A Canadian journalist’s experience raising an adoptive daughter with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) leads to an exploration of the disorder and a consciousness-raising campaign.
Buxton, co-founder with her husband, Brian Philcox, of FASworld, a Canadian organization that promotes awareness of FAS around the world, had no idea that her daughter Colette, adopted at age three, had been permanently brain-damaged by prenatal alcohol. Hers is a harrowing account of coping with a child who was violent, lied, stole and had major learning problems. Buxton’s pleas for help from professionals went unheeded, and by the time the uncontrollable Colette was 17, she had been in and out of a residential treatment center and was a crack addict living on the streets of Toronto. Soon after, she became pregnant twice. Seeing a television program on FAS in 1997 was the a-ha! moment for Buxton, who eventually discovered the work of Ann Streissguth, a psychologist specializing in FAS. Through her Web site, Buxton is now in touch with many people afflicted by FAS, and several of her chapters tell the stories of other adoptive parents’ experiences, of adult survivors of FAS, and of mothers who gave birth to FAS babies. While most of the accounts are pain-filled, Buxton includes a few success stories from parents proud of the achievements of their FAS children. What those parents have in common, Buxton finds, are acceptance, reduced expectations, commitment, knowledge, creativity, a positive outlook and “a whopping sense of humor.” While positive stories may offer encouragement and ideas to those trying to raise FAS children, this is not primarily a hands-on guidebook for parents; Buxton’s aim is to make the syndrome more widely understood by all who work with children—pediatricians, teachers and social workers, police, judges and probation officers. The bibliography, however, does recommend several parenting guides, helpful newsletters and Web sites.
Moving personal memoir melded with a realistic look at the widespread ramifications of drinking during pregnancy.