Thursday, December 31, 2009

a year gone by part 3

Part 3

July was the beginning of my new hobby, clipping coupons. Lil' man's behaviors decreased.  Day's filled with rage, were becoming less and less. Alex turned four!

We celebrated July fourth at home.  Which brought a whole nother  list of first for our lil guy.

First time eating a snow cone
First time holding a sparkler
First time watching fireworks
Fist time having his face painted
Fist time getting a tattoo
First time laying outside on a blanket watching the stars.

I continued to struggle with the death of my Mother.

We hit the road for a two week vacation. We went to the mountains, and visited family in Virginia.

Our niece Jannae came to visit for five weeks!

We had to re-potty train Lil' man.

Lil' man's birth Moms rights were terminated.

Before we knew it, it was time for Lil' man to go to school! How exciting.  School started Aug 3rd.

We hit the road yet again, to meet up with my bestie Crystal, and her crew.

Lil' Man struggled with school.

September was a laid back month nothing too exciting happened. Work, school, family time the usual.

October was very busy, and exciting month.  Hubby and I went to Scotland for 2 weeks. 

I was diagnosed with endometriosis.  We celebrated Teagyn's 9th birthday, along with Halloween.

November proved to be a very challenging month.  We struggled greatly with Lil' man's behaviors.  We questioned our ability to parent him. 

Thankfully his behaviors settled down, just in time for Thanksgiving! We spent thanksgiving, at the beach with my sisters and their children (notice a trend?)

December was filled with cooking banking, party going, present opening fun!  It was one of the best Christmas yet! Let's not forget Miss. Jannae who turned nine on the 15th!

Happy New year.  Here's hoping 2010 is just as adventuress as this year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

a year gone by..Part 2

Part 2

The beginning of April was rough, as we celebrated another one of my Mum's birthdays without her.


We headed to the beach for Easter, my sisters and their kiddos met us there. As we packed up to head home, we got a phone call for a 4 yr old boy.  Little did we know what we were getting ourselves into.

We spent the majority of April adjusting to our new role. We took Lil' man to parade, and an art show.

May proved to be even harder than April.  Lil' Man was kicked out of daycare because they could not control him.  Mothers day was bitter sweet..Lil' Man experienced a lot of first this month.  His first time swimming, his first vacation.


Lil' mans behaviors decreased, we were beginning to wonder if the worst was behind us.

Unfortunately June brought back those defiant behaviors, and violent rages. We questioned our parenting skills, and sought out others who where in our shoes.

The boys, and I went to see Sesame street live.  We had grand time! We spent our day by the pool, trying to beat the Southern heat.

We ended June in Style, as we dressed up, and headed to a family wedding. Stay tuned for part 3!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

a year gone by

Part 1

What a wild and crazy year it has been, but I wouldn't change one minute of it!  We started out 2009 as newly licensed foster parents, eagerly awaiting our first placement. My cell phone was glued to my hip, and I jumped every time it rang. We received our first placement in April, a 4 yr old little boy, who has Fetal Alcohol syndrome. Parenting a child with FAS has had its challenges, who knew a four year old could have so much emotional/behavioral problems?   One of my goals for 2009 was to loose weight.    To date I have lost, 51lbs, but have gained 6 of those back.  I would love to loose another 20-30lbs, but I am happy with where I am.

teagyn copy

January was a busy month-we "celebrated" Teagyn's angel day, battled MRSA , and other boo boo's.  The hubby and I traveled to St. Augustine, FL, and I missed my Mum more than ever.


We returned home from St. Augustine, at the beginning of February still waiting for our first placement.


It was another month full of MRSA, and injuries.

We headed to Tybee, Island with the boys (p and willie B) for valentines day. We played on the beach climbed the light house, and ate delicious seafood!


Our worlds was rocked on February 19th, when a tornado touched down in our tiny town.


Our family suffered a great loss as far as personal belongings, and property go, but we were thankful everyone was a live.

We ended February celebrating hubbies 32nd birthday.

March brought several phone calls for foster children, none of which worked out.

My nephew Jaxon turned two! n708734119_2172266_9215[1]

We provided respite for two girls, siblings aged 5 yrs, and 10yrs.  What an eye opener!

Another storm hit our town, this time taking part of our roof with it.  We sustained water damage in our freshly painted bathroom.

Before we knew it the month was over.  April brought more storms and much more rain.

