Makeshift memorials are reminders that we must put an end to drunken driving once and for all. How tired are we, and weary of riding, driving or walking past flowers and wreaths, hung on poles and laid by roadsides. They might be considered pretty, if not serving as reminders of young lives lost to DUI (driving under the influence) accidents and vehicular homicides? These memorials stand as a warning to further deter these senseless deaths and injuries.
But the shrines don't seem to help. Drunken driving and drug related deaths continue to rise statistically in direct proportion to the grief of those who have lost loved ones. I, for one, am tired of this.
I had often thanked God that the Vietnam War spared my husband, my sons and brothers. Yet fifteen years later, a Vietnam veteran, messed up by drugs and alcohol, took my daughter’s life in an area I had hoped was a safe haven to raise children. Sadly, there are no safe places. My nightmare began on a lovely country road in rural Pennsylvania and 26 years later the scars are not, nor ever will be fully healed.
Noelle was one of the true innocent victims of drunken driving events. She did nothing wrong, loved life and lived it to the fullest. In a split second, her neck was snapped and spinal cord severed by the drunk driver, who swerved into her with his rear-view mirror, and flipped her twenty feet over the back of his truck. When I ran to her she was face down, bluish and not breathing. The paramedics managed to revive her—and that began a ten day vigil—a horror for Noelle, who had a perfect mind, eyes that could barely see and perfect hearing. But nothing else. She held on to whatever life she had, out of love for us, until I gave her permission to go Home, if she chose. Within two days, she was gone. It was the hardest think I ever had to do, but I felt that God wanted me to let her go.
My family, including six children, now five, fell apart and suffered alone, each in our own way. I wrote as a catharsis to my intense grief. These stories culminated in the completion of a memoir of her life. Writing it brought my daughter back to life, full of laughter and comical antics, but when I finished it, I lost her all over again — because there seems to be no closure with the death of the child.
However, something wonderful happened after the release of my book . . . “And the Whippoorwill Sang." At long last and well overdue, Staten Island, New York where I now live, organized a MADD (Mothers against Drunk Drivers) group. I knew then what needed to be done for my family and myself. We joined immediately.
The goal of MADD is to make the general public aware of how to address the problem of keeping our families safe. MADD educators stress that our youth have choices to make in their young lives — choices only they can make. They seek to remind youth that they will be held accountable for their own actions, as well as being affected by those of their friends.
The MADD organization is also available to console those who've suffered losses, leading them through fellowship, to the other side of grief. I wish this had been available to my own family years ago. It is now, and I intend to take full advantage of everything this wonderful group of volunteers is willing to offer. As I give thanks for the support MADD has to offer, I remember the works of the writer, John Donne, who certainly spoke the truth when he wrote, “No man is an island, entire of itself; each man is a piece of the continent . . . Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind . . . .”
Micki began writing after a personal tragedy, as a catharsis for my grief. This lead to a first time out publication in Victimology: An International Magazine and a 25 year career in Journalism. I've freelanced and been staff writer for one major newspaper and written for two more. I have published short fiction and non-fiction, as well as slice of life stories in colleges and other magazines and in e-zine editions. My first book was published in 2008; a funny family memoir of love, loss and survival, called, . . .AND THE WHIPPOORWILL SANG which won the Nesta CBC silver award for writing that makes a change in the world. Two of my short horror stories have been published in an anthology called "Speed of Dark." I am presently working on a collection of short fiction, slice of life stories and essays, in a book called, Heartbeat. . .slices of life.
Woman and Cat Corner Lizard
by Melanie McCann
A much subdued lizard was captured today after a days-long standoff.
"He was cold and hungry," explained Melanie McCann in whose closet the lizard "Lee" had been hiding out.
According to a witness at the scene, Lizard entered the house 7 days ago. Lady Jane Grey, McCann's feline roommate, chased Lee Lizard into the closet where he remained holed up and inaccessible for most of the week.
McCann assumed that Lee had escaped the residence, but renewed interest by Jane Grey alerted her to Lizard's continued presence. McCann and Jane Grey mounted a full-scale offensive, removing all contents from the closet and cornering Lee behind a roll of paper. McCann took Lee into custody in a washcloth while Jane Grey provided backup.
