Canku Ota


(Many Paths)


An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


March 24, 2001 - Issue 32



How Can Raccoon Twins, a Fox, a Bear and a Puffin Teach Parents About Fetal Alcohol Syndrome?


by PR Newswire


art ©1998 Washington State Department of Social and Health Services

QUESTION: Is it possible for a pair of raccoons, a fox, a bear and a puffin to make life more manageable for children and adults suffering from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome?

ANSWER: Yes, it definitely is possible when these wild creatures are brought to life through the stories and word pictures of a Native American storyteller in an award-winning new video series developed especially to help families who care for children and adults with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Fetal Alcohol Related Conditions.

A partnership of Washington state agencies, health-care experts and traditional Northwest tribal storytellers has produced a collection of stories, health tips, and practical knowledge that will help parents and foster parents learn about Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and gain a deeper understanding of how it affects their children. Produced by the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), "Journey Through The Healing Circle" is now available to parents, schools, and other social service agencies as a series of videotapes, video CD's and professionally illustrated workbooks. The project was to be premiered at a special luncheon at the Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center, Seattle, on
March 17.

The series begins with the words of a Native American storyteller, who tells his listeners: "We have gathered here with Grandfather, our Creator, the ones who fly, the ones who crawl, the ones who swim, the ones who walk on four legs, and those beautiful spirits ... those who have Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Fetal Alcohol-Related Conditions ... who have come to earth as volunteers to teach us what we need to know to heal in our communities."

DSHS produced the video series and books in partnership with the Department of Information Services as a way of helping families who care for victims of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and related conditions.

"We wanted to help parents and foster parents see their Fetal Alcohol Syndrome child through understanding, patient eyes; to look for the gifts that such a special child presents -- patience, tolerance, and determination," said Sharon Newcomer, project manager for the series.

"We also wanted to reassure those who are raising children with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or related conditions that they are good parents and have much to be proud of in how they care for their special-needs children," said Newcomer, who also is program manager with the Foster Parent Training Institute -- a part of the DSHS Children's Administration Division of Licensed Resources.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: The Birth Defect That Can Be Prevented Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is the only birth defect that can be completely prevented, but high rates of alcohol use and unplanned pregnancies make prevention a challenging task. DSHS experts estimate that as many as one in every 300 children in Washington are born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or related conditions.

Children with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or related conditions exhibit a number of behavior challenges, including inconsistency in understanding and carrying out instructions, frequent inability to judge the danger of a situation, lack of interest in eating, and difficulties in falling asleep. They often find their world to be complex and confusing, and are easily frustrated when attempting to learn new things.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and related conditions also cause distinctive facial anomalies such as small, wide-set eyes and a thin upper lip. Victims' bodies tend to be long, slim and small at birth, and development comes slowly. Parents often find themselves at a loss as to how to help their children make their way in day-to-day life.

The new video-and-book series helps parents, foster parents and families find positive and productive ways of working with the special needs of children with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or related conditions. Using Native American story telling techniques, the series offers gentle, non-judgmental guidance and insights into some of the most challenging manifestations of the disease from birth to adulthood.

Floyd Red Crow Westerman, a star in the acclaimed film, "Dances With Wolves," narrates the four touching stories, which tell about a fox named Stays in the Moment, orphaned raccoon twins named Best Day Ever and Little Mask, a teen-age bear named Sees No Danger, and a grown-up puffin named Travels in Circles. Each character dramatizes the various challenges Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and related conditions present at different stages of life.

Written by Dr. Robin LaDue and Carolyn Hartness (both Native American professionals in the field of fetal alcohol services) and illustrated by Raoul Imbert, these stories present frank, honest information in a way that children and adults find inviting and even entertaining.

Copies of the videotapes, books, and CDs are available from local libraries across the state and from the Foster Parent Training Institute at 800-662-9111 or 206-725-9696. Books and video can be downloaded from the DSHS web site at .





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