It's all good

Life is a good at the moment. Lil' man has been going to bed without much fuss, sleeping all night (most nights), using the restroom, and being a happy little lad!  It amazes me how we can have days, weeks, and even months of greatness, and then the "bad side" rears its ugly head.

I have to wonder how much school plays into his behaviors, as he has been doing well since school stopped December 18th. The daycare has had nothing but positive reports at the end of each day.

He continues to play with more and more toys, appropriately. He drew me the other day, It was first time drawing a person complete with eyes, a smile, hair, etc. He LOVES his pretend kitchen, and has been "cooking" dinner every night!

Oh happy days

Sunday, December 27, 2009

a visit

Today we met Lil' mans aunt, uncle, grandma, and cousins at the park with DFAC's permission. He had a great time running and laughing with his cousins.  It was nice to sit back and let someone else do the chasing!

One problem I noted was that when he was doing something wrong, everyone yelled his name, trying to correct him.  Lil' Man doesn't respond well to that type of chaos.  

At one point while he was running, he was getting too far away from me.  His aunt, cousin, and grandma where shouting his name, he was running faster and laughing.  I turned to them and asked them to stop, so that he could hear me calling his name.  As soon as he heard my voice he stopped and came back to me.

His grandmother also corrected him when he called me Mommy which totally confused him. Next time I need to set some ground rules.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

good times

Christmas went off without a hitch.  Lil' man enjoyed opening, and playing with all of his toys.  The five dollar lightning Mcqueen bubble  was a big hit.  Mack, the big rig that hauls lightning Mcqueen took the cake. 

For breakfast Lil' man ate an entire box of mini Santa's.  Followed by a few other chocolate goodies!

He didnt notice the large object that was sitting in the middle of the livingroom floor covered by a blanket.  He was content with what he had.

After all the presents were open I turned to hubby and said "wow what is this", while pointing to the object. Hubby and I pulled the blanket off Lil man shouted "yeah a kitchen, I love it."

We spent most of the morning, playing with all the new toys.  By mid afternoon it was apparent we had bought way too much and would have to reorganize Lil' mans room to fit all of  his crap gifts in.

Around 2pm,  I tired to get Lil' man to nap, but it was a no go. Just as we were about to walk out the door to go to the inlaws, Lil' Man started flopping about on the floor like a fish out of water.

It was clear he was tired, and I wasn't going anywhere until he napped.  I kissed hubby good bye. I told me to call me to let me know when dinner would be served. 

After a knock down drag out fight  lot back rubbing, and a little bit of black mail, he finally feel asleep.

After an hour I woke him up, and we headed to the inlaws.  Lil' Man did really well at the dinner table.  He ate everything on his plate, and even asked to be excused from the table.

The only "issue" we had was that he was mad that not all of the gifts were from him.  He didn't want any small gifts, only the big ones!

My Mother in law handed him a present (it was a book), he handed the unwrapped gift back and said "I don't want this small one,  I want the big box right there." lol

Friday, December 25, 2009

Where is he?

We were up late last night hanging out with the in-laws.  Lil' Man did pretty good, given the "party" environment, and the fact that we were off schedule. He woke up bright and early, and came running into our room as usual.

I asked him "Did Santa come?"

To which he replied "I don't know."

I told him "go and look"

Our bedroom is off the livingroom.  He jumped on to the couch, and pulled the curtains back.

"No Mom Santa isnt here." he shouted

Me:"look under the tree"

Lil' Man "I don't see him."

Me: "Do you see presents?"

"Yeah presents, he shouted." 

I guess he thought the big guy was going to bring the gifts and stay the night!


Merry Christmas everyone. Hope you day is filled with love and joy!

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Hubby  just pulled the pieces of Lil' mans kitchen out of the box and it's 10:32 on Christmas eve.   There are over 35 pieces of wood that need to be put together. Two boxes of screws (about 200), and a few other odds and ends. I can't help but laugh because I have been nagging him to build it all week.


Looks like he's gonna be up for a while! Who else waits till the last minute to put gifts together?

The night before

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
But some children's' stockings were missing this year.
Children were nestled all snug in their beds,
Some parents cling to memories dancing in their heads;

These children all fought their battles so strong,
Why oh why God, did disease have to come along?
Whether Cancer, Leukemia, Brain Tumors or ZS,
These children all fought for each precious day;
From seizures to oxygen to losing their hearing,
These angels still found a smile to share.