"Yow!" commented Jane Grey.
Lee Lizard is currently recuperating outdoors on a warm washcloth near a party cup with a bit of water. McCann hopes that he will recover, but when questioned, Jane Grey licked her lips.
Author Melanie McCann is Delinda McCann's daughter and along with her sister Melissa is another award winning McCann author. Melanie currently lives in downtown Pasadena and is a student at Fuller School of Theology.
Years ago during a lengthy psychoanalysis, I said that I wanted my obituary in the New York Times.
“Why,” Aaron, my analyst, asked, “are you going to read it?”
At that moment I realized it was really difficult to let loose with a good belly laugh when lying flat on my back. It took a little longer for the more important point to seep in: in the long run I’ll be dead and none of “it” will matter.
Over the years I’ve run into a lot of people for whom everything seems to matter. Some of them are people who think that conversation is a competitive sport; they go at you and at you until you back away and then they think they’ve made a point. There are “problem solvers,” people who are ready to rush in to every situation; after all aren’t they supermen (women)? Then we have the empaths, those loving people who can barely wait for you to finish saying something so they can wail, “I know just what you feel (mean).” Goodness, I didn’t know that getting birdshit on my recently washed car was that tragic.
I’m sure you’ve met some of these people, and I’m sure you can add a few to my list.
Anyway, what does matter? When you remember that your life will end, what is important? Now, don’t get me wrong; I am not advocating life as a beach bum; nor am I suggesting that alcoholism or drug addiction are okay. Yes, your kids matter, and you should raise them as well as you can. And that person you love deserves your efforts. Sure your work is worth doing right, and your other passions are worthy as well. But in the end, when you are facing death, what will matter then?
I’ve wrestled with that question for years. I think I have two answers:
The first has to do with my writing. I like stories that are organic, that come together to form a believable world. I want the story I write by living to make that same aesthetic sense.
The second has to do with a notion of going home, of having a sense that the journey is over.
This is not about Heaven, or according to some of my detractors my ending up in Hell. I have no thoughts about or desire for an afterlife. It’s been hard enough living this life; I don’t want another. But if there is reincarnation, I have my request in to come back as a giant anteater. (Don’t ask. It makes as much sense as having been a Native American or a lion, or a member of royalty in a previous existence—that is to say no sense at all.)
No, the peace of going home is for me being able to return to a state that I have never actually known.
Growing up in Maine I loved the pine groves with their soft duff underfoot and unique smell—part sweet, part earth, and part freshness. I wanted so to stretch out and stare up at the partially obscured sky with its soft clouds, to experience that vegetation-filtered light, the light the Japanese call komorebi. That was what I wanted, but I never achieved it. I was too driven; too sure that what I was “supposed to do” was crucial. As soon as I’d lie down, I’d feel responsibility itching at me. “Get up! Get back to work!”
Yes, that is important, knowing that I have achieved that going home, that ability to lie down on a summer’s day in Maine, to lie down, watch the drifting clouds, smell the joy of nature, and just be at peace; to know that I have journeyed to the home that never was, the home that was always at the center of my soul.
Sometimes Ken Weene writes to exorcise demons. Sometimes he writes because the characters in his head demand to be heard. Sometimes he writes because he thinks what he have to say might amuse or even on occasion inform. Mostly, however, he writes because it is a cheaper addiction than drugs, an easier exercise than going to the gym, and a more sociable outlet than sitting at McDonald's drinking coffee with other old farts: in brief because it keeps him just a bit younger and more alive.
Ken’s short stories and poetry have appeared in numerous publications including Sol, Spirits
, Palo Verde Pages, Vox Poetica, Clutching at Straws
, The Word
Place, Legendary, Sex and Murder Magazine
, The New Flesh Magazine, The Santa Fe Literary Review
, Daily Flashes of Erotica Quarterly
, Bewildering Stories, A Word With You Press, Mirror Dance, The Aurorean
Three of Ken’s novels, Widow’s Walk, Memoirs From the Asylum,
and Tales From the Dew Drop Inne
, are published by All Things That Matter Press.
