In 2016 I wrote a blog post called 12 Wishes for FASD and My Daughter. It was a combination of things I wanted in terms of FASD awareness and things I wanted for my daughter. I did update it in 2017 – 12 Wishes A Year Later – but have not been back to look at it through the lens of another 3 years.
My first wish for her was to find a friend. Individuals with FASD may struggle with social skills. Not only because of the difference between their chronological and developmental age (for example, an 18-year-old may have skills at varying levels), but also the nuances of understanding body language and literal language. Many are very sociable and outgoing, so have no problem finding friends. The issue is sustaining long term friendships.
Over the years I tried to get her involved in different activities so she could be exposed to different peer groups as we live in a small town so she didn’t have much opportunity to expand her circle. I really believe if she would have had a Child and Youth Worker assigned to her in elementary school so many incidents that ended in frustration and fights and severed friendships would have been avoided as the best time to teach social skills is in the moment – to help process. Not afterwards at a group. She did attend social skills groups, but as with many with FASD, they can access and understand in the moment – it is just difficult to retrieve it another day in a different situation.
For those looking for ideas, check out FASD and Social Skills from Day 60 of the 99 Days to 9/9 FASDay. As with the above strategies, and those outlined in the above-noted post, we role-played, created and reviewed social stories. We attended a local FASD group where other children with FASD were included in supervised activities, however, most were younger than her and she used to say the noise and activity level was too much. In the end, despite my best efforts, friendships remained difficult for the maiden.
Since the original post, she has maintained a friendship with someone she knew in elementary school. They reconnected in high school. She has not had a lot of luck when it comes to friends – many she developed over the years ended because they moved away. Tragically a really good friend she met in high school died a few years ago. Her friendships now are mostly online with people she has met through playing online games.
So do I still have this wish? I have to be careful here not to include my judgment or values on this. I want to say yes because I don’t see her having a close in-person friend. But it isn’t up to me to determine what friendships mean for her. If she is happy with the way things are right now for her then I am happy for her. I will support her the best way I know in whatever she chooses.
It is interesting that while I wish she would have had friendships growing up, and been invited to birthday parties when younger … I would have been very worried about her going to parties as a teenager. Just because of how vulnerable our children can be. Funny how I wanted one but not the other.
So in 2020, my wish is updated to reflect that I wish she will always have a least one good friend in her life.
P.S. As I finish this update, she is happily chatting away with a friend via Skype.