Their memories live on...these precious little ones,
Disease has taken so many of our daughters and sons;
Children should not have to go through this fear...
Please oh please God... can you send us a cure?
Star after star after star they came...

Heavenly Lights displays each precious name.
Each angel a story, a family forever changed....
As we read each child's after name...
Teagyn and Olivia, Mackenzie,Jaylon, Anna and Zane, Parker and JW to  There's Yahaira, Andre,Cooper, Laken, Roselyn, and Leah. Their stories all told, and memories held dear...These children are spending Christmas in Heaven this year.

The Sky is a twinkling, their stars sure do shine,
So many hearts touched, especially mine;
A bundle of joy...missed so sadly will be,
Their memories will continue on...for all to see.
Their eyes how they twinkled, their smiles were so bright,

Just like their stars that now light up our night;
Shattered lives, futures changed, a puzzle incomplete,
The meaning of life...these parents now seek.

God went right to work, and spoke not a word,
These children are free as a bird;
God brings comfort and strength and has plenty to share,

The burdens will be eased with His loving care.
God is caring and strong, and needed so much,
And they smile in God's graciously touched;

God filled each stocking with love,
God blessed us all...and back to heaven He rose.
Please hold us all close Father...let us feel your love,

Take care of the children up in Heaven above;
Send each parents love to their angel in the sky,
Until we are reunited in Heaven...and can understand why.

Auntie loves you Teagyn

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Birth Mom

Lil' Mans birth Mom is in town and contacted me via his Aunt.  She wants to have a visit while she's in town, but she's leaving tomorrow.  His case worker was a little reluctant to say yes, but she finally did.

I told her that because of the short notice we would only be able to  meet up at 1pm today.  She informed me that she already had plans, that she couldn't break.

What possibly could be more important that seeing the child that you have lost rights to? Who once adopted you may never see again?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Worth it in the end

Parenting a child with fetal alcohol syndrome is hard work.  My hat is off  to adoptive parents, who are doing this 24/7! Parenting Lil' Man has put a lot of strain and stress on us.

What works today might not work tomorrow.  We've been seeing a lot of lying and "stealing" lately.  Along with down right defiant behaviors followed by "oops it was an accident." "accidents happen Mom."  When you spit in my face dear child it is NOT accident.

When I am feeling stressed I try to take a step back, and look at the big picture.  Lil' Man as came a LONG LONG way in the passed seven months.

Socially he has gone from the age of a young two year old, to an older three almost four year old.

He no longer wears pull-ups to bed.

He plays with all toys now, not just his matchbox cars.

He no longer needs assistance getting dressed.

He can be trusted out of eye sight for a few minutes at a time, if he's in the right mood. 

He cleans up after himself, asks to be excused from the table, says "yes Mam, and no Sir.

He now knows his numbers, colors, shapes, and letters.

He can spell his name, and almost write it too!

His rages have almost stopped. 

He no longer makes strange noises or uses baby talk.

He has come a long way.  Slowly but surely all of this hard work, and stress is paying off.  At the end of the day he is totally worth of the stress.  After all he didnt ask for any of this.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Catching some Zzzz

Lil' man took a nap without protest for the first time EVER today.  Sadly I think he is napping because he is not feeling well. Bad cough, green snot, and slight wheezing.  He has an inhaler, but I think he needs a nebulizer, because he doesn't get the whole inhaler thing.   He usually blows out instead of breathing it in.

Or maybe he's napping because he cant keep his big ole blue eyes open any longer..   He has been up at all hours of the night for the passed week.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


All tucked in and ready for bed, it's chilly tonight.

Spud is living the good life.

Friday, December 18, 2009


I have totally fallen off the wagon when it comes to weight less.  From January until August of this year I lost 50lbs.  Since our trip to Scotland i've gained 5lbs, that I cant seem to shake.

Perhaps its because i've been eating everything insight.  I hope that my motivation returns just as soon as the Christmas holidays are over. Hopefully I will shed a few pounds when I have my surgery!

I would like to loose another 30lbs, to maximize my chances of getting pregnant!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Adoption update

I just got an email from Lil' Mans DFACS worker, they have two interested families. She said her goal is to have in an adoptive home, before my surgery which is scheduled for Feb 3rd.

Cross your fingers because he deserves a forever family.