In addition to writing, Ken co-hosts It Matters Radio, Thursday evenings on BlogTalkRadio.
To learn more about Ken visit him at http://www.kennethweene.com
It’s hard not to become a philosopher when living in a garden. This morning a particular play of sunlight on a rhododendron caught my attention. I looked closer and saw the flowers reflected in my pond.
I remembered this place when we first looked at it. The real estate agent brought us up a steep barely passable dirt road to the top of a hill. When we stopped at the top we were confronted with thick forest and a tangle of down limbs and logs. It was a sick monoculture. The trees were spindly and spaced too close together. The trunks were bare while the branches lurked in little tufts a hundred feet in the air at the tops of the trees. We went away.
The location of the property was handy for my husband’s work, but it was also in the arsenic shadow of the ASARCO copper smelter that polluted the air, land and water of this area for a hundred years. We looked at more properties. They didn’t suit our needs. We looked again at the ugly piece near the ferry and asked for an analysis of the well water. The water was free of arsenic and of excellent quality. I had some ideas for dealing with the arsenic in the soil. We decided to buy the sick, ugly piece of land.
Thirteen years later I look out at my glorious flower farm and remember that drab piece of property with it’s sick trees. I think life is what we make it. Sometimes our circumstances are drab, sick and ugly. However, we do have the ability to create beauty around us. We need to know ourselves and know what we like and what our limits will allow us to do. Working with a firm grasp of our reality we can create beauty whatever our circumstances even if that beauty is only in our minds.
Today, now, each of us can take the first step to creating beauty wherever we are. Focus on what is beautiful, peaceful, loving and gentle. As I avoided harsh chemicals in creating my oasis of beauty, we need to avoid harsh thoughts and remarks in our mind. As we focus on peace, shutting out the lies and clamor of the world we will begin to create beauty around us.
The following article was written by a former colleague. Her goal is to alert other parents to the dangers of children using psychotropic drugs. She thinks there is a safer alternative. She wished to remain anonymous because of the controversial nature of her position.
I’m so angry once again! And this time I will not be silent.
Next week I will take my adult daughter with FAS to have a biopsy on her thyroid because it is in very bad, questionable condition. So far, she has liver damage, lost her gall bladder and now her thyroid shows damage--all filtering systems for the body to get rid of toxic materials, which leads me to what I have thought so many times before. OMG! These are the long term effects of the psychotropics, anti-depressants and ADHD medications she was prescribed by the so called professionals who used her as a guinea pig to gauge the effects of the medications on a child. None of the medications worked! I'm so angry!!!!
While I trusted these professionals with my daughter’s life, little did I know nor was I given the information that they had no idea what these drugs would do to a child, or what the long term effects might be. The more they prescribed the more the payment from the pharmaceutical company.
Little has been done for FASD in the last 10-15 years--a few manipulated old studies with the same results. We can’t even get a diagnosis for FASD because we are still using the facial features for diagnosis. Funny how Autism can be diagnosed with no facial features?
My daughter still has meltdowns, mood swings and depression, so to deal with what she must live with for the rest of her life I needed an alternative: Medical Marijuana. For some, this will seem preposterous, for others sensible. For me, it is the answer for her,safe with no side effects! It is legal in Washington and Colorado and luckily we live in one of these states. I bake it for her in cookies, monitor her usage, and she has no desire to have it all the time. In fact I have to remind her when I see the meltdown gearing up to eat a cookie and in 15-20 minutes she is calm and sometimes giggly. I’m not proposing this for everyone with FASD as the co-existing conditions that are prevalent are different for everyone and results will vary. I just want people to know that alternatives exist.
A couple men who have reviewed Lies That Bind have noted that our love story is a bit of a fantasy. I agree in a way. My relationship with Celia is a fantasy-come-true. From another perspective, I have no idea what led to these comments. Celia thinks that perhaps the fact that we met via the internet sounds farfetched. Delinda assures us that many people meet on the internet and that during the course of her work as a social psychologist she’s met several foreign heads of state and their ministers of health via the internet.
