How to Help Your Picky Eater

How to Help Your Picky Eater

Most parents struggle with feeding their kids at some point in their lives. Eating is one of the most basic functions, so why is it so hard? There are many reasons a child might not like a specific food — the texture, what it looks like, the smell, or the child could be anxious about the sensory experience, so they refuse even to try it. Whatever the reason, there are ways to make this experience less stressful for everyone. 

I am a pediatric therapist and co-founder of Kinspire, a pediatric support platform that provides occupational therapy through a convenient telehealth experience. I often help families who struggle with picky eaters. Most picky eater caregivers dread mealtime because they know there will be struggles around food. Mealtimes should be an opportunity to connect with your family, not a time of stress. I’m excited to share a few of my favorite tips on how to support your child during mealtimes so the entire family can get back to a stress-free meal. 

Tips to Ease Mealtime Stress With Your Picky Eater

Introduce new foods alongside favorite foods.

Do not force your child to try a new food. Continue to present it in small portions alongside favorite foods to increase the likelihood of your child interacting with it. 

Select three goal foods.

Make a list of your child’s preferred foods. These foods will help you determine new foods to introduce – you want to select new foods that are similar to your child’s preferred foods, but different in some ways. Introduce the goal foods one at a time. 

Use “I wonder” statements to encourage your child to try new foods.

“I wonder if that’s crunchy like your pretzels,” or “I wonder if it tastes sweet or salty.”

Take the pressure off your child.

If your child doesn’t want to interact with a food, say, “OK, I guess you’re not ready to eat that yet.” Adding yet to this statement leaves the possibility open for the future while making them more comfortable during mealtime.

Get them involved in food prep.

Helping in the kitchen makes your child an active participant and gives them a sense of control from the start.

Encourage them to explore food through smell, touch or trying it in small bites.

If your child smells a new food, that is a win! Encourage them to touch and smell the food if they aren’t ready to taste it yet. 

Give them some control over their food choices.

A food menu works great for this — give your child food options and let them fill out the weekly menu. When the child feels like they have some control over their food, they know what to expect and are more willing to try it. 

Manage your expectations.

It’s hard to put so much time and effort into feeding your child. Don’t expect any one tip to be the answer; this process can take time, but your patience will pay off. 

2022 Pinwheels for Prevention® Sponsor

Special Thanks to Kinspire for growing a better tomorrow for all children, together.

Speaking from personal experience with my youngest girl, being a parent to a picky eater can be overwhelming at times. If you’re looking for support for your picky eater, Kinspire can help you. 

Kinspire offers children and their families occupational therapy in the most flexible and convenient way that fits into anyone’s schedule. Kinspire’s platform empowers parents to support their children on a daily basis via a dedicated occupational therapist, on-demand telehealth services, and a self-service technology experience. Kinspire therapists work with families to develop a collaborative Family Action Plan tailored to their child’s needs and parents can reach out to their dedicated therapist whenever they need help or have questions.

No more wait lists or scheduling challenges— you can get help now at your convenience with Kinspire. Schedule a free consultation at www.kinspirehealth.com to get matched with a licensed therapist who will guide and teach you how to support your family so you can get back to stress-free meals.

About the Author

About the Author

Lily Baiser is a parent and highly experienced pediatric occupational therapist (OT). She holds a certification in sensory integration theory and practice, and has advanced training in multiple interventions. She also serves as the chief clinical officer and co-founder of Kinspire, a pediatric support platform that provides occupational therapy through telehealth to best support the developmental needs of children and their families.

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Parents’ Stories a Focus of the Campaign to Grow a Better Tomorrow for All Children, Together

Parents’ Stories a Focus of the Campaign to Grow a Better Tomorrow for All Children, Together

Nearly one hundred people gathered on the steps of the Colorado State Capitol to promote positive childhood experiences and listen to parents share their experiences in recognition of child abuse prevention month. The event is the first of many activities happening throughout the nation, and Colorado, as part of the month-long Pinwheels for Prevention® campaign to Grow a Better Tomorrow for All Children, Together.  