It's been a rough week here.  Lil' man has been "off".  He has been defiant, hitting, kicking, spitting, and not sleeping.  He finally slept all night last night.

Here's hoping to a fit free day, with lots of sleep again tonight!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

School issues

Lil' Man had a rough day at school yesterday.  He told the teacher he was going to punch her in the head.  Instead of ignoring him, she removed him from the classroom.  He was taken to the positive action room for a time out.

His negative behaviors only escalated from there.  He hit kicked, spit, threw things, yelled screamed, undressed, threw his shoes, etc. After 30 minutes they called me, because they could not get him to clam down.

I walked into the PA room, and said "excuse me what is going on?" Lil' man turned around, said "hi Mom", grabbed his shoes and acted as if nothing had ever happened. 

I am frustrated.  I would not have taken him to the PA room unless he acted upon his threat.  Calling me doesn't really sole the problem.  The first thing out of Lil' Mans mouth was "Are we going to Parker and William's house?"  "Am I going to work with you?"  Way to reward negative behavior.

I headed for home, and called hubby, who came home about 15 minutes later.  He was able to stay home with him so that I could head back to work. 

He had a bit of a rough evening probably due to missing his nap.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Feeling a little home sick tonight, and i'm not even sure where I consider home! Ha.  I miss my family, my sisters, and my brother.  My parents, and my grandparents.

Wishing I could be with them all for the holidays, but how impossible is that? My two sisters are in Virginia Beach, my Brother is in Scotland, and my parents are in Heaven :(

Holidays are not the same when you are not with family.  Hoping for a drama free Christmas Eve at the in-laws!

Saturday, December 12, 2009


My name is Karen and I have a shopping problem.  Every time I go to the store to buy a Christmas gift for someone,  I could out with a toy for Lil' man.  The hubby would kill me if he knew i've spent over $400 on toys.

I got this kitchen

A ton of the Melissa and Doug wooden food sets.

Pots and pans, silverware set, dish set, and coffee pot from Ikea.

Anything and everything from the movie cars.

A Thomas the tank train set.

A few board games. and a million and one other little things. I am so excited for Christmas morning!

Friday, December 11, 2009

busy day

Today we went to the plantation, and picked juicy oranges right off the tree.  Lil' Man and Willie B where eating them fast than the hubs was picking them.  P was just interested in bagging them.  He said he's making orange juice for us all tomorrow!

After picking oranges we headed to a local Chinese restaurant, where we got plenty of stares and comments, because the boys are so close in age.  People should learn to mind their own damn business.. Dont ya think?  Is three kids close in age really over the top? I don't think so.

Maybe they were staring because my three where behaving better than their one. HA

After dinner we ventured to the in-laws for a Sanford family tradition of making popcorn  balls.  They are yummy when the syrup is still warm, and gooey.

I have been working sixty hour weeks this month, and its starting to wear on me.  YAWN

Tomorrow we have a few last minute gifts to pick up. Are you finished with your Christmas shopping?

Party, party, party

Last night we attended a Christmas party in honor of the foster children in the next county over.  It was a skating party, which is right up Lil' Mans ally!  Anything fast with wheels suits him! 

I met an elderly lady who has fostered 97 children in 29 years!  When Lil' Man was first taken away (before going to a relative), he lived with the lady and her husband.  She said as an infant he would head bag, and stay up 16-18 hours a day.  YIKES!

Near the end of the party, Santa himself showed up.  They went a little over board on the gifts! Lil' Man was over the moon ripping them open as fast as he could!

Six toys, and three outfits, Santa sure is generous these days!

We have another party tomorrow night, which is being hosted by our foster care association.  Our final party is next Tuesday, which is being hosted by our agency!

Off to clean out the toy box to make room for a certain spoiled little boys new toys!

Thursday, December 10, 2009


My appointment went well!  The doctor feels he can remove both cysts while preserving my ovaries. He still believes it is endometriosis, however it is a more severe than my doctor originally suspected. 

I will be having my appendix removed.  There is a strong possibility, I will have to have part of my bowel removed. 

The doctor feels we should have no problems conceiving naturally!

Surgery is scheduled for February third!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Remind me again why I became a foster parent?  What a rough evening/night we have had. 



Vodka anyone?

Monday, December 7, 2009


Just wanted to let you all know that I was so proud of our little guy this morning.  Typically when we drop him at school we walk him to the classroom.  He usually cries when we leave, or comes running down the hallway after us.

