Lauren Richardson Feature

A Baby’s Voice Trapped in a Bottle

Hello my name is Roxanna Gonzalez  ( Adopted name is Lauren Richardson)

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I was born in a little town called Santa Anna witch is the capital city of the country El Salvador. From what I have heard it has been a war torn country and at the time of my birth there was a ton of war going on. I don’t really know a lot about my birth, all I know is that when I took my first breath I had aspirated a lot of the amniotic sack and fluids. Due to the fact that I was born with a cleft lip and palate, at the time right after birth from what I have heard, my birth mother had told the hospital that she was going to be coming back for me and left. She had never shown back up for me & I was abandoned at birth. I also know that my birth mother was an alcoholic & had been drinking while she was pregnant with me.  I was then put into an orphanage that was where I started to become very sick. I started to become very dehydrated & malnourished because trying to feed a baby with a cleft lip and palate facial deformity can be very hard & very challenging. Also I some how contracted scabies while I had been in there. After 3 whole months of being alive and being in there my whole world changed and I was finally being adopted. I became the lucky one.

There was a lady from the adoption agency, (the adoption agency is called families for children) & her name was Sandra Simpson. She flew down to Santa Anna, El Salvador where she picked me up and jumped on a air plane and flew me to Toronto Ontario Canada. That was where I met my adopted mom & dad. I arrived in Toronto Ontario Canada weighing in at 5.0 pounds & covered in scabies. My adopted parents immediately took me from the airport straight to the hospital where the Dr's and nurses then took over getting me immediate medical attention.  I think at the age of 5 to 6 months of age was when I had my first surgery & that was to repair my cleft palate & also my cleft lip. Then from there the rest of my surgeries happened. I have had around 25 reconstructive surgeries all together in my life from ear tubes, nose jobs, jaw work, to bone graphs. I have had a lot of work done. I believe a few other things that were starting to show up as signs of difficulty for me were things like learning to roll over on my tummy as a baby.  Also learning to hold my head up and learning to crawl. I eventually learning to walk and talk which are usually very BIG mile stones for any human baby/child.

I was adopted into a very loving caring & supportive home. I have 1 older sister who is my adopted parents biological child. My adopted parents adopted my little sister who is from a different family, so there is 3 of us girls in the family and I am the middle child. I grew up and did most of my schooling in Hamilton, Ontario. I actually really loved school. Growing up at first I was very shy and reserved but I also learned to become very bubbly and out going. I learned that I could make tons of friends and make them laugh all the time. I hung out  and had tons of fun. I also had very supportive teachers while I was in school. While I was in school I guess the teachers were slowly starting to notice that I was struggling with the course work. I believe this was starting to show at around grade 2 and then heading into grade 3. I guess I was struggling with things like reading and writing and trying to keep up with the pace of the class room. Writing things down of the black board was such a challenge because I was always 8 steps behind everyone else especially if it was a huge lesson to be learned.  Eventually I started going to the learning resource room almost every day to just catch up. That was when my parents started to get pulled into these meetings and they started planning to have this thing called a IEP; which was a individual education plan where they would meet every so often and talk about my learning and ways to help me out.  At around grade 3 was when I started to go and have all these tests done on my learning. I went to go and see all these doctors and specialists who were going to run all of these tests on me to help determine if I even had a learning disability or not. It turned out that I was diagnosed with a non verbal learning disability at that time. That didn’t stop me in any way. I continued with my schooling trying my best right up until grade 5. That was when I really noticed that I was different than the rest of the students in my class. My teacher in grade 5 told the whole class a few weeks before we graduated elementary school that we were going to go have a field trip to go visit and have a tour of the middle school that all of my classmates were going to go attend. The next year my teacher told me that I was not going to be attending this field trip because I was not going to be attending this school next year and that I was going to be staying behind while the whole class went on this field trip. Right then and there was when I just  knew that I was very different from my classmates but I didn’t know what I did that was so different or wrong to not attend. The next year I had moved and started to attend grade 6 grade 7 & grade 8 downtown. That was where I started to attend the special education class where I succeeded and did very & extremely well. My grades were awesome. I participated in class. My spirits became high and I had a very loving devoted teacher who truly guided me and who believed in me and what I could accomplish. The atmosphere was such a positive change for me. I was able to get introduced to sports which I found out I was amazing at. I joined things like the swim team and track & field. I became able to focus on all the great stuff that I could do because of the positive reinforcement I got from my teachers and students. I graduated from grade 8 that was a huge accomplishment for me & my family.  I moved on to high school I ended up attending a regular high school with regular classes for my grade 9 year. It became very difficult and I started to struggle probably because I didn’t have the same structure and environment. The teachers were very different & the positivity was gone. So I began to struggle again. I got moved to another school that was more like a trades school. It was called a vocational school so you learned more trades like things like baking, automotive, hair dressing, woodworking courses, and that sort of thing. I went there for grade 10 & 11 then my parents ended up landing a job in Toronto so I moved and went to school in Toronto. I attended to another vocational school. We moved to London Ontario after 16 months of living in Toronto. I attended another vocational school along the way. I made tons of friends my grades were pretty good. I continued on with playing sports also at school which I really enjoyed still. After about a year in London Ontario, my parents got their dream job which was out on the West Coast of Canada. I was just getting my life together & settled and once again I was on the move. Once I got out west I enrolled in a high school. It was just a regular high school to hopefully graduate. I was only there for about 6 months or less before I had to leave the school due to the fact of my age the school system out west is only able to take you up until you are 19 years of age. I had just turned 19. I was having to leave where as if I had stayed in Ontario then I could of stayed in school and attended right up until I was 21 ears old. It was very hard for me because I felt I tried and worked very hard for it to all just fall apart like that. In the end I never ended up getting my high school diploma or ever graduating out of high school. I went straight into community college and ended up taking a school to work transition program where they introduced you to the work force and helped you get into a Co-Op placement and helped you get a job from that placement.

