When I received my diagnosis of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in November 2014 at the age of 34, I made a decision that I would use my diagnosis to help others in any way I could.
Because my mom and I had already pretty confident I had it, I had started researching FASD before I was even diagnosed. During my research I had discovered the Minnesota Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (MOFAS) website. It contained a wealth of information. Signs, symptoms, how to get diagnosed, what to do after your diagnosis, videos and articles about those who have been diagnosed and their struggles and successes.
After my diagnosis, this site became one of my favorites. I loved to read success stories and to find strategies to use to help me focus. About 3-4 months after my diagnosis, I was perusing the website and saw they were accepting applications for speakers for the November 2015 conference.
Well, I wanted my story out there. I wanted to help others. I am in the minority of those diagnosed as an adult. I am very fortunate to be as successful as I am. I wanted parents, caregivers, teachers, and doctors to know success is possible. The sky is the limit. My foundation for success was a loving, structured, caring family. I always knew what to expect. If I struggled in academics, my parents were there to help me. I wanted others to know what I knew. So, I sent my story to MOFAS.
I received an email reply within a couple days. I remember sitting with my phone and clicking on the email, thinking to myself, “Well, I gave it a shot. My journey is just beginning. I will try for other, more local conferences.” When I read the email stating how incredible my story was and asking if I wanted to join their conference, I started to panic slightly. I REALLY wanted to do this, but I would need money for a plane ticket, a hotel, food, time off work, and a rental car! My FAS brain had not thought about all of that at the time I applied. I was just excited about the prospect of reaching others with my story.
You see, many brains affected by FAS live in the moment, and don’t always think about ALL the factors that need to be considered in planning a trip. My brain and I do things backwards many times. I see what I want, I decide I will do it, and money and time are the last things I think about.
I went home that night from work and told my husband about the opportunity. At this point, he has started to realize my brain works backwards sometimes, which can cause stress between us. He asked if there was any way the organization could cover some of my travel expenses. Hmm, I hadn’t thought of that—big surprise. I emailed the contact person and told her I was a lady with two little guys in daycare and money was tight. She wrote back stating they would pay for my hotel, they would get me a shuttle to and from the airport, they would cover the conference fee, and all I needed to pay for was my flight. Life lesson finally learned by me: You never know unless you ask.
I went back to my husband to tell him the news. The airfare would be a little pricey, but he knew this was the start of my education journey, both for me and for others. He said we would make it work. I was so excited to tell my story! So now I had just six months to write my speech, board that plane, and start changing lives.