Natalie Vecchione is an FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder) parent advocate, homeschooler, podcaster, but MOST importantly... she's a wife and mom! She began homeschooling 6 1/2 years ago, when noticing how many accommodations her son (later diagnosed with an FASD) needed. After his diagnosis, she began advocating for FASD by being a peer support mentor and facilitating a support group. She is certified in Mental Health First Aid and has been a Board- Certified, Music Therapist for 25 years. Recently, Natalie has volunteered as a board member and social media coordinator for several North Carolina nonprofits. In 2020, Natalie began her new adventure in the world of podcasting through producing and hosting podcasts about FASD.... and she became a "Mom on a Mission with a Microphone." Natalie and her husband John are the co-founders of “FASD Hope, LLC”. The mission of FASD Hope is to provide awareness, information and inspiration to people whose lives have been touched by Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). They live in the farm country of North Carolina with their 5-year-old daughter (who just began homeschooling) and 18-year-old son (who just graduated from homeschooling and he is now proudly working as a carpentry apprentice). Natalie is thrilled to begin this new adventure of FASD Hope, LLC and the “FASD Hope” podcast series.
My guest on this episode is Natalie Vecchione. She reached out to me on Instagram, and I am so glad she did! Natalie provides a wealth of information and experience on raising kids with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, but she also provides the vital component of hope and encouragement!
Homeschooling a Child With an FASD
Did you know that prenatal alcohol exposure causes more damage to an unborn baby than street drugs such as meth and cocaine?
Prenatal alcohol exposure is so misunderstood. In fact, it is estimated that 1:20 children have been prenatally exposed to alcohol and have an FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.) The percentage is even higher in the adoptive/foster care community. And FASD is not something that can be outgrown. And FASD is so serious that there are over 400 co-morbid diagnoses that can go along with fetal alcohol exposure.
“It’s a lifelong disability. It’s something they don’t outgrow. We need to adjust our expectations.”
Homeschooling and parenting a child with an FASD is not always easy. In fact, Natalie frequently prays Psalm 63, which she calls her "Broken Hearted Momma Psalm." You can read Psalm 63 here.
You're going to love listening to Natalie's story. If you usually just read the blog and don't listen to the podcast, I encourage you to listen to this episode, as it is full of hope!
When homeschooling her son, Natalie said he was on grade level in some classes and lower in others. (We can probably all relate to that!) And because of his FASD, one day he can do well and recall, and the next day he can't. While he struggled some with academics, he discovered he is a gifted wood worker. He is thriving doing carpentry! Natalie shared how they spent their last two years of homeschooling trying to find carpenters who would allow her son to apprentice.
“You can accommodate. A huge word that I’m going to use in this conversation is “accommodating.” I feel like as homeschool parents of children and teens with special needs, we can do that!”
Natalie's son now lives in his own "apartment" in their home in the country. And they hope to soon build him his own tiny house on their land, as a way of promoting what she called "interdependence." He'll be given as much independence as he can manage, and yet have the safety net of having his family nearby.
Natalie has some great advice for moms who are raising and homeschooling kids with FASDs, or any special needs, for that matter.
- Suspect an FASD? You can reach out to diagnosticians or neuropsychologists who are familiar with FASD to work on getting a diagnosis. Occupational therapists can also be helpful for referrals.
- Build your marriage and work on your marriage because homeschooling special needs kids can take a toll on your marriage.
- Focus on self care/self stewardship. It looks different for everybody. Take care of yourself because raising special needs kids can be hard on your body and mental health.
- For added support, join a co-op or reach out to have a tutor meet with your child periodically. (You can check out the Flamingo Feathers episode on homeschool co-ops to find out how to choose the right co-op for your special learner.)
Natalie’s Recommended FASD Resources
- Trying Differently Rather Than Harder-Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders by Diane Malbin
- Homeschooling Your Struggling Learner by Kathy Kuhl
- NOFAS (www.nofas.org)
- Proof Alliance (https://www.proofalliance.org/)
- FASCETS (https://fascets.org/)
Connect with Natalie and John Vecchione
- Facebook @fasdhope1
- Instagram @fasdhope
- Pinterest @fasdhope1