I always knew that I wanted to make a huge difference in this world and by doing that I knew that health care was the field I really wanted to be in.  My placement was at a nursing home as a house keeper. I then realized after about 4 or 5 months of working there that I really wanted to work as a health care aide so I then worked and saved up to go back to school and take the care aide course which was only 6 months long. I ended going to school to become a health care aide. I ended up doing fantastic on the written course work but where I did struggle a lot was actually on the practicums. I ended up failing the course 2 times due to the practicums but I completed it the 3rd time. The areas that I struggled were things like time management & speed which I was able to fix. I have worked in health care as a care aide for about 8 years now & I still have the love & the passion for it each and every day. Each and every day is different and it can be so very rewarding to be able to help people & see their smiling faces & like any job it has its great days and bad days.  So back in 2014 I was working at a nursing home as a on call care aide with a pretty big company & being on call all the time I never knew what floor I was working on until they called me in. Sometimes very short notice so one of the times I was on shift it was time to distribute the nourishment around to the residence rooms. I accidentally left a cookie on a resident's tray who just so happened to be diabetic. I ended up losing my job over that. The company that I was with was unionized so I went and fought for my job back. While I was going through that process I ended up getting retested for my learning disability again because the company wanted to understand how it was best to support me. I had never been retested as a adult the union and the company I was working for ended up paying the money for me to have the testing done.

Once the tests results came back in that was when my whole life changed. I remember sitting in the Dr's office. It was March 31, 2014 at 1:00 in the afternoon. The Dr. asked me to come into the room first to talk to me about the diagnosis while my mom and my Union rep, and someone from the company was there sitting in the waiting room. I sat at the opposite end of the table. I had no clue as to what she was about to tell me but when the Dr. told me that they are diagnosing me with having F.A.S Fetal Alcohol Syndrome I lost it. I remember whipping a cup of water at her and then I burst into tears. It was absolutely devastating. I remember so much rage and anger. It felt like as if I was getting sentenced to a life long jail sentence on a crime that I did not commit. I remember saying to the Dr. through all of the tears, "so is there medications that I can take to cure this thing?" Unfortunately, she tells me that there is no cure for this. I remember feeling very numb. She then brought my mother in and the union reps to break the news to them. By that point I had a million things going on in my mind. I must of looked glazed over. I was furious. I went home and I remember just feeling numb and very lost. I didn’t know anyone else at all with this condition. I also believe getting this diagnoses shocked my whole entire family & a lot of my friends.

I remember being alone one day a few days after being diagnosed and I just was curious to find out a bit on it so I jumped on YouTube. I just typed in F.A.S Fetal Alcohol Syndrome that was where I saw all of these videos pop up. I clicked on one of them. I finished watching the whole video. I thought wow I could relate to the gentleman in that video completely. I thought I would like to get into contact with him. I ended up trying to look him up on Facebook. His name is Myles. I ended up private messaging him and introducing myself to him. I informed him that I had just recently been diagnosed a few days ago and I told him just how lost and very confused I am. I asked him if there was any way he would be able to help me out even if it was to just talk. I sent the message & then I just had to play the waiting game to see if he was going to get back in touch with me or even reach out at all.  He did after a couple of days. He reached out to me with a great response. We got to know each other over a couple of months & then we decided to meet in person. We met in Vancouver BC. It was such a powerful day to be able to meet someone who is just like you. In a lot of ways you share a bond that no one can ever take away from you because it is at a cellular level. It's really powerful, well at least to me it was. He ended up inviting me to the international conference in Vancouver BC in April 2015. That’s where I got introduced to a lot of other young teens and adults who are living with F.A.S/F.A.S.D. It also opened up a whole new world that I had no idea even existed. I want people to know and understand that even though I have the same diagnosis as Myles and others that it plays out very uniquely in each of us. This whole thing is 100% preventable. Please educate yourself and others on this. There is no safe amount of alcohol to be consumed while pregnant. Please do not take the risk. I have been sober for 31 years next month. The day of my sobriety was the day I was born.

