Finding purpose: Strategies to living a successful life with FASD

Finding purpose: Strategies to living a successful life with FASD

“Creator has given me a gift and this gift is not mine to keep, this gift that Creator’s given me is one for me to share” - Myles Himmelreich

Myles Himmelreich was our speaker for the fourth session of our 7-part FASD learning series. Myles is an advocate and motivational speaker who has travelled all over the world sharing his experiences of living with FASD. On June 2nd, he spoke of his journey, challenges, and opportunities he encountered with our audiences. We had a total of 24 participants from various SFNFCI networks. Elder Ernestine Starr opened the session in good spirits with a prayer and was available for additional support.

Myles took us on a journey as he talked about his experiences growing up with FASD in a time where there was little to no information on the disability. As a kid, he moved around 5 to 6 foster homes and explained how it led to the development of attachment disorder from an early age. Myles was later adopted by the Himmelreich family where he found a sense of belonging. Growing up with his newfound family, Myles explained that his parents always focused on his abilities rather than disabilities. However, they did not have a lot of information on how FASD would impact Myles’s life going forward.

Going to school, while Myles was excited, it also became clear that Myles was developmentally behind in terms of his speech, reading and writing. He was still able to do the work, but it took him longer to do it than rest of the kids. He was having challenges at school focusing and learning, however, it was misinterpreted as bad behaviour on his part. He either found himself in detention or sent home. One thing that did help him was his Learning Disabilities (LD) classes. It helped him get that one-on-one support from the teacher that he was not able to get in his school and helped him create ROUTINE and REPETITION to get things done. Myles explained routine and repetitions are two important things that equal success for kids with FASD.









As he grew older, Myles was still developmentally behind, struggling in the class, his classroom got bigger but so did the homework and expectations on him. But he still loved going to school, he was always the kind, funny and helpful guy outside the classroom. But he had trouble communicating and expressing right emotions at right time. He would have thoughts and interactions in his mind but because of stress and anxiety, only half the sentence would come out of his mouth because of which he got into arguments at school and home. Despite all the challenges, Myles talked about how much he loved playing basketball and he was good at it, “one of the things that the Creator had given me was, I was good at sports”. Unfortunately, this strength was not acknowledged enough by his teachers at school.

As a teenager, Myles got involved with drugs and alcohol. This led to him leaving his home, school, and getting involved with the wrong group of people. He got into trouble with the justice system when he was living in the streets. And as a young adult, he had difficulty holding the jobs. He explained particularly having difficulties understanding abstract concepts such as time and money because of which he would be late to work most days and end up losing the job. In his late twenties, he started working with kids and from there started speaking at various conferences where he started to connect the dots and truly understanding what FASD is. He says, “I got my diagnosis of FASD when I was a small child, but I always think that I actually got my diagnosis when I was in my twenties going to these conferences.”

Myles was always told to ‘act his age, ‘change your behaviour’, ‘stop causing trouble and start listening’ or ‘pay more attention.’ He was labelled as a kid who did not care, was lazy, class clown or was not serious. And as an adult, he explained that even though it was a different environment going into the workforce he experienced the same struggles except he had co-workers instead of classmates, supervisors instead of teachers and a manager instead of a principal. There was a lack of understanding of FASD wherever he went and no supports from the system:

“It’s not about what I need to do differently, it’s what I need from people around me to do differently…wouldn’t I learn more if it was in an environment where I felt supported, where I was complimented for the things that I did do rather than being told off for the things I didn’t do?”

So, how can we help in creating awareness on FASD so that we can support the mothers and their children? Myles shared some techniques that he learnt along the way with the group:

  1. Creating routine and repetition whether it is for doing daily tasks or solving math problems
  2. Be mindful of the physical environment such as light, sound, or other distractions and how it is impacting an individual who may have heightened sensory issues
  3. Help the individual understand abstract concepts such as time and money
  4. Focus on the strengths, acknowledge small accomplishments, and think about how we can change to support the individual
  5. Do not let the conversations end and keep talking about FASD

FASD is the only disability in Canada that is neither privately nor publicly funded like other disabilities are. There is a lack of support, funding and understanding because there is a lack of information. This learning series was put together to share the information, create discussion, and keep the conversations going. Finally, like Myles explains think about FASD, not as a deficit rather from a strength-based approach:

“Yes, I have FASD, but I chose to live my life with FASD and for me, the F stands for Faith that Creator has a purpose for me, A for Ability as my parents taught me to do what you can do, S for Strength to get through all these situations and know that I can keep on going, and D for Determination that I can make a difference and have a purpose”


To learn more about the disabilities research project click here.

To learn about the FASD learning series click here.

If you need more info or assistance, please contact our researcher Anuja Thapa @ (306) 250-0740 or via email at anuja@sfnfci.ca or program coordinator Lacey Kaysaywaysemat @ (306) 526- 2566 or via email at lacey@sfnfci.ca





Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *