Exceptions to the Rule

Just minutes after I finished writing the article about Responsibility and Independence, in which I state that all the adults with FAE that I know cannot live independently, I received a note from the aunt of a young man I had advocated for about a year ago. She wrote that her nephew is doing very well at this time. He went through the Salvation Army program, completed it successfully, and is now a manager of one of their half-way houses and is holding down a job.

A few things to keep in mind:

  • This young man went through years of getting and losing jobs, in and out of jail, trying and failing at treatment programs for drug and alcohol abuse, and was even in a group home for a short time, before running away from safety and into more trouble.
  • Most adults with FAE are not able to achieve this degree of success.
  • The adults who do eventually find success like this do so after many years of struggling, the years from age 15 to 25 being the most difficult. Growth in maturity is very slow, but can come to a happy ending.
This story is not over. In cases like this, there are periods of success, followed by slipping back into trouble, followed by finding success again, on a roller coaster ride of ups and downs that seems to not end, but at least even out after awhile.

Even when success like this is found, there is usually a strong support system behind the success. In this case, there is loving family and an organization that offers structure and sobriety and the support to achieve a healthy lifestyle.

Success for our adults with FAS and FAE might not look like success as people usually envision it. There is often a safety net, sometimes not noticeable to outsiders, but it is there, just in case there is a breakdown in the job, the relationship, the sobriety. Take away the safety net of support, and there is minimal chance of achieving success.

The road to success begins with acceptance of the reality of FAS, understanding the nature of FAS disorders, and realizing the need for sustained intervention to reach goals of independence (modified to meet individual needs), and long-term support systems in place, possibly for the rest of the person's life.

So, I urge parents to dream your dreams for your child's future. Just don't do it with rose-colored glasses that color your dreams with wishful thinking. Hope for the best. Be ready to provide or acquire the long-term support that will be needed. And know the risks - not all adults with FAS/FAE make it through those years of struggling with the desire for independence. They also need to be in a place of reality and acceptance about their limitations. Then they can nurture their talents and pursue their dreams.

FAS Community Resource Center