Living With FAS
There were several requests for copies of the talk that John Kellerman gave, so he let us post it here. Feel free to share it with others.
Hello! My name is John Kellerman. I live in Tucson, Arizona, and work at Desert Survivors, a nursery that specializes in plants that are native to Arizona. I live with my Mom, Teresa, and my dog, Winnie. I am 24 years old, and I have... Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
This means that my birth mother drank alcohol when she was pregnant with me, and the alcohol messed up the way I developed. Because of alcohol, I was born very small and am still short. I was born with a hole in my heart and I needed open heart surgery. My eyes were crossed and I needed surgery for that too. But the worst damage was what happened to my brain. I am not as smart as other people my age. I like people, but I don't have many friends, because I don't know how to keep a relationship. I like to be independent, but I have to be carefully watched by my Mom, or my brother, or my supervisor at work, because I can't control my behavior all the time. Because of the alcohol damage to the front of my brain, I don't have good control of my impulses and I have poor judgment when it comes to making decisions, and making bad decisions gets me into a lot of trouble. Because of damage to the center of my brain, I can't plan ahead or solve problems very well, and I have a hard time remembering things like rules and consequences. I also have trouble with concepts like money and time.
All this makes life very difficult for me. I understand all about Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and I understand why my birth mother drank. I know she didn't mean to hurt me with her drinking. I understand why I have problems with memory, emotions, behavior, impulses, and learning from consequences.
What I would like is for YOU to understand all this as well. My biggest problem is not my brain not working right. My biggest problem is people who don't understand, people who think my problems are from not being disciplined enough or from poor parenting. My mom really has tried to teach me manners, what's right and wrong, but it just doesn't click all the time. I either can't remember the social rules (like don't stand too close, or ask first for a hug) or else I can't stop the impulse to do what I want to do.
I get really frustrated with myself sometimes, and I feel bad when I make people uncomfortable or angry. I try hard and I want to make people happy, but my having FAS gets in the way of all that.
What makes FAS so hard to understand is that I have really good skills in some areas, like talking to people and understanding big words. I have learned how to "act" like an adult, but tests show that emotionally I am just a 6-year-old child inside. I have lots of knowledge, but I don't have enough common sense to use that information well. I have the body of a man but the impulse control of a child. This makes the world a very dangerous place for me. People can easily take advantage of me without my realiazing it, and I can be led in the wrong direction by someone promising me their friendship or affection.
Do me a favor? Please ask every young woman you know to not drink alcohol during pregnancy. And please be forgiving if I am inappropriate. Remind me of what is right and wrong and I will try to remember. Show me healthy behavior and I will follow.
John's Talk in Word Doc format (22K)
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