So what is it about our story that sounds like a fantasy? Ordinary women meet heads of state all the time. Heads of state have affairs way more often than they should.
Let me explain some of the factors that lead to promiscuity among men of power. Well first, let me point out that my behavior wasn’t promiscuous and that Celia was of an age and social status appropriate for me to know. I do not approve of orgies. I consider victimizing children or subordinates an abuse of power. On the other hand, power is a powerful aphrodisiac. It is hard to pretend not to notice women who are making obvious sexual advances. I’m talking about more than a smile and pleasant comment here. I’m reminded of an opening scene in an Indiana Jones movie when he is teaching a class, and his female students look besotted. What many national leaders experience is more intense than the Indiana Jones experience.
In addition to the plethora of available sex partners, a leader has some strong sources of stress whispering in his ear, “It’s okay to take what they offer. It will soothe the knot in your gut and the tension at the back of your neck. For a few minutes you can forget the criticism of the opposition, and the needs of starving women and children. You deserve a reward for all you give up to serve your people.”
I confess that I soon became overwhelmed by the hideous stress associated with my job as president. In my first four months in office, I outwitted an attempted coup, lost a lawsuit against the government for not enforcing child labor laws, started procedures to nationalize the steel mill that had been employing children, and started an unpopular project to build dams in the mountains. Also one of The Compound guards made an attempt to molest my fifteen year-old daughter when she came home from school. These events are why I don’t call my country civilized or stable. This job produces a steady stream of outlandish problems for me to solve, usually with no time to do so.
I confess that my relationship to Celia was not what other men would call normal. In addition to the stress of my job, I had some personal failures that caused me to be more needy than I imagine other men to be. I’d not been successful with woman. My first love died. My second love left me for another man. I didn’t foresee this trouble so she was gone before I could do anything to stop it. Finally, I married my beautiful, elegant Leah. I lived with her for twenty-five years without knowing what went wrong in our relationship. Between the loss of Fiona and Leah’s incomprehensible behavior I think I developed a fear of being dumped for reasons I’d never know. I know I was harder on Celia than I should have been when she would get upset. A terror would clutch at my heart and I would not give up on the subject until she could tell me what was troubling her. I was so afraid something would build inside her until she ran away. On one hand I want to call my fears irrational, but Celia has confessed that the immorality of our relationship occasionally bothered her to the point that she would resolve to go home. I admit that I needed Celia more than most men my age need a woman. I don’t know why she put up with me.
I’m writing this as an explanation of my colleagues behavior as much as mine. Sex is healing. It is an effective method for reducing the destructive forces of stress on the body. Reality is often so grim, that living in a fantasy world is the only way a man with responsibility for the welfare of his people can remain sane. Then there is the nature of power. It is a force that grinds at a man’s soul. To wield power without being consumed we must have a release that ties us to the mortal world and keeps us in touch with our own vulnerability. It is easy enough to see who was quickly consumed by power and who has found a connection to reality that keeps him sane. Celia became my connection to sanity.
I’m taking a break from my first harvesting venture of the year. The daffodils are up. The flowering current is flowering, and the hellebores are waiting to be picked. I have one other chore that must be done, and soon. I have Creatures of Mass Destruction in my gardens.
Most people know that the Seattle area is rainy. Our cool moist climate is perfect for growing many things including slugs. We grow great slugs. Our banana slugs routinely grow to seven or eight inches long depending on how they like to stretch out. I don’t worry much about purebred banana slugs. They stay in the forest and eat decaying leaves. However those that have bred with our imported black slugs come out of the forest and eat daffodils. We have several other varieties of slugs in various sizes. They start hatching in late January or February.
If I am to have any success in the garden, I must be constantly vigilant in slug patrol. The ducks are my very best weapon in my War on Slugs. I let them loose to forage through the gardens. It is so delightful to stand at my window and watch the ducks digging through the grass looking for gastropodial treats. The chickens help by scratching up the moss and dirt to expose more of the little critters.
