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 mother, Teresa, my brother, Chris, and my dog, Winnie. This is a picture of me when I was five and here is a picture of me today. I am 21 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 affected my development. It stunted my growth physically, but it also affected my mental and emotional development. I am not as smart and not as tall as other people my age. I like people, but I donít have many friends, because I donít know how to maintain a relationship. I like to be independent, but I have to be carefully watched by my mom, my brother, or my supervisor, because I cannot control my behavior all the time. Because of the alcohol damage to my brain (especially the frontal lobes), I donít have good control of my impulses and I have poor judgment when it comes to making life decisions. Because of damage to the center of my brain (the corpus callosum), I have trouble organizing information and have trouble remembering things like rules and consequences. I also have trouble with concepts of money and time.

You see, all this makes life very difficult for me. I understand all about Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) and I understand why my birth mother drank. 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 neurological dysfunction. It is being misunderstood by people who think my problems are due to lack of discipline or poor parenting. My mom really has tried to teach me proper social behaviors, but it just doesnít click all the time. I either canít remember the social rules (like donít stand too close, or ask first for a hug) or else I canít control the impulse to act.

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 please people, but my disability gets in the way of all that.

What makes my disability so hard to understand is that I have really good skills in certain areas, like verbal expression and vocabulary. I have learned how to ďactĒ like an adult, but tests show that emotionally I am just a 6-year-old child inside. I have lots of knowledge, but I lack the common sense to use that knowledge wisely. I have the physical development of a man but the impulse control of a child. This makes the world a very dangerous place for me. I can easily be taken advantage of by others and can be led astray by just the promise of friendship or affection.

Do me a favor? Please ask every young woman you know to refrain from drinking 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. Thanks... John

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For more information, contact the FAS Community Resource Center 520 - 296 - 9172