Daniel J Vance

At one time, doctors said the Mohns of Fargo, North Dakota, would be unable to have children. But eventually, they ended up adopting two with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) and having two more of their own: one child with a mild form of autism and muscular dystrophy, and another with the same form of muscular dystrophy.

“I knew the adopted kids had (fetal alcohol syndrome) going in,” said 52-year-old David Mohn in a telephone interview. “But we were told FAS was similar to Down syndrome. I had friends that had kids with Down syndrome, but it was nothing like Down syndrome.”

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A National Institutes of Health website states that any woman drinking any amount of alcohol during pregnancy can cause lifelong physical and behavior problems in her child, including intellectual and learning disabilities, birth defects, vision and hearing problems, and abnormal facial features. Even though incurable, FAS is 100 percent preventable.

In terms of intelligence, Mohn’s adopted children, now a man and woman ages 28 and 27, “range anywhere from being on a two-year-old level on up depending on the skill,” he said. “An example of a two-year-old skill would be their doing any kind of math and counting or any processing of abstract things.”

People with FAS often have difficulty regulating behaviors that can create danger for themselves or others. “For example, I work in aviation,” said Mohn. “When our (adopted) boy was about seven, we were taking off on a flight. At about 1,000 feet, he tried opening the back door of the plane. My wife was doing all she could to contain him. He wanted out because the plane was loud and noisy. He didn’t understand going out would kill him.”

His adopted children now live in a group home and with their parents attend an accepting church that has an adaptive Sunday school class. His adopted boy can be especially caring and kind toward others.

Mohn said, “Our ability to be extremely patient has helped us survive because there were times I didn’t think we were going to get through.” Just one example: Until school officials learned their children with FAS were adopted, the Mohns often felt judged and blamed. They lost friends, too.

That said, the Mohns have been an inspiration and positive role models for other Fargo parents raising children with disabilities.

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