“Every one of the more than 1.2 million children in Colorado today deserve to be valued, healthy and thriving, including the children in my community. And, every day, we each help positive childhood experiences take root,” said Beverley Besha Moore, emcee for the event and board member of Illuminate Colorado (Illuminate), the statewide nonprofit organizing this annual grassroots effort to raise awareness during child abuse prevention month. As the Colorado Chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America, the organization leads the national Pinwheels for Prevention® Campaign in Colorado which has grown exponentially over the years, giving away more than 40,000 FREE pinwheels last year as many families were under significant stress doing their best to parent during a pandemic.

2022 Colorado Pinwheels for Prevention Campaign Launch Event

Thank you to all the partners, parents and kids that joined us at the Colorado State Capitol! What a great start to Child Abuse Prevention Month!
VIEW PHOTO ALBUM

A leading champion for all children in the United States, Prevent Child Abuse America is the nation’s oldest and largest organization dedicated to the primary prevention of child abuse and neglect. Prevent Child Abuse America experts develop innovative, evidence-based prevention strategies, raise public awareness, and advocate for family-friendly policies and programs at the national, state, and local levels to ensure that all children and families get what they need to thrive. “Research shows that positive childhood experiences grow thriving families and communities,” explained Dr. Melissa Merrick, president and CEO of Prevent Child Abuse America. “This is the moment to build a child and family well-being system that propels families to grow and thrive together. Please consider joining us to ensure safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments are cultivated to enable children, families, and entire communities to succeed – today and for generations to come.” 

As a mom to seven kids myself, two by adoption and five by birth, I know that no parent can do this alone. All parents need support from their community to raise their kids—it truly does take a village. And while all families need support, some families do experience social, economic and environmental inequities more than others and this explains why children of color experience significant disparities in child well-being.” said Besha Moore. As an African American mother, I’ve experienced first-hand the struggle of wanting to ask for help but being fearful that I would be looked at differently or treated differently because I’m African American. We can all help by proactively calling out inequity and injustice and working to create the conditions for safe, stable and nurturing spaces. All children and families thrive when communities focus on addressing root causes that lead to health and social inequities. We all need to know how to strengthen the family next door.”

This year, Illuminate is giving away 10 Free pinwheels to anyone interested in getting more involved and asking all Coloradans to pledge to grow a better tomorrow for all children, together. “When parents, caregivers, family, friends, neighbors, employers and elected leaders work together to increase five critical protective factors in families’ lives that is when we can prevent child abuse, strengthen families and build brighter childhoods,” continued Besha Moore.

Every one of the more than 1.2 million children in Colorado today deserve to be valued, healthy and thriving, including the children in my community. And, every day, we each help positive childhood experiences take root.

Beverley Besha Moore

Board Member, Illuminate Colorado

Conditions in communities where people live, learn, work and play affect a wide range of health risks and outcomes – including child abuse and neglect – a serious problem affecting every segment of our community. The occasion focused on effective community-based solutions including home visiting, homeless shelters, family resource centers and other local community supports that support all families thereby reducing the likelihood of child maltreatment.  In October 2018, I experienced every parents worst nightmare; my three and a half year-old son pasted away. After that tragedy, I was offered a whirlwind of supportive services, counseling, classes, family and friends coming to offer support. Every single one played a part in my healing process. What I found most life-altering was my home visiting program,” shared Alexa Chenoweth, a mother of two girls under the age of four from Rifle, Colorado. 

Another father opened up about his journey through parenthood having experienced homelessness. “I never thought I would ever become homeless until it happened. A number of events led me to a point in my life where I needed to find a temporary home so that I could start working to rebuild my life from the ground up and continue to support my basic needs and be there for my son,” said Dave Ehlert the Colorado Springs father of a nine year-old boy.  “Parenting isn’t always easy. There’s no book to follow on how to be a perfect parent and it can be difficult at times. The good news is there’s so many resources in all of our communities that are reaching out to us to provide services, programs and support as we navigate our parental journey.”

 

In addition to the more than 50 campaign partners displaying pinwheels in April as a show of support for the prevention of child maltreatment, promoting the campaign messaging on social media using #GrowingBetterTogether, and encouraging Coloradans to take part in the campaign; campaign sponsors including the presenting sponsor SafeCare Colorado of Colorado’s Office of Early Childhood, and organizing sponsor Colorado’s Office of Children, Youth & Families and media sponsor Colorado Parent, also supported the event.

As added incentive to make a commitment to strengthening families this month, one person who takes the pledge to grow a better tomorrow for all children, together will be selected at the end of the month to win an opportunity to choose a Colorado nonprofit, school or child care organization to receive a $2,500 grant, thanks in large part to the campaign sponsor Colorado Child Welfare Scholars Consortium, part of a statewide effort to invest in the education of selected students in order to attract qualified social work professionals into the field of public child welfare services in Colorado.  For more ways you can to strengthen families and take the pledge to Grow a Better Tomorrow for All Children, Together and learn more about child abuse and neglect prevention and activities happening around the state all-month long, visit COPinwheelsForPrevention.org

Following a message from Governor Jared Polis, Minna Castillo Cohen, director of the Office of Children, Youth and Families, and Mary Alice Cohen, director of the Office of Early Childhood from the Colorado Department of Human Services addressed the crowd to thank the thousands of professionals, parents and caregivers who have strengthen families throughout the pandemic. “I’ve seen amazing collaboration happen with partners across the state throughout this pandemic to take care of families in their communities and ensure they have what they need to be successful and help their kids grow up healthy, strong and ready for school,” said Castillo Cohen. “We know that when families are connected and have access to concrete support in their communities, child maltreatment can be prevented. It truly takes all of us to ensure every child has the opportunity to thrive.”

“The last two years have been so challenging for children and their families. I know many of you have first hand experience with this,” shared Cohen. “Our routines and our support systems were changed abruptly. In the Office of Early Childhood we were heartened to see the creativity and resilience all of our partners showed to ensure the youngest Coloradans continued to thrive; yet we also recognized the significant needs families faced, and continue to face.”

The event ended on a heartfelt note with Besha Moore share a personal story after reflection on the work going on inside the Capitol. “You see, I was a teen mom. When he was just three and half years old. At that time, I was handling the financial struggles of being a single mom. I found myself in a position when I was wondering do I purchase diapers or purchase sanitary items that I needed. And of course, the diapers won. So I swallowed my pride and I did whatever was needed. But, just imagine if there was such a thing as not having a tax on diapers back then,” shared Besha Moore referencing a bill Colorado lawmakers are working on this legislative session to make essential items, like period products and diapers, more affordable.  “That definitely could have helped me. And If I had really felt confident about these wonderful services that we have here in Colorado, if those things were made available to me, I definitely would have taken them.” 

Growing a Better Tomorrow for All Children, Together

Every one of the more than 1.2 million children in Colorado today deserve to be valued, healthy and thriving, including the children in your community.

Take the pledge to grow a better tomorrow for all children, together. 

Show your support for strengthening families in Colorado and take the pledge to build protective factors and prevent child abuse in your community.

Get Your 10 FREE Pinwheels

Illuminate Colorado, a statewide nonprofit working to strengthen families, organizations and communities to prevent child maltreatment, is giving away 10 FREE Pinwheels for Prevention® to Coloradans to inspire our communities to grow a better tomorrow for all children, together.

>>Interested in getting more involved or sharing your lived experiences?

Parents: It’s Time to Talk About Strengthening Our Families

Parents: It’s Time to Talk About Strengthening Our Families

For more than ten years now, you may have seen gardens of pinwheels planted at your child’s school, day care or a local hospital or nonprofit organization, and wondered, why? It’s because pinwheels are the national symbol for child abuse prevention meant to start a conversation about how to strengthen families. 

“What research has shown, and what our experiences have borne out, is that people respond to the pinwheel. Child abuse is a hard topic for most people to think about, let alone talk about. By its very nature, the pinwheel reminds us all of the bright childhoods we want for all children,” said Jade Woodard, executive director of Illuminate Colorado, the statewide nonprofit organizing this annual grassroots effort to raise awareness during child abuse prevention month. As the Colorado Chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America, the organization leads the national Pinwheels for Prevention® Campaign in Colorado which has grown exponentially over the years, giving away more than 40,000 FREE pinwheels last year as many families were under significant stress doing their best to parent during a pandemic. 


“Families get overloaded with stress when facing significant challenges like unemployment, substance misuse or mental health struggles, making it incredibly hard to parent and keep your child safe. That’s when kids are at greater risk for abuse or neglect. Just like a truck carrying too much weight, they can’t move forward. But when other parents, friends, family, employers, neighbors, community organizations and even elected officials increase protective factors around families, then we lighten the load. That’s how we prevent child abuse and strengthen families,” continued Woodard. “We are encouraging Colorado communities to have a conversation about helping families upstream- reducing stress on parents and building resources and systems that work together to help us raise our families. Every one of the more than 1.2 million children in Colorado today deserve to be valued, healthy and thriving.” 

Locations where pinwheels tend to sprout up are usually: 

  • organizations that are working every day with young children like elementary schools, child care centers and home visiting programs; 
  • organizations that recognize their role in strengthening families like family resource centers, medical offices and hospitals; 
  • businesses supportive of family-friendly work environments and the children and families in their communities;  and, of course,
  • nonprofit and human services agencies doing the incredibly hard job of helping children and families heal from child maltreatment. 

This year, many of those same organizations are doing more to empower parents who are passionate about making sure their neighborhood protects children and strengthens families. On April 1st, parents are joining Colorado legislators and representatives from more than 50 campaign partners to gather on the West steps of the Colorado State Capitol at 11:00 am to promote positive childhood experiences and launch a month-long campaign to Grow a Better Tomorrow for All Children, Together

Organizers plan to share more about ways to show your support and earn a $2,500 grant for your favorite Colorado nonprofit, school or child care provider at the event. Illuminate is also giving away 10 FREE pinwheels to anyone who wants to get more involved and join this movement. You can order your free pinwheels online at COPinwheelsForPrevention.org or stop by the public family-friendly campaign launch event to pick up your pinwheels. Each pinwheel comes with a small greeting card to give to someone else or display to help inspire other people in your community to learn more about how we can strengthen families.

Five Way to Use Pinwheels for Prevention®

Display your pinwheels in a pot in your front yard or window to show your support and get people talking about strengthening families.

Organize a pinwheel parade in your neighborhood, school or child care center.

Give your pinwheels to a child you care about along with the Pinwheels for Prevention® coloring sheet, available in the campaign community activity guide

Ask your favorite restaurants, pediatrician and dentist offices to display a small bouquet of pinwheels at the front desk to let customers know they support children and families in the community.

Leave one pinwheel on the doorstep of 10 of your neighbor’s homes to build the movement or say “thank you for keeping me strong.”

“We’ve done this for many, many years in person at the Capitol with our pinwheels and we are so excited to be back together in person for the first time since 2019. We definitely did our best virtually during the pandemic, but it is just nothing like the energy that we get when we are all together at the Capitol to launch Child Abuse Prevention Month,” continued Woodard.

Five Ways to Build Stronger Families

Protective factors are conditions or attributes in individuals, families, communities or the larger society that help people deal more effectively with stressful events and mitigate or eliminate risk in families and communities. Protective factors help buffer from the negative consequences of exposure to risks by either reducing the impact of the risk or changing the way a person responds to the risk. Consequently, enhancing protective factors can reduce the likelihood of problem behaviors arising.

Research by the Center for the Study of Social Policy has shown five protective factors increase family strengths, enhance child development and reduce the likelihood of child abuse and neglect. Throughout the month of April, campaign partners will be highlighting ways parents, employers and community members can build the following protective factors to strengthen families.

1 – Be Strong in the Face of Stress – Build Parental Resilience 

Resilience is managing stress and dealing with your life, even when things get difficult.

Right now, stress is HIGH. You’ve likely felt a little short-temper, yelled or not been your best-self at moments. Everyone needs to practice self-care right now, especially parents. Take care of yourself, to take care of your kids. Share a mindfulness or stress management tip, encourage others parents to give themselves permission to not be perfect.