Today I asked him if he would like to walk in by himself.  He said yes.  I walked him to the door of the school, hugged him good bye, and off he went.  I hid around the corner so that he could not see me he walked into the classroom with any problem!!!  I was so happy I almost shed a tear!

This is huge progress when we first got him we couldn't trust him to walk from the car into the house without holding on to him!


Saturday, December 5, 2009


Just wanted to let you all know that tonight I received the Mother of the Year award!  Lil' man was throwing down inside of target.  I had enough and decided we needed to leave.  Its never a pretty sight when we leave the store.  That kid loves to shop.  He screamed the entire way to the car.  I had to "fight" him to get him  into his carseat

He threw his shoes at me, as well as a cup of juice.  He was screaming at the top of his lungs, "somebody help me, I want to go back into the store." "HELP HELP HELP ME PLEASE."

I finally got the lil shit guy buckled into his seat. I slide the door closed, and took a breather. I had calmed down and went to open the door.  hmm for some unknown  reason it was locked.

My keys were sitting on the drivers seat.  I was 45 miles from home where my spare was.  After several minutes of shouting  directions through the window as to how to unbuckle I gave up. He wasn't going to be able to get out.

Because of his lack of impulse control he still rides in a 5pt harness carseat.  He was able to undo the top clip, but not the bottom part. 

I called the non emergency police for help.  They informed me that they would call pop-a-lock, and send an officer over.  Three officers showed up within five minutes of my phone call.  By now I had been standing outside in 40 degree weather with no coat on for 20 minutes .

Two seconds later my door was opened and the kid was free!  Who new accidentally locking your kid in the car was a great way to defuse a tantrum!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Lights everywhere

Last night we went to a local Christmas lights display.  Lil' Man could not believe is eyes! I am so loving sharing this holiday season with him.  It's different from a baby experiencing Christmas for the first time, because he's older, and he gets it.

As we were driving through the garden of lights Lil' Man's eyes lit up, because he spotted Santa! We rolled down our windows (he was up front sitting in my lap) and he promptly shouted to Santa " I really want a power wheels" something he keeps saying, but something we had not planned on buying.

Santa asked him if he has been a good boy, to which he replied "Yes sir".  Santa told him he was the cutest boy he had ever seen, which made his smile grow even bigger.

He oooed and ahhhhed the entire time we were in the garden.  I'm loving it!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

up and up again

Lil' man has been waking every 2-3 hours every night since Sunday.  I think he is having nightmares because he keeps waking up saying he is scared.  While we were on vacation he slept in the room with us (separate bed) He would moan/whine in his sleep all during the night.

I hope it isnt a side effect of the strattera.  His teacher said he complained all day that he was tired.  He went to bed last night at 7:45pm, but was up at 10, 1,4, and then again at 5:30am, he did not go back to sleep.

Typically he sleeps from 7:45pm-7am. 

Tonight I put him to bed at 7:45pm, he just came out of the room crying "Mom i'm scared." Now that I think about it, he has been saying he is scared a lot lately. 

I hope we all get a good night sleep tonight.  Some how my hubby never wakes up when the kid gets up. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

little things

It's the little things in life that matter.  Hubby put the Christmas tree together before Lil' man and I got home tonight.  On the way home I told Lil' Man that Daddy had a surprise for him.  He kept asking what it was, I gave him a hint.  It's big and green, but he didnt figure it out.

As soon as we walked in the door he started shouting "a tree, my Christmas tree." "ahhh my tree." He ran around the house wigging out like he does when he gets overly excited (its a happy wigging out).  He was so excited he pooped in his pants! YIKES


Hubby picked him up  so that he could place the star on top.  All of the sliver candy canes are placed on the one branch per Lil' Mans instruction. He oooed and ahhhed when the lights were plugged in.  Things are going to be extra hyper around here until after the holidays!  We have four Christmas parties to attend.

What a perfect way to kick off the holiday season!

one week

Yesterday I went to the hospital and got a copy of my CT-Scan, and US films.  GROSE.  I have seen plenty of ultra sound pictures of unborn babies, but my ultra sound is just nasty.  My left ovary looks like a twisted burnt sausage, with a grapefruit on the side.

Next Wednesday is my appointment in Atlanta with the reproductive surgeon.  I am going there  for a second opinion, regarding my possible endometriosis diagnosis.

