Our Adopted Son Has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

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nuclear familyWhen Ruth Grau and her husband adopted their son at 19 months old out of foster care, they knew that they were his fifth placement.

The prospective parents were told that the baby boy had lived with his birth parents for 10 months in which he had been abused and neglected. When the toddler came to her, Ruth was aware that the baby had come from a family of much alcohol and substance abuse in which family members had received minimal education, had often been incarcerated, and suffered from bipolar disorder. But the mother admits now that she was unsure what these details could ultimately mean for her son’s future.

The little boy’s first foster family suspected that he might be autistic before he went to live with a family member for six weeks. He then went into another foster home.

“The foster parents all knew something was wrong,” Ruth points out, “but did not get it diagnosed.”

At 20 months, Ruth and her husband promptly had the baby’s language skills tested where it was revealed that his capabilities were at an 11-month-old level. Later, when the child started to exhibit difficulties in preschool at age three, Ruth scoured the internet for clues as to what was plaguing her son based on a few behavioral observations. The child exhibited abnormal speech patterns a long with other learning lags and compulsive lying tendencies. He suffered poor relationships with children his own age and often destroyed his toys with a lack of cause and effect thinking.

” [It was] really evident from the start but we did not put them together until later,” says the mother when describing his ultimate diagnosis. “None of them seem big until you put the whole picture together.”

Her son was formally diagnosed with ADHD at age four and put on ADHD medication by age five. The family soon started bringing him to a psychiatrist who diagnosed the child with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Reactive Attachment Disorder with bipolar and sociopathic tendencies.

Now at age nine, Ruth’s son continues therapy and drug therapy with his psychiatrist and also regularly visits a Reactive Attachment Disorder therapist.

Although Ruth and her husband were aware of her son’s history upon adopting, she says the real consequences of his abuse did not surface until later. She describes her way of thinking upon going into this specific adoption after reviewing his history as “naive.”

“The natural thinking is that with love, caring and being very well educated people ourselves we would be able to overcome these things,” she observes. “We naively thought we could parent him the way we had lovingly parented our birth daughter and we could change his path and give him everything he needed not realizing how deep and permanent the subconscious damage was.”

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