD Awareness Day.
In Saskatoon, around 200 people enjoyed a crisp September morning walking along 19th Street and the downtown area.
Beverly Palibroda, director of community relations and outreach with the Metis Addictions Council of Saskatchewan, said the walk can spur conversations in the community.
“Substance addictions, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, any of the topics people feel uncomfortable when they talk about,” she said.
Aden Saleh, in her second year helping with the walk, carried a Metis flag.
She wants to spread the message that pregnant women shouldn’t drink. She has a friend whose mother drank when she was pregnant, “and I know how hard his life is.”
Brownstone said her daughter is strongly motivated and is able to set goals and work toward them. But she has also been fortunate that she has been able to go to school and work on a part-time basis.
“The ability of society to accommodate peoples’ needs means that they’re able to be successful and able to give back to society,” she said. “That is really important for our folks as they become adults.”
Typically, supports for people with FASD are available until they are adults, but then they are harder to find, she said.
“Midori has been very lucky,” Brownstone said. “She’s been able to get supports through the Regina Community Clinic and Aboriginal Family Services and they’ve provided supports for her. Sask Polytechnic has supported her as well. That means she’s being successful and society is being successful.”
Disclaimer: The views and opinions in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of Edmonton and Area Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Network.