Ottawa·Point of View

Sisters living with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder

Twelve years ago, Rob and Shelley More adopted three children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Their eldest daughters, Skylar and Cassie, have written about life with this disorder in their own words.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder is invisible, affects up to 4% of Canadians

Cassie More, left, and Skylar More, right, have both been diagnosed with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, or FASD. (Shelley More)

Skylar and Cassie More are sisters from the same birth mother who were adopted 12 years ago alongside their brother Jacob. All three children were diagnosed with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, or FASD, which is estimated to affect up to four per cent of Canadians — and potentially hundreds of thousands of people in Ontario. Skylar and Cassie agreed to write about what FASD is like in their own words.

Skylar, age 18:

I'm Sky and I am living with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. You can't see it and I can fool you for a bit, but once you get to know me, you will see it.

I got FASD because my birth mom drank alcohol when I was in her tummy. I don't blame her, she just didn't know. She was 16 years old and didn't really know my birth dad. She was on her own, and did the best she could. Her mom and dad did a lot of drinking, so she did, too.

The Children's Aid Society took me and my younger sister from her when I was four after our apartment caught on fire and we were home alone. I lived in a foster home for a couple years with nine other people before my mom and dad adopted me and my sister.

Skylar More says she can hide having FASD at first, but that it eventually reveals itself. (Shelley More)

School has always been hard. I was tested in Grade 1 and in Grade 3 because I wasn't learning how to read and do math. My school gave me extra help and eventually I learned how to read.

When I got to Grade 9, things got bad. I couldn't handle all the drama and I started running away. I was hanging out with kids who weren't good for me and the police got involved. Eventually, my mom, dad and I went to the right doctors and we figured out I had FASD.

I changed schools and got involved with my local 4-H club. My mom and dad got me the help I needed, my new school figured out what I needed to learn, and my Beef Club leaders kept pushing me to do better and not let me make excuses.

Life is better now. I graduated from high school last year, have a part-time job with a boss who appreciates how hard I work, got my driver's licence after lots and lots of practise, and have gone to the Royal Fair the last three years showing my cows. I am trying to get into college to learn how to work with animals.

Skylar More shows off her prize-winning cow, Wendy, at the 2017 Toronto Royal Fair. (Shelley More)

Cassie, age 17:

Hi, I'm Cassie and like my sister, I am living with FASD. It doesn't really bother me because I have always lived with it and that is not going to change.

I don't remember much from before I was adopted other than being scared a lot. But that doesn't really bother me either. What bothers me is when people are mean.

Cassie More says it can be hard having FASD, but that she has a good life. (Shelley More)

I can read but it is hard. I don't know if I will get my driver's licence because there is a lot to learn. I don't take the bus because the maps are too hard to figure out. My mom or dad will take me to where I need to go.

I am working in the local bakery and they are selling my creations now. My boss is great because she always makes sure I can see how to do it and talks me through what to do. We are getting a special cash register so I can help her there as well.

I'm hoping to graduate from high school this year but I'm not sure what I will do after that. I might go to college for baking, but that would mean living by myself and that is scary to me.

In April 2018, the More family travelled to Queen's Park to advocate for the recognition of Sept. 9 as FASD Awareness Day in Ontario. They were successful. (Skylar More)

FASD also affected my hearing. I have had four surgeries to try to repair my eardrum and the poor doctor was so frustrated. He kept saying he has never had to do more than one surgery with anyone else. The hole in my eardrum makes it hard to hear what people are saying.

I know I might be living with my mom and dad for a while, but I hope at some point to have my own family.

Some people tell me "I'm sorry" when they learn I am living with FASD, but I don't understand why they say that. It does make things hard, but I have a good life. 

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