Thank you for taking the time to read my F.A.S Fetal Alcohol Syndrome story. I hope that by reading it you were a little inspired by me and my journey. I will try my best at everything that I do. I will never give up. I will forever be the voice for those fetuses and babies that don’t have a voice yet. I have never struggled with behaviors or have ended up in trouble with the law.

Written With Love From Lauren Richardson

 

Kyle Burt Feature

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I was born in Seattle on the last day of January 1985 and was put to foster care after I was born because my mother was intoxicated while giving birth to me. I was sent to a wonderful family in Bothell, Washington for foster care. During my stay I had one problem with my face and that was my eyelids. My eyelids were not strong enough for me to open them so they got me surgery. It put something in them to hold them up so my muscles would get strong enough. When I was 3 and half I was introduced to live with the Burts in 1988. And finally on February 15, 1990 I was adopted to the Burt family. I had learning problems so through out my school years I was always in half of special needs classes and other regular classes other than math, because I don't do well in that subject. During my time with Burt's from 1990 to 2000 I always loved to sing, dance to my favorite tunes like Queen, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Skillet, Dc Talk and many others. My other past time would be drawing, making poems, drumming (Didn't have a drum set so I would look for things I could bang on lol) and exploring our great wooded back yard. I had many siblings growing up, much of them adopted just like I was. I had 6 sisters at one point and one brother.

We all had our strifes but mine didn't pull its head out until I was 15 when I was out of control and obviously couldn't be taken care of by my parents. I was being violent and lots of others things that I can't imagine of me doing today. So in the summer of 2000 they had a talk with me about moving me to a group home. I was pretty angry at them so when I was at the children's group home and they wanted to call I would hang up. But soon after I came to realize that they wanted to talk to me so I talked to them again.

In summer of 2004 I was moved again into a adult group home in Snohomish County and that group home was difficult because you had to have good behavior to move out. I had a good record for 2 years until I screwed up and had to move backwards in my program. It would take another 8 years before I graduated and moved out. During my times in the adult group home one of my past times was Special Olympics and I did it for 5 years and the most fun sport I did was track and field. I loved running so I did the 1500, running long jump, 200, 100 and 800 and 400 and the relay. During this time in this group home I had a lot of jobs from working in Manufacturing company, working as a contractor for the US Navy (Certain Job made for individuals with disabilities), working as a bell ringer for the holidays for the Salvation Army. But my biggest and best job was working at Albertson's grocery store as a courtesy clerk. I'm a very social person so this is a great job for me because I was always talking to the customers and I had a very good customer service skills.

And now I live in Bellingham in my own apartment (with roommate) and work part time as a meat clerk at a grocery store. Now that I'm out my group home I don't have to rely on staff all the time. I travel mostly around town on my bike, I do lip sync contest once in awhile, I see concerts and hang with my friends. I still sing and dance and sometimes drum. One of my new hobbies is recording music and making music videos and putting them online. I still have my difficulties from socializing appropriately like being too loud when I think its normal volume and math. I'm very happy for where I am now from where I once was.

FASD has brought me so many people in my life through groups, Film Festivals and social gatherings. This journey isn't done yet, it has just begun.

Editor's Note: I met Kyle through his live FB Question and Answer videos. He is an absolute inspiring advocate and has brought the yearn from other individuals with FASD to get out there and advocate as well. Keep up the amazing work, Kyle! Your voice is strong and heard!

Pam Crawforth Feature

Hi! My name is Pam. 

Molly with their family dog.

Molly with their family dog.

Molly is our adopted daughter, she has been with us since she was 6 weeks old, born full term at 3lb 3 ozs. We adopted her aged 3 yrs old, we learnt that she wouldn't see her 1st birthday because of health issues. Her prognosis wasn't very good at all, multiple health issues due to birth mother's drinking. Her health is generally ok and understanding her body language is important, as she never complains. Molly is partially sighted, deaf, although we have had an implant fitted. She's missing bones and joints, albeit the smaller ones, fingers and toes, wrists and ankles etc. Her little fingers have never grown , and has developed contracture of her fingers. Her teeth, well some of them have no calcium in them so they are a major problem. Good dental care has saved a lot of issues. She has 2 teeth that have grown inside her eye sockets, at the moment causing no problems. Her brain is full of cysts which may have caused the early onset of dementia. Nearly every part of her little body has been affected by alcohol, apart from her beautiful hair and gentle nature ❤️   She is an amazing pianist, if I give her a piece of music to listen to she will play it. We do have an amazing piano teacher who teaches her.  She loves him and music is now her life! 4 years ago we were planning on her going to uni to study music, obviously with the full support of her carer. Now those dreams have been shattered with the diagnosis of dementia! I am sure from the research I've done that it's linked with FASD! We love her so much, it's heartbreaking. I just wish more effort was put into warning mums not to drink whilst pregnant and more research done into the enormous effect it has on unborn babies. It hurts to think it shouldn't be happening in this day and age. It also hurts to think we are going to lose her. She's only 19 yrs.