2 – Connecting With Other People Matters – Build Social Connections

Having a network of friends and family helps us feel secure, confident and empowered. Accept help from others and look for opportunities to give back. Reach out to others, talk about what is going on in your life. You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel. Focus on nurturing relationships where you feel respected and appreciated.

3 – Grow Your Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development – Build Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development

There is no perfect parent, but knowing what to expect does make the job easier. Discover what to expect as your child grows. Try new skills and tips to help your child progress and thrive. Pause to understand why your child is acting out and respond in a positive, nurturing, and developmentally appropriate way.

4 – Every Parent Needs Support Sometimes – Build Concrete Support in Times of Need

Some problems are too big to solve alone. Knowing where to get help in the community can make life easier. Know what help is available in your community. Make a plan for what programs you might need if you were faced with unemployment or severe illness. Reach out and ask for support when needed. Share your story with others about programs and resources that have helped you along the way.

5 – Help Your Child Manage Feelings and Relationships – Build Social and Emotional Competence of Children

Help children develop skills so they can manage their emotions and build healthy relationships with their peers and adults. Respond warmly and consistently to your child. Allow your child to express their emotions. Model how to be kind and interact positively with others.

Most parents, including those known to child protection, are truly doing the best they can and want to do well by their children. All families need help sometimes. Some are overburdened and close to breaking points as they struggle with child care and work, the threat of unemployment, food or housing insecurities, and other intense pressures. Creating better outcomes for children starts with ensuring families are supported and strengthened when they need help – rather than penalized. 

The Colorado Department of Human Services recently reported that calls to the Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline, 844-CO-4-Kids (844.264.5437), have rebounded after a significant drop during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Most of the calls that come into the hotline are really around a parent’s lack of resources, so, one of the ways that we can really support families is by making sure that we are connecting them to those resources -those concrete supports that families need,” said Minna Castillo Cohen, director of the Colorado Office of Children, Youth and Families, one of three organizing sponsors of the campaign. 

“I am very excited about the campaign because it gives us an opportunity to work outside of our child protection system and really talk about human services, so instead of child welfare, thinking about child well-being,” said Castillo Cohen. “ I just really hope that people put out the pinwheels in their yard, encourage their elementary schools and the businesses in their own communities to get involved and recognize strong employees who have families are even stronger when they have a support network,” said Castillo Cohen.

“I am very excited about the campaign because it gives us an opportunity to work outside of our child protection system and really talk about human services, so instead of child welfare, thinking about child well-being,” said Castillo Cohen. “ I just really hope that people put out the pinwheels in their yard, encourage their elementary schools and the businesses in their own communities to get involved and recognize strong employees who have families are even stronger when they have a support network,” said Castillo Cohen. 

Ways to Get Involved

Join Together on April 1

You can promote positive childhood experiences and preventing adversity by wearing blue on April 1 – National Wear Blue Day – and share your picture online letting others know you support #GrowingBetterTogether. 

Colorado Campaign Launch to Grow a Better Tomorrow for All Children, Together
April 1 @ 11:00 am – 12:00 pm
Colorado State Capitol West Steps
200 E Colfax Ave., Denver, CO 80203

RSVP to let campaign organizers know you plan to support the cause and help the campaign get off to a strong start. 

Come down to the Capitol to meet other parents passionate about making sure their neighborhood protects children and strengthens families. Be the first to learn more about how you can WIN a $2,500 grant for your favorite Colorado nonprofit, school or child care provider! 

Organize Your People

Become a campaign partner, download the campaign community activity guide and encourage your friends, other parents and your child’s school or day care to order their FREE 10 Pinwheels. 

Join the Movement

Follow #GrowingBetterTogether to connect to the movement in your community and tag us on Illuminate on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to show you support. 

Reflecting on a Year of Supporting Colorado Families Affected by Substance Use During Pregnancy

Reflecting on a Year of Supporting Colorado Families Affected by Substance Use During Pregnancy

What a 2021 we had in our collaborative efforts to move towards a Colorado that equitably serves all families through prevention and reduction of substance use during pregnancy and provides multigenerational support for families to thrive! We wish you rest and rejuvenation as the year draws to an end. 

