Q: My adult son has Fetal Alcohol Effects. He is one of those who looks normal, but he has so many problems, always making mistakes, due to his poor judgment. He is living on his own, but he is having lots of trouble with managing his money, getting along with people, keeping a job, and generally just functioning. I have suggested he apply for disability but he won't accept that he has any problems at all.

A: This is the crux of the problem. Acceptance by our more "able" adults with FAE is crucial to their having success in living "independently." I put that in quote because most folks with FAE who live away from home still require close contact with family members and/or support service systems in order to avoid serious trouble.

"Tough Love" in the usual sense means we tell the to shape up or else, with the assumption that we will be consistent with following through and that they will learn from the consequences. It doesn't work for our kids.

"Tough Love" for FAS disorders means we are brutally honest with them about their limitations and what that means as far as consequences for their future if they don't accept the reality of those limitations and the restrictions required to keep them safe and healthy. That doesn't mean we focus only on their shortcomings, it means we make it very clear to them that while we will support them in following their dreams and maximizing their talents, we will also support them in getting the help they need to function in a healthy way in life.

Please read this article, "The AAA's of FAS." ( If you've read it before, read it again. Denial is one of the most difficult obstacles that keeps our kids from maximizing their potential. Without acceptance, they cannot find the support and security they need, all the other loving things we do could be lost.

The sooner we help them face the reality of their disability, the easier it is for everyone.

--Teresa Kellerman

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