FASD Awareness Day: ‘The Wave Project has been a fantastic experience for us all as a family’

To mark International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Awareness Day (9th September 2021), we are sharing this blog from @adoptioncake about her family’s experience with The Wave Project. 

I’m mum to three amazing young people who I’ve had the privilege to be called ‘mummy’ by for almost 10 years now.  They are all unique and amazing in their own ways as are all children, but the thing that sets them aside to some of my friends’ children is that I’ve not known them since the day they were born or before.  That’s because they are all adopted.  This means that they also all had a tricky start in life and experienced trauma and disrupted attachments from their primary caregivers. As a family we have been so lucky to be linked into The Wave Project in Scotland through our connection with FASD Hub Scotland.  

All three of my children have taken part in the six-week surf therapy programme that The Wave Project offers, with Alison, Ange and their team of fantastic instructors and volunteers.  The course focuses on developing young people’s confidence, communication skills and ability to make friendships.  Sounds simple – though any parent will be able to identify with the fact that empowering their young person to take steps they are unfamiliar with can sometimes be a challenge.  

For my children, given their early life experiences, this can often be hard.  But The Wave Project team and volunteers showed so much enthusiasm and compassion that even my middle child, who has some real challenges around leaving us, just trotted off the first week without even a single glance back.  The lure of learning how to surf, combined with the friendly and open faces and people she was met with, made her immediately feel comfortable and confident. 

Throughout the six weeks, every week there is a set of brilliant volunteers who partner the young people on a one-to-one ratio.  This enables them to both stay safe in the water, but also have that much needed connection with a trusted adult who is just there for them.  As a parent with limited options and opportunities to gain time without a child or two in toe, it was also restorative and empowering to have an hour or so to myself once a week.  I even managed to grab that elusive ‘date’ time with my husband – priceless! 

For our kids they have flourished through being part of the surf therapy and have all progressed onto taking part in the surf club.  Their confidence in the water has been markedly improved and for one of my children, who has experienced negative things with water, it’s enabled them to name and overcome some of their fear of being in the sea.  As a family we are all now the proud owners of wetsuits, yes even me!  In fact, during our summer holiday this year I got up at 8am, donned my wetsuit, and joined my two eldest children for a dip in the sea.  I’m not sure that would ever have happened before taking part in The Wave Project.  We’ve purchased body boards for all the kids, and I’m sure a surfboard or two will be on the way soon. 

For our youngest child who has FASD (fetal alcohol spectrum disorder), the sensory feedback they gain from being in the water and on the beach has been so therapeutic.  They often struggle, due to their disability, to stay focused, engage and manage their impulse control.  But being on a surfboard has really enabled them to experience the sea in a completely different way and provided the strong power and feedback they so often crave.  The volunteers that have worked with them have been patient, kind and made activities fun and exciting.  This has enabled them to overcome their reluctance to get into the sea and give it a go.  Baby steps, but humongous progress. 

What a fantastic opportunity and experience it’s been for us all as a family.  My husband has been so inspired he has now become a volunteer for the project, and surfing has definitely become a new hobby for at least two of our children.  I can’t praise the enthusiasm and passion of those involved in The Wave Project in Scotland enough.  They are truly fantastic people, with a passion to pass on what they have learnt to children who have had a tricky start in life.

If you get the opportunity for your child to take part in the Wave Project, I recommend it 100%. 

The Wave Project supports young people with a range of physical and mental health issues, social deprivation or social isolation. The work of our project in Scotland has this year included supporting two groups of young people in partnership with the FASD Hub Scotland.