My poultry is great at keeping about a half-acre slug free. However, they don’t visit some areas of the garden, and I never let them outside the deer fence for their own safety. Thus, I have areas of my garden that are not defended by poultry. These areas call for my second line of defense. Beer.
Beer traps are exceedingly effective against slugs if used and positioned correctly. If you have northwest sized slugs, forget the cute little beer traps sold in garden supply catalogs. You need supersized traps for our supersized slugs. I use plastic half gallon orange juice bottles. I cut a big slot about four inches from the bottom of the bottle. Then add a can of beer. A trap this size is necessary because it will be full of dead slugs within hours. I use the cheapest beer I can find. I avoid light beer not knowing if it is smelly enough to attract slugs from a distance of fifty feet.
Now, the placement of the trap is important. It needs to be among those plants that slugs find attractive. I also put traps in areas where slugs are likely to hide. I usually keep one among the pots on the patio.
Okay, you have your half-gallon bottle with a big slot, a can of beer, and have selected your site for the trap. This next step is very important. I’ve adapted this from something I learned in college. Fill the trap with the can of beer. Gently place it on the leveled spot you’ve selected. Now, call out in a loud voice, “Frat Party!” For the piece de resistance, sing the Washington State University fight song. This will immediately attract the attention of all slugs within hearing distance, and they will come a crawling to drown themselves in your beer trap.
Some people find emptying the beer trap gross—just think beer-marinated escargot while dumping the full trap on the compost pile. I like to count the dead bodies. This helps me know if I am getting an area cleaned out.
Aside from occasionally needing to skewer or decapitate the rare abstemious slugs that show up in the evening or early morning, the combination of the ducks and the supersize beer traps keep the garden adequately slug free without expensive chemicals.
Recently someone sent me a chart on wealth distribution in the United States. It shows that wealth distribution in the US is as seriously skewed as it is in my own country. I read with interest some of the suggestions for changing the balance. Some are workable other suggestions were unrealistic. However, the first step is to know the truth. It is going to take some critical thinking, self-discipline and healthy skepticism to sort through the opinions and information that bombards us each day to get to the truth.
My job as a prosecutor of many years has been finding the truth. There are several questions I ask myself when listening to a witness. How does this witness know what he is telling me? Did he see it? Did someone else tell him? Did he just know? There are several common fallacies that creep into our dialog that are excellent clues that the speaker is lacking in veracity.
Clairvoyance is the most common sign the speaker is not telling the truth. Nobody can know the wants and thoughts of another person or a whole class of people. Often however someone says, “Those people want only one thing.” or “He thinks he can get away with anything.” These are very revealing statements when you have a witness, or a celebrity or politician who snarls that The Other thinks this or that. The speaker has no way of knowing what happens inside the mind of another so the only statement he can give you is a statement of his own inner workings. As the speaker claims others are doing, so run his own thought processes.
The redefinition of words. The word entitlement is another curious word I hear often. In the world of contract law an entitlement is something that you have paid for under contract and the other party is obligated to provide the goods or services you contracted for. Yet, I hear the word used again and again to excuse the power elite from meeting obligations under a contract. They speak of entitlement as if it is a desire for something unearned. Listen to what the power elite say The Other thinks and wants and you will hear what the speaker himself thinks and wants. In this case, those who use the word entitlement as a slur to avoid honoring a contract, are telling you a great deal about themselves. They may well feel entitled to abscond with money that is not theirs to keep.
Fortune telling may be another indication that the speaker is out of touch with reality. The witness who says, “I just new he was going to do something bad,” is no help to the prosecution. One of my greatest sources of mirth has always been the predictions the news media have made about my behavior. They assume that I will behave in a manner that is greedy and unjust. That tells me that at least the owner of the paper is greedy and unjust. Nobody knows the future. Those who predict the future are really saying, “This is how I would behave if I were the president, or the prosecutor, or someone in a position of power.”
