FASD: Family finally gets answers in fetal alcohol spectrum disorder diagnosis
Queensland grandmother Sharon Wallace said she needs locks on her bedroom door. That’s because her seven-year-old grandson Xavier can be incredibly loving one minute, but destructive the next.
“Xavier loves to have something that smells like me, plays with my ears. And then the other side of Xavier is that he’ll put huge holes in the walls at home, he’ll hurt his brothers and sisters or me,” Ms Wallace said.
“He gets in such high anxiety states of aggression and he won’t calm down for ages. He could be fine right now and ten minutes later he’s having a big rage and there’s no calming him down.”
Ms Wallace has to hide knives and hammers from Xavier, because of the damage he can cause at home.
It has gotten worse since he wasn’t allowed back to school.
“He says it’s payback, but usually it’s when he’s having his meltdown,” Ms Wallace said.
“I think he regrets it afterwards but at the time it’s his way of getting his anger out.
“It can be very confronting.”
Ms Wallace said the episodes happen up to three times a day.
She has been looking after Xavier and his siblings since they were taken away from their mother because of problems with alcohol.
That was one of the reasons why last year she decided to take Xavier to see doctors at the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Clinic on the Gold Coast.
She was looking for answers to his wild and uncontrollable behaviour.
“Nothing else we tried has worked,” Ms Wallace said.
“A lot of people look at me and say it’s the discipline, you’re not giving him enough discipline. And you try and it doesn’t work. And in the end you think it must be me, what am I doing wrong?”
Australia officially recognises FASD
FASD is an impairment to the brain caused by fetal exposure to alcohol during pregnancy.
There are varying degrees of severity, but it mainly manifests as behavioural problems and learning difficulties.
“Often the diagnosis of FASD shows us that it’s not that the child won’t behave, or that it’s wilful disobedience. It’s that they can’t, they don’t have the capacity to either learn or behave in a manner that is expected of them,” said Doug Shelton, the clinical director of Community Child Health in the Gold Coast.
In 2016 Australia published for the first time its own set of diagnostic guidelines for FASD, based on the Canadian model.
Doctor Shelton said the diagnosis involves a child psychologist, speech pathologist and paediatrician taking the child through a complex series of tests that can last up to two days.
“There are a number of different brain domains that we look at in children that potentially have FASD. That would include their intelligence, their language skills, their memory, their attention control, something called their affect, which is related to their mood, ” Dr Shelton explained.
“We look at their social skills and we look at something called the executive function, which is their ability to plan ahead and organise their thoughts.”
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.