Saturday, July 2, 2011

Vacationing w/ FAS/ RAD kids

I  have gotten this question quite a few times.  "How do you go on vacation with your kids?"  they are meaning with our FAS kids.  As most of you know by now, 6 of our kids are effected w/ this disorder.  It is frontal lobe brain damage from where the birth mother drank while pregnant.  It has life long effects that will never go away.  Lack of impulse control, poor judgment, and no cause and effect thinking among others.  This can make vacations interesting to say the least.  Like when we were at my sister's wedding at a VERY fancy hotel in NY.  You can not, can not let your eyes off your kids for a second, especially, w/ FAS.  Well, Alex was 4yo at the time.   He was on no meds yet mind you.  He ended up climbing over the balcony in the lobby!  The huge, fancy balcony, 2 stories up.  Yep, that was my son, semi-monkey at the time.  Lovely.  We learned a lot from that trip.  Like, not to go on another trip for awhile.  LOL.  BTW, most people don't understand b/c our kids "appear" normal.  I get that all the time.  Well, they look normal.  Yes, they do but they have mental health issues.  They can't think for themselves.  We are there external brains.

Now, I am a firm believer that you must live life.  For a long time it took us awhile to learn how we could vacation w/ our kids w/out losing our minds.  Seriously, we needed to figure out what worked and what didn't.  Well, first thing was not telling the kids for quite some time that we were going on a vacation.  Since FAS kids have a hard time w/ abstract concepts, such as time, they couldn't tell if we had 20 days or 2 to go.  Drove us all nuts.  So, we don't tell them usually until about 5 days  before we are headed out for the trip.  We tell our kids clearly how long it will take to reach our destination.  We do not eat a ton of junk in the car.  In fact, most trips we take the food with us.  Last trip, we ate out one time.  Well, not counting the catered food twice at the reunion.  Keeping things routine is key to a successful vacation w/ FASers.  I know it sounds impossible but it's not.  My kids do chores on vacation just as they would at home.  May sound mean but if you want peace, this is the way to go.  hence, why mine are making the bed every morning in the hotel room. 

Another thing we do is not overload them w/ junk.  We always order water or bring water w/ us.  Soda is given once on the trip or twice.  That's it.  Otherwise, they are up all night crazy in bed.  We try not to overload their day.  If you think something is going to be too much, don't do it.  I can't stress that enough.  Alex had a meltdown, albeit minor, at Hershey during the chocolate lab.  Well, it was before the chocolate lab in line.  Yana accidentally hit him and he twisted it into a big production of Yana punched me & oh, I'm hurt so badly.  First, you pull him away from the scene of the incident.  Well, we were in line.  So, Warren moved Alex to the back of where we were all standing, away from Yana.  You separate them from the scene essentially.  Whisper when you talk b/c at this point their loud so everyone will hear them.  You whisper and they will tone it down.  Warren explained everything to Alex.  We do not distract him or downplay anything.  After a few minutes he was ready to go in. The biggest thing you must do is tend to the child.  Do not, do not worry about what people around you are thinking of this "crazy child just not behaving themselves."  Most of the time, folks in line have no clue what you're going through w/ FAS or RAD kids.  Let alone ever heard of the disorder themselves.  Concentrate on the kids, not those around you.  Do not feel obligated to explain yourself to people.  Your focus is solely on your child and helping them get through things. 

Now, length of trip is important. Many FASers or RADishes can not handle that much stimulation of a long vacation.  We learned 3 nights was maximum what our kids could handle.  Anything beyond that, they went haywire.  They really did.  Now,slowly, they have showed us they can handle longer vacations.  And, we've discussed it on each trip.  If you show us you can behave this trip, maybe next trip can be longer and we can stay an extra day.  They really do try to encourage each other. Older ones even check to make sure others took their meds.  They know it makes a difference.

They are allowed to pack their own bags.  However, we check all bags before they are allowed to go in the car.  Remember, you're their external brain. We do not have a tv in our van nor do we take one w/ us.  They are allowed to bring  their mp-3 players if they want and books.  Cards as well.  However, this past trip, I did NOT check everything.  Yana slipped in a board.  A literal board.  so that she could play cards on it.  URGHH!!!  That would have been serious trouble had we been in an accident.  Again, you have to think for them.  Cards sound innocent enough but they thought they had to have a "table" to go with it.  Always check behind your kids. 

Compliment the kids when they do something well.  At the end of the evening during vacations, we discuss what went right for the day and also, what could be improved on.  This past trip, we were complimented quite a bit from strangers on how well behaved our children were.  Whether it was waiting in line or waiting in a restaurant.  They did do really well this time, I must say.  I was proud.  I know there are FAS parents who are afraid to take their kids places.  Don't be.  Go for it.  There is no reason you shouldn't enjoy yourselves.  Our kids have gotten much, much better over the years when we go out.  BUT, early on, when I said we'd leave a place for misbehavior, we did.  Or, if they had to sit out, they did.  One time the night before a vacation Max and Alex were throwing shoes at each other and broke a window.  They were not allowed to go swimming at the hotel pool the entire trip as punishment.  And, we stuck to this punishment.  There was a time when I wanted to go nowhere w/ my kids for fear of something stupid happening.  yet, society is not going to shelter them as adults so neither should I.  Instead, I teach them about the real world and how to act in it.  We've worked on Irina's faces she makes when she sees something odd. Yes, it includes people as well.  We've worked on them just blurting out a thought w/ no impulse control.  We have them give us ideas of what they want to learn about or see.  Make it fun.  Embrace the chaos, don't let it rule your life.  If  you do, you won't get to experience so many wonderful things in this world.  I want my kids w/ FAS to go to amusement parks w/ their friends.  I want them to see tacky tourist sites.  I want them to see history.  And, they do.  Yes, sometimes we do things a little dress them in the same shirts for very crowded places.  And sometimes we do get frustrated just as any other parent would on a vacation w/ 7 kids.  yet, we do it, we look forward to our getaways and we make plans for more.  If you have FAS kids, it is important they do normal things too just like a vacation w/ family.  Same w/ RADishes.  It may not happen right away, but you'll find you look forward to these times together even when you used to dread them.  Just being honest.  Happy Vacationing.  Now, I may be singing a different tune next year when we take all 10 on vacation.  LOL. 

1 comment:

  1. You really understand your kids needs, i hope as time goes on I can get a grip on how to parent my daughter. We are re-learning how to parent as she has just been diagnosed PTSD/RAD though her symptoms fit FAS also, it is very confusing how many overlap. You must have many people ask questions and i would love to know what consequences work for you. How you enforce them without turning the moment into hours of screaming. Is it ok to have the consequence start later , it is hard to enforce if we are out in the car. Do you use different levels of consequences, eg, for hitting/animal cruelty compared to talking badly or just being defiant, what sort of consequences do you use and do your kids understand the difference in the level of consequence or is one pretty much the same as the other in their minds.Do you give consequences for any damage they cause during a meltdown.
    I would love to read your thoughts on this.
    Also if possible what would you say were the main differences between FAS and RAD kids.Thanks Marina