Everyone who contributed to our work this year–whether as a work group co-chair, work group member, or another kind of project collaborator–brought their unique perspectives and commitment to supporting Colorado families. As many of our members shared in our recent member feedback survey, compared to going it alone, we are more effective in achieving our goals together.

About the Substance Exposed Newborns (SEN) Steering Committee

The Colorado Substance Exposed Newborns (SEN) Steering Committee was established in 2008 and is a subcommittee of the Colorado Substance Abuse Trend and Response Task Force.

The Colorado SEN Steering Committee is tasked with identifying and implementing strategies for reducing the number of families impacted by substance use during pregnancy and for improving outcomes for families across the lifespan.

The priorities, strategies and activities of the SEN Steering Committee are guided by family voice experiences and leadership. Strategic planning, activity engagement and impact are each data-informed.

Reflecting on Progress We’ve Made in 2021

With the calendar year coming to a close, we wanted to reflect on some of our shared achievements in 2021:

    • Family Advisory Board and Steering Committee jointly developed Opioid Settlement Fund recommendations, which were presented to the Attorney General and Colorado Substance Abuse Trend and Response Task Force. We also began to explore a name change to better reflect our vision and values. The Family Advisory Board is also recruiting new members!
    • Data and Research Advisory Group provided recommendations for the Colorado Perinatal Substance Use Data Linkage Project and launched the design of a perinatal substance use data snapshot and outcomes dashboard.
    • FASD Awareness Work Group published a list of Colorado Providers Equipped to Diagnose Under the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Umbrella and conducted outreach to statewide organizations and networks of family-serving professionals in order to increase awareness of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and offer the list of providers as a resource to share with families.
    • Plans of Safe Care Work Group updated the Colorado Plan of Safe Care document to reflect the newest evidence-informed best practices.
    • Policy Analysis Work Group developed a working draft of best practice organizational policy guidance around toxicology testing.
    • Provider Education Work Group developed and hosted an educational series on trauma-informed communication and care.
    • Lastly, in 2021 we launched our webpage–including information about our priorities, a subscription form, and a public calendar. Finally having an online presence feels like a milestone!

What’s on the horizon?

We look forward to what’s to come in 2022, including hiring a strategic initiatives manager focused on behavioral health systems who will support our efforts, and choosing a new name for our collective work. Onwards!

About the Authors

Diane Smith is a mother of three, a parent partner with Denver Parent Advocates Lending Support (DPALS) and chair of the Family Advisory Board to the SEN Steering Committee.

Dr. Kathi Wells, is executive director of the Kempe Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Abuse and Neglect and co-chair of the SEN Steering Committee.

Jade Woodard is the executive director of Illuminate Colorado and co-chair of the SEN Steering Committee. 

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Mom, You’re Too Much

Mom, You’re Too Much

Working in the field of sexual assault prevention can make a mom a tad neurotic, no? When my three were babies, I added anatomically correct body parts to our sing-along songs “Head, Shoulders, penis, Knees and Toes.” My spouse would shake his head and laugh, “You’re...

Five Minutes With My Congressman

Five Minutes With My Congressman

Recently, I had a chance to talk with an aide from the 4th district represented by Congressman Ken Buck about the FASD Respect Act (H.R. 4151 and S.2238).  This piece of legislation could change my family’s life and potentially prevent hundreds of thousands of...

Mom, You’re Too Much

Mom, You’re Too Much

Working in the field of sexual assault prevention can make a mom a tad neurotic, no? When my three were babies, I added anatomically correct body parts to our sing-along songs “Head, Shoulders, penis, Knees and Toes.” My spouse would shake his head and laugh, “You’re too much!” Our parents were horrified. “Really?! You have to add ‘penis’ to a children’s song?!” I shrugged. I knew there was value.

As they grew, I reviewed safety guidelines with them so often that they used sing-song voices to repeat them back to me. I persisted. They knew that their private parts should not be touched or viewed by others, and that they should not touch others’ without consent. 

