Wis. mom shares challenges of raising child with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

By: Madeline Anderson Email
By: Madeline Anderson Email

Published: Thursday, March 6, 2014 --- 8:30 p.m.

Ten years ago Barbara Gadbois never thought she'd be attending her second training on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.

"I didn't care about it before. It didn't matter," Gadbois said. "I didn't think I knew anybody with it. And then Thomas came into our lives."

When her daughter was 18, she became pregnant but didn't stop abusing alcohol and drugs.

"The doctor, she told my daughter that she could have a drink a day. She didn't ask my daughter what her drinking history was at that time," Gadbois said.

Unable to take care of Thomas once he was born, Gadbois and her husband adopted their daughter's son, soon learning Thomas is different from most children.

"When he was much younger, we had a lot of meltdowns to deal with every day," she said. "He doesn't make friends very easily. He struggles in school. He doesn't have the stamina most 10-year-olds have."

"Typically it's developmental delays, learning problems, behavior problems," said Georgiana Wilton with the UW-Madison Department of Family Medicine.

Wilton is leading a national training at the UW this week. The scientist's goal is to educate the group about FASD symptoms and treatment options for expecting moms.

"It's a little too simplistic to say, it's easy to prevent, just don't drink," Wilton said. "We have to get better as a society at providing services for women who want help. Luckily in Wis. we have a law that says, if a pregnant woman seeks services for alcohol or addiction problems, she gets services within 24 hours."

"It's so important for me to spread that information," Gadbois said. Ten years after becoming a grandmother and a mother at the same time, the Red Cliff, Wis. resident says the training has not only helped her learn more but also helped her forgive.

"It wasn't just my daughter drinking, it was alcohol that did this," Gadbois said. "So that actually helped repair our relationship--learning more."

An OB/GYN at the training said anyone who is pregnant or having unprotected sex and could become pregnant should not drink any amount of alcohol.

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