My Personal Experience with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders
My writing experience was inspired by my adopted son,
Joshua. He was a tenacious young boy with an amazing story of survival. In the beginning I wanted to write
a simple story of our meeting, and give it, as a gift, to Joshua. Soon, however, I realized that I
wanted to share our love story with other adopted children.
The original target audience was young children
ages 5-8 years old. The initial story was simply one brief chapter from Joshua's life. Reliving this tender
experience and putting it down on paper quickly drown me in a whirlpool of mixed emotions and memories. Then it blasted
me into another creative universe of writing. My idea for a children's book exploded into a trilogy with a mission
and a message written for pre-teens, teenagers, and young adults.
I chose to fictionalize Joshua's story to
protect his privacy. I've changed the names of most of the characters. Some of what happened to the main
character, Joshua, actually happened to my son. Only he and I know which parts of the books are real and which parts
are totally from my imagination. I've read and reread these books so many times that these separations are beginning
Josh has an invisible disability called Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders or FASD. Fetal Alcohol
Spectrum Disorders is an umbrella term used to describe the many physical, mental, emotional, learning and behavioral challenges,
which individuals who were prenatally exposed to alcohol, may exhibit. The alcohol caused permanent brain damage
to the developing fetus.
My son looks normal and has a normal IQ. Yet because of his prenatal exposure to
alcohol, he has permanent brain damage. As a result, Josh struggles with risky behaviors that often put him in dangerous
Josh is a difficult child to parent. He isn't like other kids. He has poor impulse
control and a poor memory. He cannot learn from his mistakes nor can he connect cause and effect. He has difficulty
managing money and time, and has the emotional maturity of someone much younger than he.
I wanted to promote healthy,
alcohol and drug free babies, and to raise awareness of FASD. I wanted to reach impressionable pre-teens, teenagers,
and young adults through a fictionalized story of a child living with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. I
felt that the story needed to be told from Josh's point of view.
Another goal was to encourage
individuals with FASD to read books. I wanted to give them hope by creating a hero with whom they could identify.
Many young people with FASD have low reading abilities, so I wrote the books at a low reading level. My books
are categorized as "High-Low" meaning the reader has a high interest in the subject matter, but low reading
skills. The actual reading level for the series is about that of a middle school student. It is interesting
to me that I've had several adults comment that "the books are the perfect reading level for me."
The series is divided into three time frames. Book one, "9 Lives, I Will Survive," covers Joshua's birth
up through our adoption. Through these pages, I wanted the reader to fall in love with the fictional Josh, much
like I did with the real one. This is a story of an interracial adoption, of an older, special needs child, into a family
with two committed and loving white mothers.
The second book, "9 Lives, Cat Tales," tells of Josh's
experiences during his elementary and middle school years. In this book, I wanted the reader to see Josh as a boy with
promise and an appetite for life. It was time for his behavioral issues to begin to surface. The reader
should start to wonder about and question the source of Joshua's behaviors, much like I did.
book, "9 Lives, Full Circle," covers the most difficult times for young Josh, and for us as a family. It is
about his turbulent teenage years. Through these chapters Joshua, like many teenagers, questions his identity.
He gets into trouble and experiences the juvenile justice system.
Josh comes full circle, and reunites with
a member of his biological family. Through this reconnection, he learns about his birth mother's alcohol consumption
during her pregnancy with him. Finally, he has an explanation for his behavioral problems. Now, he must understand
and accept his invisible disability, and learn to embrace a full circle of support, to better manage his
life and accomplish his goals.
A developing fetus, exposed to even a small amount of alcohol, can suffer
permanent, invisible brain damage. Statistics show that 1 out of every 100 babies born in North America is born
to a mother who has consumed alcohol during the pregnancy.
Sixty percent of all women, of child bearing age, consume
alcohol. Fifty percent of all pregnancies are not planned. Many women drink alcohol for several weeks, before
they realize they are pregnant. By the time they learn of the pregnancy and stop drinking alcohol, the brain damage
may already have been done. No amount of alcohol is safe to drink when a woman is pregnant.
the young people in our foster care system, attending special education classes, and living in our juvenile
detention facilities have undiagnosed FASD. According to a U.S. government report from 2000, it costs taxpayers
$1.2 billion dollars annually to fund these special education classes and juvenile justice programs. Many of the young
people wandering homeless on our streets and locked up in our federal prisons also have undiagnosed Fetal Alcohol
There is no cure for FASD. Our hope comes from prevention by creating awareness
and educating our preteens, teenagers, and young women of child bearing age, about the dangers of mixing alcohol and pregnancy.
We must inform and train our educators, social workers, and those working in the juvenile justice system about
FASD. We need to educate our lawmakers and provide programs that support the special needs of these disabled individuals
and their families.
Thank you for taking the time to visit our website. We hope that you will read our story
and spread the word about FASD.
Jan & Joshua Crossen