A Mother Discovers the Terrible Cost of Alcohol in Pregnancy
Family - Parenting; Health & Fitness - Care Issues; Social Science - Sociology |
Knopf Canada | Trade Paperback | March 2004 $24.95 |0-676-97638-7
ABOUT THIS BOOK
An adoptive mother writes the book she wishes had
been available -- sympathetic, up-to-date, useful, hopeful and highly readable
-- when her family welcomed a little girl not knowing that she struggled with
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).
When Bonnie and her husband adopted Colette, she was three years old. Big for
her age, she had walked alone at eleven months, had excellent verbal skills, a
thick mane of curly blonde hair and a sturdy little body. They were thrilled
with their gregarious second daughter, a great sister for six-year-old Cleo. But
although Colette was bright and delightful, a litany of problems soon presented
itself. By the time she hit first grade, her parents were coping with her
frequent stealing and lying, and her learning difficulties, which necessitated
special education. At the age of fourteen, she discovered drugs and sex; by
eighteen, in spite of the love and support provided by her adoptive family, she
was a crack addict living on the streets. After seven frustrating years of
consulting numerous therapists, a TV item gave Bonnie the answer -- and sent her
on a quest for diagnosis and help for her daughter.
In general, our society has little compassion for those thousands of individuals
whose damaged brains lead them to crime, homelessness and addiction. Few realize
that they behave as they do as the result of brain damage caused by their
mothers’ drinking during pregnancy. FASD is Canada’s most common, most
expensive, yet most preventable mental disability. FASD can be beaten, but as
usual, education is key. This book is a tool that could help the 300,000
Canadians currently affected by FASD, and reduce the number of babies born with
FASD in the future.
-- FASD is a new umbrella term that includes Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), Fetal
Alcohol Effects (FAE), Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND) and
Partial Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (pFAS).
-- FASD is caused by women drinking alcohol while pregnant.
-- So-called "moderate" drinking can do considerable damage to the fetal brain.
-- Individuals with FASD may seem normal, but their damaged brains can result in
learning disabilities, impulsivity, lying, stealing, tantrums, violence and
aggression, inability to predict consequences or learn from experience, lack of
conscience, and addictions.
-- FASD is the biggest single cause of intellectual impairment in most
-- Research indicates that a high percentage of homeless people, and at least
25% of juvenile and adult offenders suffer from undiagnosed FASD. More than 50%
of individuals with FASD will experience school drop-out, trouble with the law,
addiction, and unemployment. More than 90% will experience mental health
-- The general public, not to mention many professionals, know very little about
either FASD or the fact that no amount of alcohol in pregnancy has been
established as safe for the fetus.
"Bonnie Buxton’s book, Damaged Angels: A Mother Discovers the Terrible Cost
of Alcohol in Pregnancy, is an invaluable contribution to the literature on
fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Ms. Buxton deftly weaves the story of her
children and many other individuals together with the best opinions for
treatment and intervention that are in the literature and being presented in
work shops. This is a beautifully balanced story of family hopes and
frustrations, and eventual successes and failures. It is a must read for anyone
caring for a person with FASD or considering it."
—Sterling K. Clarren, MD, FAAP, Robert A. Aldrich Professor of Pediatrics,
Division of Genetics and Development, Department of Pediatrics, University of
Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, Washington, USA
"Bonnie Buxton has written an extraordinary, lucid and gripping account of
parents living with an FASD child from infancy into adulthood. She tells us why
a diagnosis has made a difference. A diagnosis results in a paradigm shift in
perspective in everyone’s attitude towards the person affected — one from seeing
a person who is mean, defiant, lazy and uncooperative to a person with a
neurological disability who needs a different and more specialized approach to
care, education and treatment. Her analysis of the current state of supports for
FASD individuals is a clarion call to the nation."