They understood that sometimes other kids and adults break the rules. They knew that abuse was never the fault of a child—at least they repeated that part back to me. They knew it takes courage to tell. “We KNOW, Mom! Stop! You’re too much,” they told me more than once. I worried about that—that my neurosis would translate into heightened anxiety in an already anxious world. I wanted to protect, not frighten. It’s a fine line, and I was never sure how elegantly I walked it.

When they entered middle school, I taped articles facing in on our glass shower door under the tag, “Mom’s Hot Topic Board”, complete with illustrated flames. The nature and substance of the articles changed over the years as they passed into high school. Articles about kindness turned to anti bullying. Articles about empathy turned to consent. “Be an Upstander!” they would preach. Eventually, the science behind the risks of vaping and marijuana made an appearance, as well as the risks of anal and oral sex. I was met with eye rolls, shocked faces. They couldn’t believe I would broach such sensitive topics. They shook their heads at me and felt sorry for themselves. Their friends’ moms weren’t so weird. 

In high school, our conversations focused on gender roles, identity and consent. We were well past sex ed. We connected bullying with sexual harassment and assault. We talked about why some survivors would choose not to disclose, why people enduring abuse might not seek help. My law-and-order one was mystified, my secretive one nodded, my contemplative one asked questions about systems. Sometimes their comments gave me a stomachache. This wasn’t easy. They often ended the conversations with “That’s enough!” or a child walking out of the room. I continued to worry. There I was, being a lot again. 

Now they are all in college. As I hear about parties, dorm life and the Greek system, I wonder – did I teach them enough? Are they equipped? Do they have refusal skills? Are they kind and socially adept? Are they confident upstanders? They have anxiety related to academics, and sometimes social situations, but that’s normal, right? They seem well adjusted, but did I go too far?

Questions about whether I’m too much ran through my mind until one of them called me from college. A friend had been sexually assaulted at a party. I was devastated to hear it. I asked what they did. My adult child had told the friend, “This is not your fault. It doesn’t matter that you were drinking. We can go to the doctor and you don’t have to report to the police, but I’ll help you if you want to. We can also call the Title IX office or an advocate if you aren’t feeling safe here. You get to control your story. I am here to support you no matter what you choose. You were brave to tell me.” I teared up with pride. They were listening all this time. I’m not too much. I am just enough.

Creating a Colorado Where Children Grow Up Free From Sexual Abuse: An Issue Brief on the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse in Colorado examines data and trends related to child sexual abuse in Colorado, highlights efforts to prevent this trauma and presents recommendations to advance prevention statewide.

About the Author

About the Author

Margaret Ochoa is a blog contributor helping to illuminate the protective factors in her family’s life by sharing her experiences through storytelling as a mother of three, one of the chairs of the Colorado Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Coalition and the child sexual abuse prevention specialist at Colorado Department of Public Safety.  

Five Minutes With My Congressman

Five Minutes With My Congressman

Recently, I had a chance to talk with an aide from the 4th district represented by Congressman Ken Buck about the FASD Respect Act (H.R. 4151 and S.2238).  This piece of legislation could change my family’s life and potentially prevent hundreds of thousands of families from having to follow in our footsteps. 

With no more than five minutes to plead my case, I initially thought of giving the Congressman a snapshot of our family’s life and all the ways exposure to alcohol before birth  has negatively impacted our son, now diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). But, I decided this wasn’t the direction I wanted to go. It sounded too much like a list of complaints, and I didn’t want to sound like a whiner because my son is a loving, good-humored, kind-natured, individual full of potential and resilience. Instead, I made a convincing statement of truth that, I hope, left an indelible impression to help convince our Congressman to co-sponsor  the FASD Respect Act, authorizing $118 million for FASD prevention, screening, identification, research, and FASD-informed services by federal, state, local, tribal and private stakeholders.

I used my five minutes to explain what the FASD Respect Act would mean to our family, the multitudes of families who have loved ones diagnosed with FASD and the many, many people in this country that don’t even realize that FASD exists. As it stands, FASD is a national epidemic of catastrophic proportions. One that few seem to be aware of. This needs to change. It is estimated that up to 1 in 20 U.S. school aged children may have an FASD. It’s 100% preventable and caused when a fetus is exposed to alcohol before birth. You may not realize this, but alcohol is the leading cause of preventable brain injuries.   

