“Love is a wonderful healer but it cannot undo brain damage.”
When starting the FASD journey, I came across a parent’s testimonial that struck a deep chord.
Sarasota-based Kathryn Shea wrote a compelling story about raising her adopted son Seth.
Stories like Kathryn and Seth’s made me feel part of a larger whole, less lonely and ever the more determined to succeed.
One part of her story stayed with me: “As a social worker, I believed nurture always won out over nature, and with love, a nurturing environment, and appropriate stimulation, he could overcome anything. Love is a wonderful healer, but it can not undo brain damage.”
After five years of parenting T, I can say that I agree with Kathryn.
Love will not cure the long-term effects that prenatal alcohol has done on his brain.
From time to time, when talking about T, family members would make comments like: Maybe one day, his brain will heal after being surrounded by love.
I find these well-intentioned comments frustratingly naive. It incites the same reaction in me as when politicians offer thoughts and prayers after a tragedy like a shooting.
Just like thoughts and prayers, while comforting and healing, won’t stop future shootings, love alone will not make T’s life easier.
Without educational supports, societal awareness about FASD, investments into social services, policy changes, and increased effort to reduce the harmful stigma surrounding FASD, T and others like him will continue to face challenges.
However and a big but… With that said, I strongly believe that love is half the battle.
Providing a child with a loving environment can help set a solid foundation to build their resiliency and to face the challenges.
When I attended an FASD seminar years ago, the speaker spoke about how trauma impacts the brain’s development and whereas the opposite can help influence the individual’s trajectory in a positive direction.
I’m a pragmatic optimist. I believe in the power of love to shape one’s destiny. I also just happen to believe that love alone is not enough.
To give kids like T a fighting chance, we have to invest in infrastructure, policies, resources, advocacy and education about FASD geared towards making their lives better and ditto the lives of their caregivers and key players, such as educators and employers.
It continues to dismay me how little is known about FASD by the general population, especially when it is more prevalent than one realizes.
This is why Kathryn Shea’s story inspires me. I have followed her family’s story over the years, checking in on her and her son Seth from time to time from a stranger’s distance.
Not only has she shown such compelling love for her son, but she’s dedicated her life’s work to making the world a better place for individuals with FASD.
Just last month, an FASD clinic, the first of its kind in Sarasota, was named in her honour.
As described in this article, Shea was instrumental in opening The Florida Center’s Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Clinic in 2005, the only clinic of its kind in Florida.
What touched me the most about reading this recent news story was seeing the now grown-up Seth in the photo, joining his parents in the ribbon cutting ceremony.
This story made me feel hopeful.
Hope, like love, is half the battle.