Parents of 10 Give ‘Great Life’ to 6 Adopted with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders

By Alexandra Rockey Fleming

dougherty family


Everyone has seen children’s tantrums, but when first-time parents Alicia and Josh Dougherty welcomed 4-year-old foster child Alex into their home, they soon learned that his were titanic by any standards.

“It could be over anything as minimal as, ‘Get your shoes on,’ or, ‘No, you can’t have five donuts,'” Alicia, 39, tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue.

By the time Alex had been with the family for nearly a year and legally adopted, his behavior had escalated to physical aggression.

“Once he rolled up a giant area rug and threw it down the stairs at me,” says Alicia. “The strength when they tantrum is unbelievable.”

The Doughertys, of Pittsford, New York, were unaware that Alex is one of millions of American children who suffer from Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD), a group of conditions that can occur in a person whose mother consumed alcohol during pregnancy. FASD can cause a lineup of physical and learning disabilities as well as behavior problems.

“It was the most heartbreaking, soul-ripping, life-altering experience,” says Josh, 41, “but we never considered giving up.”

Instead, the couple immersed themselves in helping their new son, and with the right blend of therapy, diet, medication and careful parenting, “Alex turned that corner,” says Alicia.

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The opinions expressed in this post are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Edmonton and area Fetal Alcohol Network Society, its stakeholders, or funders.

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