Napier mother says raising a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder child is a 'life sentence'
With its sweeping views out over Hawkes Bay, Kim Milne's seafront Napier home is a "very nice jail," she says.
The reason she feels imprisoned is her 15-year-old adopted son David's fetal alcohol disorder, which means his behaviour is unpredictable and he has to be monitored 24 hours a day.
"He's highly impulsive. We have locks on our doors to keep him in because he could wander off in the middle of the night, and he doesn't even know why he's doing it – a thought comes into his brain and he's off. That's our life."
It is also a life that has involved battling to get David educated. He has been stood down from school a number of times and his parents say they have had no choice but to remove him from two schools, knowing the principals would expel him if they did not.
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"As soon as David gets anxious, he goes to frustration; frustration leads to anger, anger leads to damage – that's just the way it goes."
That "damage" can be to another child in the school playground or to the wall at home.
"We're constantly at Mitre 10 for repairs," Milne said.
But the damage is not just to the property and people around David. It starts in his head.
"My son has been given a life sentence … he's not going to get parole and he's not going to get any chance of ever changing this. He just doesn't get it. Life is like hieroglyphics."
In David's own words: "It sucks. With my condition it feels like life's irrelevant, pretty much. It's like you're hallucinating every single moment of life, pretty much. Everything isn't the way it's supposed to be."
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, caused by mothers drinking during pregnancy, can result in a range of brain and central nervous system disorders, and a number of other life-long conditions and health complications.
Hawke's Bay paediatrician and former Children's Commissioner Russell Wills said alcohol consumption was as high as it had ever been with "aggressive marketing" and cheap prices fuelling problem drinking among young women to an extent not seen a generation ago.
"That must cause problems, and it does."
But the disorder was "100 per cent preventable," he said.
"The message is very simple. If you think you might be pregnant don't drink. There is no safe amount of alcohol in pregnancy."
The Government launched an "action plan" in August to increase access to support and services for women with alcohol and drug issues.
The plan also involves conducting research into the incidence of FASD in New Zealand and developing a coordinated and consistent pathway for supporting affected people and their families.