A new book by a former Quick resident is shining a more positive light on the trauma of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).
“I was doing my criminal justice studies degree… and we had to do abnormal psychology and abnormal behaviours that are often seen in the court system,” said Charlene Trudel, author of On the Wings of Success: Heartwarming Stories from the World of FASD.
“Nobody chose FASD, and I did know a tiny bit about it, so as I was doing my research I noticed that the information is either really medically-termed or is just a very dim, very dismal, very bleak outlook for people ever having a good life.
“I just had it pop up in my head that I’m going to write a book about all the successes and the only reason why I know that people can be successful is because I know a girl who has FASD, she’s married and she has a couple of kids.”
Trudel set about collecting the stories, a process that would take her three years.
“There were some people who wanted to [participate] and then ended up backing out because they were so terrified somebody would recognize they’re not normal,” the author said.
“My message with this book is to spread the positivity and lessen the stigma that surrounds FASD.
There’s still very little known about it, there’s not a lot of people who talk about it outside the justice system.”
Although not a victim of FASD herself, there is a personal connection. Trudel is a member of the Kaska First Nation, but was adopted at an early age.
“In northern communities it’s much more common,” she said. “I did grow up knowing about it, I always grew up knowing about the dangers of alcoholism.
“My parents were both alcoholics and addicts. Being adopted, I grew up in a white Christian family and I wouldn’t change it for the world. I had the best upbringing, I had every experience that a kid could ever want and grew up just appreciating nature and the outdoors, it was good.
“I was very fortunate to be adopted because otherwise I’m pretty sure I would have continued the generational trauma.”
In doing her research, she found at least one big surprise.
“It’s how under-diagnosed it is,” she said. “I talked to some doctors and some specialists here who I connected with and they say it is probably one of the top under-diagnosed disabilities. It often gets mistaken for ADHD because it has similar symptoms in that spectrum and it’s just one of those things that you need to continuously educate young women and young parents about. It’s just one of those things that’s not well-known, or innately known.”
But she found the interaction with her subjects was very fulfilling.
“I’m very inspired by these people who just have such an amazing spirit,” she said.
“They’ve all overcome so many obstacles. Many of them went through the justice system, but it’s just the way that they function, that they can’t foresee the outcome, but there’s some stories in there and some people that went through stuff that probably some “normal” people wouldn’t be able to handle.
“Their hope and their optimism and their persistence to not give in is probably stronger than most.”
And the book is selling well, she said.
“It’s actually doing a lot better than I thought it was going to, I kind of wrote it just because I could, not to make money or anything, I just wanted to put it out there and it’s becoming a very good resource for some people.
“I wanted to share these stories for educational purposes, but also just to share their achievements.”
In fact, she is now collecting stories for a second volume.
Now living in Calgary, Trudel has been away from the Bulkley Valley since 1997, but sometimes longs for the north.
“Being a small town girl, sometimes you really miss it,” she said. “I often think about how lucky I was growing up in B.C. because you could just take a walk and you’re one with nature. Here you have to drive about 45 minutes, then you’re one with nature, but Calgary has been pretty good to me.”