—Dr. Albert E. (Ab) Chudley is a pediatrician, medical geneticist and
clinician researcher with over 25 years of experience in diagnosing, treating
and counseling FASD children, adults and their families. He is Head of the
Section of Genetics and Metabolism at Winnipeg’s Children’s Hospital, Health
Sciences Centre and a full professor in the Departments of Pediatrics and Child
Health and Biochemistry and Medical Genetics at the University of Manitoba
"This brave, relentlessly honest book seizes both the heart and mind from the
very first pages. Bonnie Buxton tells a gripping human tale of one family’s
struggle for integrity against monumental odds: the irreparable harm to her
daughter by a hidden enemy and the willful blindness of parent-blaming
‘experts.’ Both harrowing and hopeful, it champions the lost children who are
driving parents crazy through no fault of their own — and challenges the rest of
us to reclaim them." —Rona Maynard, editor of Chatelaine
Bonnie Buxton is a journalist who has written articles for numerous Canadian
magazines and newspapers. She and her husband, Brian Philcox, are co-founders of
FASworld Canada, the Canadian nonprofit organization that works at building
awareness around the world. They live in Toronto.
Three-year-old Colette was a “golden child” — bright, determined, beautiful
and funny. Who could resist? We fought to adopt her, not knowing it would be
only the first of many battles for her — and with her.
When our delightful preschooler morphed into a delinquent street kid, we
sought a reason behind her learning and behaviour problems. What had we done
wrong? A series of social workers, psychiatrists and therapists couldn’t provide
3. Crashing into the Iceberg
We discovered that the preventable birth defect that permanently damages 1
percent of infants in the industrialized world is now known as fetal alcohol
spectrum disorder (FASD). Like an iceberg, most of it lurks below the surface.
4. Diagnosis: An Excuse for Bad Behaviour?
Without diagnosis, individuals with fasd are often labelled “Lazy, stupid,
does not try, poorly motivated, attachment disorder, psychopath.” But our
attempts at having Colette diagnosed were fraught with barriers.
5. The Myth of the Safe Threshold
More than three decades of medical research have taught scientists that even
small amounts of alcohol in pregnancy can permanently but invisibly affect the
child’s learning and behaviour. Why doesn’t the public get the message?
6. Society’s Children
We were not alone. Messages poured in from a world of “crash-test families” —
foster and adoptive parents in pain, who wrote, “You have my child.”
7. A Life Full of Misunderstands
They are “stack attack victims,” born with fetal alcohol damage, growing up
undiagnosed in dysfunctional families. Three adult survivors share their painful
but inspiring stories.
8. “From a little girl, I was sad inside”
Women who drink in pregnancy are often the targets of blame, but most female
alcoholics were themselves abused as children. Meet four mothers who damaged
their children by drinking.
9. They Come Without Cookbooks
Each infant or child with FASD is as unique as a snowflake, but parents
around the world experience some common characteristics and problems — along
with an alphabet of acronyms such as ADHD, RAD and ODD.
10. “This mask I wear — can you see through it?”
When youngsters with FASD hit puberty, the hormone-caused heavy weather of
adolescence often turns into catastrophic hurricanes such as school drop-out,
delinquency, addiction, early pregnancy and running away.
11. A Lifetime Sentence
During their lifetimes, about 40 percent of individuals with FASD will
experience “trouble with the law,” and about 25 percent of incarcerated
offenders have FASD. People with FASD are also more likely to be victims of
crime. Here are some crime stories in which FASD may play an invisible role.
12. The Puzzle of Pain Felt Around the World
Alcoholism is the child of despair in aboriginal communities everywhere, in
slums and tenements in North America and the United Kingdom, in shantytowns in
the Caribbean, Africa and South America, throughout the countries of the former
Soviet Union — and in upper-class families throughout the world. Meet five
international FASD fighters.
13. Marvels, Miracles and Dancing at the Mall
Certain parents have eyes that dance when they talk about their children with
FASD — children who have become poets, artists, dancers, musicians, athletes or,
simply, fine human beings. These Superparents inspire the rest of us with their
patience, wisdom and humour.
14. The Spinning Kaleidoscope
Like childbirth fever, smallpox and polio, FASD can be beaten — but money
alone is not enough. The task requires awareness of the effects of prenatal
alcohol, by top members of government as well as individual members of the
community, along with the application of strategies developed over the past
Damaged Angels is
available online at
at a bookstore near you