“Living with FASDs: In Taylor’s Own Words” by the Centers for Disease Control

FASDs are completely preventable if a woman does not drink alcohol during pregnancy. Read more about a personal struggle with FASD.

Each year, the ninth day of the ninth month (September 9) marks Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) Awareness Day.

FASDs are a group of conditions that can occur in a person whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. These effects can include

  • Physical problems
  • Problems with behavior and learning

Taylor’s Story

Taylor Allen, a 23-year-old young man with an FASD and his parents, Mark and Cathy Allen, were recently honored by the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS) for their work with the FASD community in the Washington, DC area.

Photo of a teenaged pitcher in mid-throw during a baseball game.

Taylor enjoys playing baseball in his free time.

Taylor was diagnosed with an FASD in 8th grade. Before he was diagnosed, he struggled and had been misdiagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in first grade. He lied, took things in school that did not belong to him, and recalls being disconnected and very frustrated. In the 8th grade, Taylor took a pocket knife to school and was suspended. Since it was a weapon, he had to go through the First Offender’s Program and seek counseling. The counselor noticed a gap between action, reaction, and consequences, and had Taylor tested. Taylor was finally diagnosed with an FASD.

Family photo: father, mother, and teenaged son from left to right.  The men wear suits and the woman wears a black dress.  They are standing, posed against a sunset backdrop.

Mark, Cathy, and Taylor

When Taylor was born, his birth mother had disclosed to the doctor that she was dealing with alcohol dependence and drank alcohol while pregnant with Taylor. This information from Taylor’s parents was helpful to finally diagnose him with an FASD. After Taylor’s diagnosis, the Allen family finally connected with NOFAS and the Kennedy Krieger Institute to get help for Taylor.

Some of the behaviors Taylor has struggled with include difficulty maintaining attention, inability to plan and manage time, poor problem solving skills, inability to learn from consequences, social awkwardness, anxiety, and depression. Cathy Allen, Taylor’s mother, shares that “Taylor has the outward appearance of any other 23-year-old since he is on the high functioning end of the spectrum, so his FASD behaviors are often misunderstood – causing Taylor extreme anxiety and depression.”

After a great deal of struggle and perseverance from Taylor and his family, Taylor earned his associate’s degree in electronics from a trade school. Taylor currently works as a lead custodian at an area airport. He enjoys playing and watching baseball, tinkering with computers, reading, and spending time with his girlfriend of two years. Taylor hopes to further his education and he is working toward living independently.

In His Own Words

“We were like so many other families out there. We were looking for guidance and trying to find counselors, practitioners. Through NOFAS, I was able to have a voice and speak out. By talking with others who are just at the beginning of their FASD journey, we are also healing and helping ourselves – by reminding us that we are not alone.

My mom talks to families that call her all the time. They are just trying to get information, to understand, to have a shoulder to cry on. I hear these conversations. They are so emotional that I walk by and listen in and I can’t help but tear up because I was there along with my dad and my mom. And I know how it was like for my mom when she made that call to Kathy [Mitchell, Vice President, NOFAS].

CDC would like to give a special thanks to the Allen family and the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS) for sharing this story with us. View more personal stories at NOFAS.

Now, NOFAS has empowered me. Several times a year they give me the podium to speak and tell my story. Getting up in front of a crowd to speak about FASD takes away the control that this disability had over me. I didn’t know why I did a lot of things I used to do. But with this, I do know why I am doing it. For the past year, I have been leading a teen group with the help of Kathy [Mitchell, Vice President, NOFAS] and my dad. We mostly talk about what it’s like to be us, our day-to-day life, things we run into. We get into how bad it feels to be misunderstood, how we just wish people would understand us. But at the end of the day, no matter how bad, we are all smiles because we’ve got together and met people just like us.

I want to thank NOFAS for letting us be a small part of everything they do. We are going to keep talking, keep listening, and keep educating until everyone in the world knows that you cannot drink during pregnancy.”