Jane, a young woman with Foetal Alcohol Syndrome, describes the impact this has had on her life, and particularly on her schooling and education...
I am Jane and I have Foetal Alcohol Syndrome. When I was born I was a small baby and weighed five pounds. I had an operation when I was one month old for pyloric stenosis (a blockage of food at the stomach outlet), as well as having kidney problems. It was also found that I had a heart murmur, though this went when I was a toddler.
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When I started school it was found my speech wasn’t good for my age so I started going to speech therapy. When I was about seven, my speech had improved enough for me to stop going. It was also at this time that it was discovered that my hearing wasn’t great, as I had problems hearing people with background noise going on, as well as following what people said, as my auditory processing is slow. I also started going to a specific learning difficulties teacher for Samonas Sound Therapy. I carried on seeing her until I was about nine or ten. I think seeing these people while I was young helped me a lot as I feel I no longer have any problems with my speech and that my hearing has improved a lot.
I am now 18 so I think they both gradually improved over the years. Saying that, I still have problems with my hearing and auditory processing, as well as my memory. My mum said I had a short memory span when I was young, as she would send me upstairs to get something and I would comedown empty handed. Following more than one instruction has also been difficult. My slow auditory processing has caused me problems at school, such as being asked not to do things but doing them anyway as I hadn’t heard. At primary school I also used to get very tired when having to listen a lot, so I used to misbehave a lot, as I was too tired to listen – which resulted in me getting told off a lot. Now I’m older I see it wasn’t the right thing to do but it helped me get through the day.
I was also easily influenced by the people I was around with so I also got told off a lot for doing stupid things which people had told me do. When the teacher asked me why I had done something, I said, “I don’t know but it’s better than having no friends”. I was always scared of people rejecting me so I went along with it to make them accept me. Socialising at school was difficult though, because of hearing and not catching what people had said, but also because I always felt somewhat ‘safer’ on my own, so I used to distance myself from others. Though this made me feel lonely, I felt I was better off on my own.
Before my GCSEs, in Year 9, my mum had a report done on my difficulties with learning by a person who knew a lot about Foetal Alcohol Syndrome so I could get the right help in Years 10 and 11. I also had extra lessons outside school in maths and science. This all seemed to pay off as I got 6 GCSEs A–C including Cs in maths, English and double science.
I am now in my second year at college doing animal care. Last year I achieved a distinction star, which is the highest you can get, so I know I can achieve well if I get the right help.
Originally published in the Be My Parent newspaper in January 2009.
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Last updated: 04 May 10