Sellene McBride is like any 8-year-old girl – full of energy and always wanting to play. In particular, Sellene loves to climb and is fearless in doing so.
“It’s fun and I’m making new friends,” she said while playing at Riverside Park.
But what you can’t notice on the surface is Sellene’s FASD, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, which affects her life in so many ways.
“Sellene requires a significant amount of support,” said Sellene’s adopted mother Bonnie McBride, who’s adopted three other children, including Sellene’s two biological brothers. “Her FASD has come with six other diagnoses in total, which is very common. Sellene has ADHD and she has difficulty regulating her environment, she has sensory disregulation, she has epilepsy, all of those types of things.”
Bonnie’s with Sellene every step of her journey, which is not easy and may only get more challenging. She adopted Sellene officially at 10 months old, but was there during her birth and never looked back.
“We started fostering her, very quickly fell deeply in love with her,” said Bonnie. “When it came time to make a decision about what the long-term plan was going to for Sellene with her birth family, we couldn’t imagine anybody else doing this for her.”
Sellene is fully aware of her FASD, knowing her biological mother drank during her pregnancy. It has a great impact on her daily living.
“It’s hard to sleep and hard to hear because our brain is thinking of other stuff, which is ignoring what people are saying,” noted Sellene, trying to explain her symptoms.
Now in Grade 4, she’s home-schooled, pulled out of public school midway through Grade 3 last year. Bonnie said there were distractions that hampered her ability to learn.
Home-schooling has helped Sellene thrived with a calmer, less sensory environment. What makes sellene’s situation more challenging for Bonnie, though, is the family doesn’t receive support from the government.
“There is a lot of programming that’s both provincially-funded and by non-profits that we can’t access,” said Bonnie, who added that Sellene is not including because she’s not diagnosed with autism or another such disability. “So we feel as an FASD family that we’ve really been left behind and it’s up to us to give her as many opportunities as we can.”
Bonnie, which runs the SPCA Thrift Store on Victoria and the non-profit Four Paws Food Bank, hasn’t been able to work full-time since sellene came into their care, and she doesn’t envision that changing.
She’s urging the government to step forward and help people and families struggling with FASD.
“Now that we know there’s so much of this occurring, I think it’s time for the government to really step up,” she said. “For the most part we’ve focused on prevention, which is great and we need to do that. But now we need to recognize that these kids are growing up and are super high-risk of repeating this process, going to jail and living on the street and having poor health outcomes.”