I am hoping that he will be able to do the surgery laparoscopically, because my recovery time will be nothing, compared to being cut open.   In the back of my head I am  also hopeful that both of ovaries can be saved, and that I won't have to harvest my eggs, or conceive via IFV.  Cause I ain't rich.

However I know thats likely not going to be the outcome.  I would be happy if takes the left one and leaves me with the right one.

Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Totally cool

4 Paws for Ability has pioneered the use of service dogs for another unique developmental disability. In 2008, we placed our first FASD Service Dog with a nine-year-old boy from Georgia, Iyal Winokur.

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a lifelong birth defect that occurs when a pregnant woman drinks alcohol. This "hidden disability" leaves an individual with neurological, behavioral, and emotional impairments. Up to 94% of children prenatally exposed to alcohol will also fight mental illness.

Most people don't know that FASD is the leading preventable cause of cognitive disabilities. And while more and more people have become aware of the number of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, the prevalence of FASDs is 50% greater than Autism. In the United States, one out of every hundred live births is affected by prenatal alcohol exposure.

While the organic brain damage of FASD occurs even before a baby is born, some symptoms and behaviors associated with this disability look very similar to Autism or Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, ADHD. As 4 Paws for Ability continues to be the largest organization in the U.S. placing skilled Autism Service Dogs, it was a natural progression to train a service dog for a child affected by FASD.

Sensory Overload

photo of Iyal Winokur with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and service dogMany children with FASDs have sensory issues causing involuntary repetitive movements or behaviors that seem out of place in a social context. These movements thus become the "signal" or "command" taught to the dog. The dog is then trained to disrupt the behavior by nuzzling the child or putting a paw on the child.
Many children require deep pressure to quiet an over-aroused regulatory system. A large service dog can provide much needed weight to help calm a child when he or she is lying on top of the child. A dog is much more interesting than a weighted blanket! For those children who need sensory input, the physical presence of the dog offers tactile stimulation and "contact comfort."


An FASD Service Dog's presence offers a calming influence. Like children who are affected by ADHD, many children suffering from fetal alcohol exposure have difficulty sitting and staying at the table or being able to focus. Due to an over-aroused nervous system, children with FASD have trouble settling down and not becoming agitated.

"We have noticed Iyal spending up to 30 minutes just lying on top of Chancer hanging out," says his dad. "Iyal will have his head on top of Chancer and the two of them will be quiet together. This is huge! Before having Chancer, when Iyal didn't know what to do with himself; while waiting during a transition, he would run around the house out-of-control and get increasingly irritated. Iyal was unable to stay calm by himself."

Social Lubrication

photo of Iyal Winokur with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and service dogSimilar to the ways in which a service dog assists an individual with Autism, FASD Service Dogs provide support in a variety of environments, which result in improved communication and social skills.

The term "social lubrication" was developed by researchers, Mugford and McComisky to describe the phenomenon where the presence of animals increased social interaction between people. Other social scientists suggested that the attractiveness of a child's pet to other children may, as a secondary gain, enhance the attractiveness of the child as a friend or playmate. Makes sense!

Shortly after Chancer joined the Winokur family, Iyal's mom told 4 Paws, "Iyal asks us if we can take Chancer with us whenever we are going out. He is so proud of Chancer and tells other kids immediately that Chancer is his working dog."

How a Nine-Year-Old Boy Became an Ambassador for Service Dogs

"While waiting to enter an exhibit at the World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta, Iyal spontaneously introduced our service dog, Chancer, to a family standing next to us in line. Iyal grinned and said, 'Chancer is my service dog and my best friend ... my brother. He makes me feel better when I'm upset. And if I'm crying, he comes over and gives me kisses all over my face! I don't feel as lonely with Chancer.' I could not have written a better script for Iyal. I was thrilled to hear him say these words to folks he had just met!"

Generally people love dogs and naturally want to interact with them. This interaction often transfers to children and offers opportunities to improve social skills. Further, the desire to give verbal commands can increase expressive language. 4 Paws teaches the children how to command simple tricks from their service dogs. The kids love to show off how smart their special friends are which also enhances the child's self-esteem.

