My Aha! Moment

When I started to learn about fostering children and teenagers with alcohol related disabilities, I was in ever lasting conflict with myself. I was living with a young man who is mediocre looking,has a great vocabulary and demonstrates normal intelligence for his age - so what's the problem?!

Then I heard this: "I'm leaving this place when my birthday hits in a couple of weeks ... I'll have my own place." I heard this over and over. I am very nervous because I'm a brand new foster parent and this experience might be over within the first few weeks. Oh boy, I thought I could talk to him about it, but it seemed worse. It was then that I could feel the hair on my head gyrate grey. All the while, he was not going anywhere.

There is a constant concurrence out there that intelligence is all about your IQ.  WRONG! Little did I know that there is another IQ:functioning IQ or your executive functioning. Your executive what?  Your functioning IQ or executive functioning goes something like this : Your IQ is what you know and your functioning IQ is what you do with that information. If you have sustainable executive functioning then you are capable of becoming a successful adult.  Andrew Rosenzweig, MD’s definition of executive functioning is: “the ability to carry out familiar tasks such as getting dressed or balancing a checkbook.  Executive functioning includes the ability to plan projects, formulate goals and objectives, prioritize, apply self-discipline, and remember steps involved in complex tasks.”

Really?  Now, that was my AHA moment!

People affected by Fetal Alcohol Syndrome frequently have normal IQ, so they are aware, but they usually occupy contemptible executive functioning skills. What does this mean? This means that they can not process the information they have to work with. They do not have the ability to plan and implement it.

So, lets recap on my foster childs sequence of events -
This is what he would have to accomplish:

1. Consummate an income
2. Save Money
3. To obtain an apartment
4. Organize his transition by making appointments, look at units and make telephone calls back to people, ect.

Now it's just a quick example and indeed there are many more steps to finding a new residence, but due to his lack of executive functioning required and without copious amounts of help and guidance, initiating the first step is difficult. So that's what I learned and still learn on a daily basis.

Equipped with my new understanding of executive functioning, when my foster child told me that he was going to be leaving his current residence, I said that I support everything he wanted. Immediately he went upstairs to look for apartments online. It was not long before he was cursed at the computer like a sailor, because he did not understand. He sure did understood what he had to do, but was frustrated because he did not know how to execute these instructions. So it's like having a brand new truck in the driveway, but no keys or license.

And before he knew it, a favorite show started on television and caught his attention and his focus was now on the tv. It was only a matter of time before he told me he was going again and this time I tried my new routine. It worked. He has not left or gone anywhere.

The next time we start to loose patience with our children for not completing a task that seems simple to us, remember, this is not so simple for them. You would not get upset with someone in a wheelchair for not being able to walk, would you?