Monday, July 12, 2010

A Long Road Ahead

In the fall of 1968 (that makes me really old) I entered the second grade in a very small K-12 school. Our class had 35 students and we were the very very large class, as most of them had 18=25 students. At any rate we were a force to be reckoned with with lots of boy power as the boys out numbered girls 3 to 1. Our class gained a new kid when class began that fall as Jimmy, a shrimp of a kid, with strawberry blond hair, and blue eyes joined us. His appearance was not anything special since almost everyone was of Scandinavian decent blond hair and blue eyes dominated. What made Jimmy different was the fact that he and his older brother Joe had been adopted that summer by a couple whose biological child had been killed in a tragic accident three years earlier.

Jimmy was the kid who chewed his pencils to bits, could not sit still at all, and rarely finished his work. We sat with our desks in groups of three or four and Jimmy always sat with the two quietest, calmest kids in the class.

In the fourth grade, while the teacher left the room to take a phone call some of the boys told Jimmy to jump out the window because they wanted to see if she would notice his absence. (like how could she not notice the hyper kid was gone)? She did notice and Jimmy got in trouble.

We started band in fifth grade and Jimmy played the trumpet. He was an excellent trumpet player. Jimmy would often come to school late, but sure enough he would get there in time for band.

In seventh grade we had an art teacher,a young blonde chick, fresh out of college and the boys were bent on making her life a nightmare. They talked Jimmy into hiding her keys in the bottom of a fifty gallon barrel full of clay. She did not find those keys for four days.

When we were Freshmen Jimmy got talked into bringing a skunk to school and turning it loose in the building. We all got a four day vacation because of the stink. Jimmy got suspended from school for two weeks. He didn`t mind being out of school at all, but his parents were at a loss as to what to do with him.

Jimmy and I ended up being lab partners for chemistry when we were juniors. It was a very long semester. Jimmy was pretty good at helping with the experiments as long as we worked slowly. He was clueless when it came to writing the mathematical equations and getting the results of things down on paper.

Jimmy graduated with the rest of us. I think the school pretty much just moved him along since no one knew quite what to do with him. He was bright enough in many ways, but in others he just could not figure things out. He was a really sweet kid who did not understand math, did not like school other then band, and got talked into doing every stupid thing possible. His parents did the best they could with the knowledge they had at the time. As an adult Jimmy was in and out of jail many times before he got his act together. About ten years ago he got a job in a factory where he still works. He has a wife and a teenage son. Jimmy`s mom wrote an article for a small town newspaper a short time ago, telling Jimmy`s story and how Fetal Alcohol Syndrome has affected his life.

I am the adoptive mom of kids like Jimmy who are greatly affected by FASD. I am grateful that my kids have a diagnosis so that we can work on getting them services that will hopefully make life different for them. I know that they will still have issues. There are many people in the world who still do not understand what FASD is all about so as the parent of these kids I find myself having to educate along the way. I find that advocating for them is much more difficult then advocating for other disabilities. There is still a long road ahead,because like Jimmy`s parents we still do not have all the answers, we do know a great deal more then they did. Maybe some day because we as parents have done everything we can do to give our kids what they deserve, with the knowledge we now have someone else will not have to fight these battles in the future. Preventing FASD is the ultimate goal, but as long as there are people living with it we need to keep advocating, learning, and moving forward toward a brighter future for them. All of the Jimmy`s of the world are worth saving even though it is very hard work.

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