Better Thinking

Some of the significant benefits that an FASD Service Dog can bring to children are:

  • An advancement in abstract and concrete thinking
  • Improvement in focus
  • An increase in the length of attention span

photo of Iyal Winokur with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and service dog"Perhaps the most profound 'untargeted behavior' that changed after obtaining Chancer was an emergence of language," says his mother. "Within two weeks after our return from our training at 4 Paws, we noticed that Iyal was now using multisyllabic words in complex sentences. This was a significant difference in the way in which Iyal communicated prior to having Chancer with us!
"Not only was he using more sophisticated language, but his words showed self-reflective thinking: a different self awareness was also emerging. In many children with developmental disabilities a sense of identity is often compromised," she said.
"We could never have anticipated this sort of transformation for Iyal."


An important role of the service dog is giving the individual more self-confidence, which promotes independence. For children who also have attachment issues or fear of abandonment, the unconditional companionship offered by the child's service dog is very healing. Often children with disabilities are generally dependent and can feel powerless due to their disability. The experience of some control over their service dog may provide a sense of mastery and self-assurance.

"Sometimes when Iyal doesn't know I'm watching, I see him command Chancer to do tricks. After Chancer does the tricks, Iyal gets him a treat all by himself and rewards him. This occurs several times a day. It is a great example of gained independence," says Iyal's mom.

Understanding Others

photo of Iyal Winokur with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and service dogChildren living with fetal alcohol exposure, like children with Autism, may have difficulty "in putting themselves in other people's shoes." Taking care of a service dog offers a chance to develop nurturance and practice people skills.

Iyal's mom reports that the relationship with Chancer helps Iyal to become more other-directed. Chancer provides immediate feedback, as an animal lets you know clearly when it needs something. Interacting with Chancer helps to shift Iyal's focus off of himself and cultivates thinking about others.

For children who are challenged by interpreting the facial expression of others or understanding behaviors, the opportunity to evoke compassion is critical. Developing empathy also pertains to a child's sense of self and the feelings and emotional investment in something other than themselves.

Children learn empathy in their relationship with their service dogs as they must learn to read nonverbal cues. And in a non-threatening way, the children learn to assess the needs of their service dog and then learn to choose behaviors that will presumably meet that need. This unique nonverbal mode of communication sharpens the child's ability to decode nonverbal signals.


Parents of children living with prenatal alcohol exposure have significant concerns for their children's safety; physical and emotional. Most children with FASDs have extreme impulsivity. They may dart out into the street or a parking lot without looking. FASD Service Dogs, like Autism Service Dogs, can be trained to be tethered to a child, which increases a sense of security for both parents and child.

Iyal's mom shared with the staff at 4 Paws, "Iyal's emotional safety is intertwined with a great sense of vulnerability. Individuals with FASD are easily taken advantage of and exploited. Iyal will do virtually anything to make a friend. It's our hope that if people around Iyal know of Chancer's existence, the presence of a large dog will deter someone with less than honorable intentions."

Families whose children have FASDs are often told that their children need "external brains" to help them navigate through life. Abstract concepts like telling time feel much more complicated. The combination of impulsivity and lack of judgment can leave children with this disability extremely naïve. Research suggests that putting in place external supports allow children who are alcohol-exposed more chance to succeed. An FASD Service Dog in essence provides another external brain.

Drawing by Iyal Winokur while he was waiting for his FASD Service Dog, Chancer

The Bond

Children suffering from brain damage or psychiatric disabilities may have difficulty in creating intimacy with others. Trust is a big issue for those with attachment disorders. An FASD Service Dog becomes a form of grounding for a child with fetal alcohol exposure. The dogs serve as an emotional and sometimes physical anchor for a child who lives in a world that feels disorienting and confusing. When unexpected change or transitions easily offset the emotional balance of a child, the consistency of a service dog's behavior helps that child be more able to cope with the unexpected.

Iyal's dad says, "If Chancer hears Iyal getting upset, he gets up wherever he is in the house to go and find him, and lies down near him. When Iyal is having a tantrum, Chancer comes over and tries to nuzzle without being told to. Chancer is so tolerant!"

Iyal's mother says that in a store or other places in public, Chancer becomes agitated if Iyal moves too far away or goes into a restroom. He will alert the second Iyal is out of his sight. "After a huge meltdown," she says, "Iyal asked for Chancer in between sobs. I looked over the balcony and saw Iyal sitting at the bottom of the stairs, with his arms up in the 'nuzzle' position waiting for Chancer to come and comfort him. It brought tears to my eyes."

FASD Online Resources