Diversions are so much fun. This is the person who in a conference on corruption in politics, makes a passionate speech about the horrors of prostitution. Some people can never focus on the economic needs of the nation because they are constantly distracted by the sex lives of everything under the sun. Any discussion of greed will be met with a discussion on the need for a strong defense budget. We really need to have the discussion on greed, not as a function of the poor, but as an obsession of those who have wealth beyond the limits of our imagination. This may be the most important conversation we can have, but it always gets diverted to another topic.
The fifth indication a speaker has departed from the realm of reality is the use of coincidence as causality. My favorite, “You’ve got trouble right here in River City. That’s trouble with a capital T, which rhymes with P, which stands for pool.” Despite Meredith Willson’s satirical depiction of how easy it is to mislead people with this simple form of falsehood, we see this happening daily especially among the media commentaries.
There are other tricks people use to mislead. Think about what they might be. Become a detective looking for the truth by learning to spot falsehood. Your well being, and the future you leave for your children and grandchildren depends on your ability to find the truth. I will discuss later how to use the truth to change your world, but for now, just seeking the truth is enough.
I spent last week at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show getting all inspired about gardening. I bought some new plants for the garden. I got home and did a reality check. It’s too cold to go out and plant all the plants waiting on my patio. I’m not going out there to be assaulted by flying limbs from the Doug Firs. I’ll write about my garden instead.
One of the garden tips that struck a chord with me was on the use of perennial food crops. Yes! Grow veggies that don’t need to be planted every year. I’m replanting asparagus for the first time in about 10 years. Our asparagus has served us well for about six weeks in the early spring. Homegrown asparagus is nothing like store asparagus.
Of course, my prolific raspberries have kept us in fruit for years with little care. I planted ever-bearing raspberries that give me berries from June to December. No, that was not a typo. Shortly before Christmas I picked raspberries out of my garden to use in a salad. That is a long fruiting season for very little work.
Among the plants that don’t need to be planted every year, you might consider letting some kale go to seed. I haven’t planted kale for years, yet it infests my yard providing tender sweet greens in the winter. Kale harvested 20 minutes before cooking has no relationship to anything in the grocery store. It is tender and as sweet as corn.
One of my favorite greens that nobody mentioned at the garden show is the stinging nettle. Every year about this time, I can harvest enough nettle to supplement a stir fry. It has a flavor reminiscent of spinach, but is not as strong and is much easier to digest. Another wild green was mentioned. Do you know that some places sell dandelion greens for over four dollars a pound? Stop by my lawn anytime and harvest some. I don’t really care for the strong flavor of dandelion no matter how young it is harvested.
Several speakers at the garden show mentioned problems with pollinators. Apparently I wasn’t the only person who didn’t get zucchini because of a lack of bees. Remember the days of drive-by zucchini attacks—you’d get up in the morning and find five giant zucchini on your front porch. You’d clutch your toddlers to your breast in fear that the giant monsters would eat your offspring. These attacks are history. I got a few early zucchini, but then nothing. We didn’t have enough pollinators. While toddlers may be safer in the garden, we need those pollinators!
I attended a couple seminars on cooking the bounty from the garden. I liked the recipe for the Jerusalem Artichoke soup, which inspired me to plant Jerusalem Artichokes. These can be invasive so I’ll probably plant them in the repurposed children’s wading pool that I use for a planting bed. This veggie is a good alternative for those with nightshade/potato allergies. I liked the cook who suggested that veggies are best prepared with equal parts of butter to veggie.
Many of my fruits and veggies never leave the garden. I like to graze so I really admired the speaker who mentioned being a busy mom so she just sends her children out to graze in the garden. You can do this if you garden without chemicals. You can garden without chemicals if you have lots of different plants in your garden and allow for a weed patch or two. I also have chickens and ducks who do bug and slug patrol.
I wish everybody had access to fresh chemical-free vegetables. Even the organic section at the supermarket cannot come close to providing the quality of vegetables I have just outside my door. Often varieties grown commercially give up flavor for beauty or shelf life. I’ve learned of several movements to bring fresh food into the inner-city both through city gardens and through veggie-mobiles, which function like a bookmobile. I’d welcome a city dweller to come share my crop by doing some of my heavy garden chores.
