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  • Stacey C.

Brain Differences...

In our house we talk a lot about brains. Well... we talk about lots of things, but brains are one of our favorite subjects. Our philosophy is that the more we talk about the "uncomfortable stuff" (in this case FASD and brain differences), the more comfortable and normal it becomes and that in turn (hopefully) gives us confidence in who we are as individuals.

So, tonight as we were unpacking from our camping trip and parking the 5th Wheel, which involved moving a broke down convertible car of Austin's (if you're in the market, let me know. I'm sure he'll make you an AMAZING deal), Tiva asked me, "Mom, why does Brubba have so many cars?" (There is another parts car of the same variety parked beside the garage... grrrrrr). I answered, "The frontal lobe in Brubba's brain has not fully developed and so sometimes he makes poor decisions." My little insightful side-kick's face lit up and she exclaimed, "Oh! Just like me!" "Uh... yes" I agreed. My goodness, this child!

A short time later, Austin came home and I shared the story with him and asked if I could share it on my blog. He gave me permission adding, "No one reads that thing anyway."

After we were done unpacking and had finished our dinner, I decided to have my man-child help me clean out his old room. He moved out quite a while ago and basically left his room a mess. I haven't really had time to deal with it, so we have just kept the door shut. That room has the biggest closet and is one of the best bedrooms in the house though, so Lance and I decided to transition Tiva to that room, make her current room the play therapy room and the current play therapy room a guest room. It will be quite an undertaking, but we have set a goal of the end of July to have it mostly transitioned and since Austin was home, we figured tonight would be a great night to start the cleaning.

Sometimes it is fun going through old stuff and it can also easily distract you from the task at hand. Of course, this was the case with Austin. He came across an old shotgun shell that just had the primer in it. He got out a screwdriver and started hammering the top of the shell on his desk in his bedroom. "What are you doing?!" I exclaimed. "Trying to get this to explode" came his answer. The Tornado was right by his side smiling and nodding her head in apparent approval of his imminent stupidity. "Not in the house," came my response. He looked at The Tornado and said playfully, "She doesn't like to have fun". Without skipping a beat, Tiva said "Yeah, but we like to have fun, right Brubbs?" They headed out to the back deck with their screwdriver and shotgun shell in hand. "Hey, Tiva," I yelled before she made it outside. "Remember what I said about Brubba's frontal lobe of his brain?" "Yeah," she replied "Well, what do think about what he's about to do?" "It's a poor decision." She said matter of factly, and with a smile, she skipped close behind him. I just shook my head and told her to watch from behind the protection of the sliding glass door.

The thing made a decent explosion which would have ruined his desk had I not made him go outside. He was a little surprised by this which made me wonder why in the world he would try to make it explode in his room on his wooden desk with his sister by his side if he didn't know what would happen. He lives on his own. I pray for this boy a lot. On days like today, I wonder where we went went wrong. I mean, I feel like his father and I are fairly intelligent people and I feel we brought up our children to be wise and make good choices, but my goodness...what happened? Could it really be explained by the frontal lobe?

One thing I've become quite adept at in raising our Tornado is turning to University research to try and explain the unexplainable behaviors, so that's what I did. The University of Rochester says this:

"The rational part of a teen's brain isn't fully developed and won't be until age 25 or so.

In fact, recent research has found that adult and teen brains work differently. Adults think with the prefrontal cortex, the brains rational part. This is the part of the brain that responds to situations with good judgement and an awareness of long-term consequences. Teens process information with the amygdala. This is the emotional part.

In teen's brains, the connections between the emotional part of the brain and the decision making center are still developing - and not necessarily at the same rate. That's why when teens experience overwhelming emotional input, they can't explain later what they were thinking. They weren't thinking as much as they were feeling."

Well, that explains a lot and perhaps that is why The Tornado and her Brubba have so much fun together. They can relate to each other. The good part is that one of them will grow out of it in his mid 20's. As for The Tornado... she will need an "external brain" to help her make right decisions for quite a while, perhaps for her lifetime, but that's okay. We talk about brain differences and she knows she needs support. Instead of focusing on her disability though, we will continue to focus on her abilities! And every night as we say bedtime prayers for all of her siblings, family and friends, we will say an extra prayer for her Brubba to make good choices that will keep him safe until his frontal lobe is fully developed. Lord have mercy.

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