As I mentally prepared myself this morning to start planning my presentation on intervention strategies for FAS, I sat down for a quiet moment and opened a favorite book. The first thing I read when I opened the book at random was a legend from northern folklore.
In the winter, while the earth is silent and sleeping under a quiet blanket of snow, deep down inside the earth among the hard rocks and damp dirt, there are gnomes working industriously to weave crystals out of the light of the moon and the stars. All winter long they labor. Then in the springtime, the gnomes offer their crystal gems to the sky, and through the rain and sun the crystals bring magnificent rainbows.
This story was unknown to me when I chose the theme for this workshop, but now I see so much meaning in the symbol of the rainbow. The Rainbow of Hope. The rainbow I offer you today is a bridge, from desperation and frustration to harmony and success. Remember the word success. We are going to redefine success. But for now, think of the rainbow.
After I read this story, I decided I wanted to make a rainbow. I remembered a crystal prism that was sitting in a little box on a shelf in my closet. That little piece of glass had been sitting there for years, waiting for me to put it to use. I retrieved my flashlight from a drawer next to my bed where I keep it for emergencies, in case of a power outage. Of course when I turned on the flashlight, the batteries were so weak I couldn't get much light to shine. So first I had to get fresh batteries to replenish my power source. Are you listening? Don't let your energy levels run too low, and always know where your source of new energy is. Whatever your source of higher power is, keep it handy and check it often.
So I took the flashlight and the prism and went into a dark room and started shining the light on the crystal, waiting for the magic rainbow to appear. Nothing happened. I could only get blurs of white circles to shine on the wall. I went to get a glass of water to shine the light through with the prism. Again, no colors, no rainbow.
Next, I went to my son Chris, the genius (he really is a genius, you know, and is smarter than I am, even as a teenager). I asked Chris to help me. He said, first listen to my song. And I listened to him play a beautiful melody he had composed and played on my antique piano that was crafted almost one hundred years ago, that was purchased for two hundred dollars many years before he was born, that I played for him while he was still in my womb. But that's another story. I listened to his song while I played with light rays on the wall. After I praised him for his talent and for using his gifts so well, he got up from the piano and began to help me figure out the mystery of the rainbow. First he took a look at the box the prism came in and found directions. Imagine that. "When all else fails, read the manual," isn't that how the saying goes? Well the directions said we would need a narrow slit of light to make the rainbow, but for ten minutes we tried to simulate a ray of sunlight, even using real sunlight, and I still couldn't see a rainbow. My son gave up trying, but I kept messing with the flashlight and the prism, using it this way, and that way, never giving up on the hope that I could make it work.
More than once I have been called tenacious. I never give up. I keep trying when faced with a problem or a challenge until I find some answers.
Well, finally, after many attempts, I saw colors reflected on the wall, and I was so excited. I ran to show Chris and he was impressed that I had figured it out. I experimented and found I could make the colors spread out, curve up or down, become more intense or diffused. It was fun, and I felt a great sense of accomplishment. Like the feeling I get when I figure out a solution to a problem with my kids, like how to help my daughter deal with a difficult staff, or how to get Johnny to stop drooling all over his clothes and spitting on people when he talks. I feel good when I find answers to these kinds of problems, and everyone knows there are hundreds of problems that challenge those of us who care for kids with FAS/E.
Sometimes life with FAS is like winter. The world is a cold and cruel place for our children. We can feel isolated in our struggles that feel like winter storms that can immobilize us, leaving us frozen with helplessness and hopelessness. Well, there is hope, more now than ever. There are rainbows to be enjoyed and springtime will come.
Today I will give you crystals. All the little bits of information I give you, the books, the handouts, the examples I share, you will be able to use like crystals and you will build your own rainbows. But you will have to take these crystals, and not bury them in a file or lose them under a stack of papers, or throw them away. Look into them, and see all the colors, all the possibilities for the child with FAS that you have been given to help. And if these papers end up on a shelf in a closet, remember where they are so you can get them out and use them.
Do you know why I didn't need the water to make the rainbow? Because the prism is the same as the droplets of water. To make a real rainbow, you only need the natural prism-droplets in the air. The crystals you will use in helping the child with FAS/E are all around you, like humidity. When life is raining on you, remember that each drop of moisture is an opportunity to make a rainbow, an idea waiting to be turned into a solution. And the crystals are not just these papers and suggestions that I share with you today. You will find your own crystals, things others share with you, things that are already in your head, that you can use. Just tap into that creativity, look around for what you can use, be open to ideas that might seem odd or strange, and be tenacious, don't give up. There are lots of answers, lots of suggestions and ideas. I'll show you my crystals that are a result of many winters of mining all the information on FAS that I have been able to get my hands on in the past 20 years, all the experiences with John and others, all the experiments I have tried. I will show you crystals that have been given to me by other parents and professionals. I will give you paper directions that have been shared with me by scientists who are like gnomes who have been mining their own fields in their professions of neurology and psychology. Their scientific studies are like the directions in the box. The directions you wish came with your child. Well there are manuals, but they take time to read and might be hard to understand at times, and since some directions work on some kids and not on others, you will have to try this idea or that idea, in different ways, to find what works for that child. And the flashlight is like the understanding and knowledge and wisdom that you collect and direct outward. The wall is like the professionals you are likely to encounter - hard and immovable, but if you shine the light just right and use the crystals just right, they will see what you see, hopefully, at least some of them will. If they have an open and caring attitude, then it doesn't matter if they don't know much about FAS, the can learn if they are willing to listen to you, or if they are willing to accept the crystals you share with them. But those with an attitude of judgment or denial will not be able to learn what you can teach them. Some people are blind with denial, and it will be their loss if they don't see your rainbows. Just try to keep your kids as far away as possible from the people who can't see the light, or who don't want to see the light. And seek out the ones who are good reflectors and you will find that bouncing light of understanding off of them will get you some nice results.
And don't work alone. You don't have to be the Lone Ranger anymore. Ask others you trust for their ideas and suggestions. Maybe they won't have the answer, but if they help and work with you, at least it's more fun and less of a struggle.
Now let's turn on the lights, and go make rainbow bridges for our kids to cross over the troubled rivers of the world they have to live in, so they can reach their place of success tomorrow, beyond the storm, in a place of comfort where they not only can just survive, but thrive and grow.
Don't forget the batteries.
Teresa Kellerman is the coordinator of the FAS Community Resource Center in Tucson, Arizona, and is the adoptive mother of John, age 24, who has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. John and lives at home with his mother and his brother Chris. He works in a supervised job situation and is active in raising awareness about alcohol related disabilities.
Stay tuned for more information on the Rainbow of Hope intervention program. Pages will be posted as they are written.
SCREAMS Model of Intervention Strategies (abbreviated version)
SCREAMS - The Sweet Sound of Success
Intervention Strategies for Infants
Deb Evensen's 8 Magic Keys
Strategies for Parents and Teachers (NOFAS)
Dr. Calvin Sumner's Strategies for FAS/ADHD
Visit the FAS Community Resource Center here: http://www.come-over.to/FASCRC