Getting Burned with #FASD

R.J. Fromanek is the founder of the Facebook Site “Flying with Broken Wings”

Special thank you to guest blogger R.J. Formanek

— Written and shared by R.J. Formanek –
R.J. is one of our beloved FASD Survival Strategy Teachers

Learning how FASD affects each of us individually can make a huge difference in understanding the miscommunication we with this hidden disability often face.  

Because of deficits in our cognition, due to the damage (in this case mainly to the frontal lobes) we often do not understand cause and effect, because to us that is an abstract idea. We tend to not be so good with abstract concepts… and that may be due to a lack of understanding.

Humour, jokes are often lost on us because they involve using the ability to look at things in an abstract, as opposed to a concrete light. And many things we say are taken as jokes because the typical person puts an abstract spin on what we say. This can manifest in some interesting ways.

For example… when I was a kid people said,

“Don’t touch fire, you will get burned.”

Burned? I had NO IDEA what that was. I had seen paper and wood burn. Would I burst into flames as well? What did it feel like?

What exactly does burn mean anyway?
What exactly does burn mean anyway? If you have difficulty generalizing you get burned many many times!

And you know what I did?
I stuck my hand in those flames.
And then I knew what burnt was.

Ok, so far, so good…. stay with me here (this is the ‘twist’ part)

People said “Don’t touch the stove, the element is hot and will burn you.”

Now, I knew what burn meant… and that hurt. BUT… there were no flames, how could this red, glowing element burn me?

And you know what I did?
Yes, you know…. LOL!
I left a fair amount of my skin on THAT one.

People said “Don’t put your hand in boiling water, it will burn you.”

Now, having been burned once or twice before… I had this one. No problem. EXCEPT: How could water burn me? It wasn’t in flames and it wasn’t red hot like the stove? OK, that’s got to be a ‘joke’ or something…

And you KNOW what I did.
Third degree burns down most of my chest on that one.

You see, I THOUGHT I understood…   and in one respect I did. BUT and here’s the big reveal:

I was not able to transfer the knowledge I learned in one situation to another.
I HAD to experience the different types of ‘burn’ to understand.

and so I rolled with the flow of learning one simple word…
… burned in a relationship – well that hurt inside
… sun burned – peeled and blistered
… burn more calories… worked my butt off

and not to forget…
… fire can burn brightly or fiercely – yep really hot
… her eyes burned right through him – felt that one

and I didn’t even add the SLANG usages…
… just think about it – I thought I did

I’m just glad I pretty well had it figured out when I found out that acid can burn as well…. 😉

So, I hope that helps explain some of the problems we often have with understanding what we haven’t experienced, and transferring knowledge from one situation to another similar, yet different situation.

Obvious enough that generalities work to protect the mind from the great outdoors; is it possible that this was in fact their first purpose?  – Howard Nemerov

The way we use the language can be very confusing and when we have a word one can use as a noun, verb, adjective and adverb it will be easy to get burned!


5 thoughts on “Getting Burned with #FASD

  1. What a painful series of lessons to have to go through ~ so incredible that you can now look back and mean to give us who know nothing of your experience some humor connected with it. Congratulations on your “move forward” attitude.

  2. Thank you for sharing this article, it really does help you understand the thought pattern better and the challenge to transfer past experience.

    But, what about advice and trust? Trusting in what others are advising for your safety. For example, Mom tells her son ‘don’t touch the hot stove it will burn you’ does that also become a challenge in processing to trust the advice given too? Can the FASD child learn consider advice, trust, best interests and not touch the stove based on that alone?

    1. I don’t think it’s about trust, or believing in the experience of others:
      but it’s how we process thoughts… by personal experience.
      Even with a person beside me telling me not to do something…
      it was still up in the air about whether or not I would touch the stove…
      not to be disobedient, but to know what it actually feels like.
      Otherwise, the description of a feeling just doesn’t work for my brain.

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