We did not find out our son had FASD until he turned 14. That is an injustice to him, more than anyone. We should have known about this the day we brought him home, through foster care, but so many people were (and still are) completely unaware of what FASD is – including the medical field! This means even more people in the general public are unaware and families who have adopted children are particularly unaware. 

 

Remember, this is a SPECTRUM disorder.  That means FASD presents itself in various extremes.

 

PHOTO CREDIT: This photo was taken by the author’s son while they were on a walk together.

We adopted our son, who has FASD, when he was only a few months old.  Symptoms were not easy to detect at this age and he was meeting most of his developmental milestones.  What would have been helpful was knowing that his mother was drinking alcohol when he was in utero. This is another major issue with FASD.  What issue is that you may ask? Getting women to actually share that they drank while pregnant for fear of public ridicule.  We, as a society, must not hold judgment over women who have done this.  Rather, they should be supported in what to do next.  Don’t stigmatize another human being when there are many areas that each of us can grow in and learn from about others and ourselves.

Symptoms in our son really started showing up when he was a little bit older in his infancy, mostly in the form of sensory processing disorder.  He was hyper-sensitive to certain sounds, certain bodily feelings and certain textures and tastes that caused him to become extremely agitated.  He would have complete meltdowns if the wind was too strong.  Little did we know that these were the beginning signs of FASD.  

As he has gotten older he’s shown even more significant signs.  These symptoms have included problem-solving skills (specifically math), memory issues (doesn’t remember something I literally told him 10 minutes before), ability to remain attentive (Over the Hedge- Squirrel!), difficulty in maintaining friendships (he has difficulty associating with his peers), and understanding consequences (I’ve tried every reward/consequence strategy in the book, to no avail).  You might be thinking, “This is just how teenagers are!”  I assure you, this is only the tip of the iceberg.  Remember, this is a SPECTRUM disorder.  That means FASD presents itself in various extremes.  

Thankfully, information about FASD is becoming more readily available, but not nearly enough. The FASD Respect Act can rapidly accelerate the prevention and the education of the masses. If we had only known about our son’s FASD earlier we would have sought specific treatments recommended by professionals who knew what needed to be done once the diagnosis was made.  We informed our son’s pediatrician as well as others including the foster care system, various medical practitioners, therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists and school systems throughout the years about what we were experiencing.  Not one of them ever mentioned FASD as a cause. 

Still, it is the season of gratitude and I’m thankful that our son has his FASD diagnosis, and I’m thankful that I was heard by the Congressman’s office. I hear stories on shows like The FASD Success Show and read stories of adults who have come to this diagnosis later in life struggling to live independently, unable to hold down a job, or even getting into trouble with the law. These struggles later in life for families unaware of FASD in their lives will be so much more costly than not acting right now. The more we know the more we can act. The more we can act, the more we can bring about change. As much hurt, anger and sadness that FASD has caused our family, it has also brought out an absolute determination to bring about change; and given me an opportunity to connect with a “united front” of parents, adult survivors and organizations, like FASD United and the Colorado Chapter of FASD United – Illuminate Colorado, fighting for resources needed to increase education and prevention

We believe our son will continue to positively contribute to the world around him, but we also know he and every other individual with FASD can be much better represented and much better served if the FASD Respect Act is passed in the House and Senate.  

Our History Together

In 2017, the Colorado Chapter of NOFAS (now called FASD United) was among the four independent nonprofit organizations in Colorado that consolidated to leverage resources and increase capacity to more effectively prevent child maltreatment in Colorado. Since then, we’ve grown exponentially in service of our mission to strengthen families, organizations and communities to prevent child maltreatment.

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About the Author

This article was written by a father of  four beautiful children, three of whom have been adopted.  He is committed to sharing the experiences of his family impacted by FASD, anonymously, through the Becoming FASD Aware blog series to strengthen families and build awareness. 

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