Daniel J Vance

A pregnant woman drinking any amount of alcohol can permanently harm her baby.

No one knows this better than Sandy Hruby of Hutchinson, Minnesota, who, along with her husband, adopted two children that eventually were diagnosed with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).

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The National Institutes of Health states FASD can cause permanent, lifelong harm to a child, including difficulties learning and remembering, understanding and following directions, communicating and socializing, controlling emotions, and managing basic life skills.

In a telephone interview, 50-year-old Hruby said, “Of our three (adopted) children, two were diagnosed on the (FASD) spectrum. Our daughter, who now is almost 20, came from Romania. Our youngest son is 13 and he came from a foster care program.”

Their daughter arrived from overseas a bit “hyper,” she said, which Hruby attributed then to the excitement of being in new surroundings. Their daughter on arrival spoke only Romanian. The Hrubys soon learned she also had sensory issues involving certain clothing fabric and foods, and was very impulsive, often showing poor judgment.

Said Hruby, “As for her judgment, for example, for a long time, she couldn’t differentiate family members from strangers. She hadn’t been exposed to men in her (Romanian) orphanage, was fascinated with whiskers, and would go up to men with whiskers who were strangers and rub their faces.”

A physician diagnosed their daughter at age 7 with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. At first, Hruby was in denial and had to do research herself before fully believing the diagnosis. Their youngest son received his diagnosis at age 7, too. In kindergarten, he had screaming fits, broke and threw pencils, with his arms cleared books off tables, flipped chairs, and sometimes hit and kicked people in his way. It has taken much work, she said, but her children today are doing really well.

She said, “Our daughter is driving a car, holding a part-time job, and taking community college classes. Our son is doing extremely well and is almost behavior-free, in part because of getting a service dog last December.” His dog knows how to calm him, she said. Both her children for years have been medication-free. She attributed their success to a support network that includes their home, school, church, and community.

Hruby works part-time as Southwest Minnesota family resource coordinator for the Minnesota Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. She said, “I wouldn’t trade my kids in for the world.”

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