Finally, I appreciated the speaker who did a history of organic gardening in the US. She noted the importance of the home grower and the small market grower as important partners in supplying our country with food.
For pictures from the garden show click on the link to the left for Enchanted Forest Florals/
By Delinda L. McCann
The original Fetal Alcohol Syndrome*Family Resource Institute study called Interventions That Work was started in a retreat setting with thirty-four families living with someone with brain damage due to prenatal exposure to alcohol. Eventually the study grew to include over four thousand families.
Our procedure was simple. We asked parents and caregivers to tell us what they were doing that worked to solve school problems, behavior problems, legal issues, problems with family routines, and any other concerns that impaired the ability of the family to function, or impaired the health and safety of the family members.
We developed a large body of information that eventually became the collective family experience. We learned that youth who have brain damage and are in trouble for breaking the law do much better with a diversion plan rather than jail time. The diversion plan doesn’t let the offender off of the hook, but allows the disabled person to fulfill their obligation to society without exposing them to more of the criminal element.
We learned some techniques for working with schools. We also learned that our children with disabilities were often better served in private schools or homeschool. The students needed to be protected from bullies and take their lessons in a manner that allowed them to learn. More than one parent mentioned fluorescent lighting and toxins that come into the classroom on other student’s clothing as deciding factors when they pulled their children out of school.
Parents shared techniques for communicating with their children who had brain damage. One of the important aspects of the study was realizing that the age of the child didn’t make much difference with communication. Parents of forty year-old children still needed to keep it simple, concrete and specific.
We found a large variety of adult living situations. A few of our children who function very high have been able to marry, hold down a job and live independently with a spouse who makes decisions and manages money. Some of our children ended up living in group-homes and sheltered assisted living. My own foster daughter lives in a lock-up apartment building with family close by and assistance from a caregiver. The point was that we had to think about her housing options in a manner that most parents do not. She could not find safe housing on her own. We also learned that parents have less trouble if they make adult living options part of their normal planning and plan to get the kid out of the house sooner than later. This was especially important with young adults with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
We had a subset of parents representing about one third of our information base who talked about problems with environmental and dietary challenges. Gluten intolerance was common and resulted in bizarre behaviors or more physical symptoms than normal. We found many other common food allergies in addition to sensitivity to environmental pollutants like car exhaust. Tobacco allergies were common enough to make going out in public challenging for our youth. When a neuro-typical person encounters an allergen they behave in predictable ways and we sympathize with their discomfort. When the person with brain damage encounters an irritant or allergy anything goes--from rage attacks, to weeping to passing out. My daughter would suddenly lose all recognition of her surroundings and pee her pants when she encountered tobacco smoke. Life is rough for those with brain damage.
One of the most important pieces of information we found in our fourteen years of research is that people with brain damage due to prenatal exposure to alcohol really are mirrors of those around them. When our youth and adults are interacting with responsible people who have high standards of honesty, they will live up to those standards of responsibility and honesty. Let one pornographer, drug dealer, thief or gang recruiter near our vulnerable population they will follow their new best friend down the primrose path with no concept that this behavior is different from their family and church values. We really, really need to protect our vulnerable populations from those who would exploit them, in the same manner as we protect a three year-old.
In our discussion of violence in our communities, we need to take into account the needs of our disability community and the lessons parents have learned over the years. One of the things we learned in our attempts to apply interventions that work is that when we structure our classrooms, faith communities and social services to meet the needs of the person with brain damage, the rest of the community has their needs met as well.
As part of our national dialog, I am concerned with the President Obama’s proposal to have the Center for Disease Control research causes and interventions related to violence in our communities because they are not set up to do the type of research FAS*FRI did. Despite the fact that we had members of the FAS*FRI staff working with the CDC on the committee related to FAS issues they did not treat our study with the respect it deserved because the data came from parents rather than from university studies. We really need the dialog on violence to include those people who live with at-risk people on a daily basis and those who serve at-risk populations. I don’t see this happening, which is why online support groups for families are so important. I am hoping that our on-line communities will speak up on the role of cognitive disability in creating violence in our communities as well as the victimization of vulnerable people.