Wolfforth family seeks service dog for child with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
Stephanie Banda describes her 5-year-old daughter as her “wild child,” but also as very loving.
“She likes to make everybody laugh,” Banda said. “She never shuts up. We talk a lot.”
But Banda said Raya, the child whom she and her husband, Anthony Banda, adopted at seven weeks of age, had problems visible to them even then.
Banda said her family fell in love with her at first sight. But after the infant cried for three days straight, they headed to the emergency room, where doctors said she was showing signs of a baby experiencing withdrawal.
Raya had been born with fetal alcohol syndrome.
Banda said walking away from Raya was not an option, even when she was an infant.
“Never crossed my mind,” she said.
Now at 5 years old, Raya runs away a lot and has sensory problems, a mood disorder, sleep disturbance and a lack of coordination. She needs both speech and occupational therapy. She is not potty-trained, and she may never be.
Raya is going to school at Children’s Hope, a daytime treatment center where teachers work one on one with her.
“It’s sad how she’s so little and has so many problems,” Banda said. “It’s not her fault.”
Banda said she has been searching for ways to help Raya through the Internet. One option she found was 4 Paws for Ability (4pawsforability.org), which provides service dogs for children.
Recently they were accepted by 4 Paws, an Ohio nonprofit organization. Although it will cost 4 Paws about $22,000 to train a dog for Raya, the organization does not bill parents.
Whitney Hitt, community and media relations director for 4 Paws, said the organization requires parents to raise money for it. The Banda family has committed to raise $13,000 in support of 4 Paws.
Banda said the family just recently got word that they were accepted by 4 Paws, and is looking at several options to raise the money, including a 5-kilometer race, a motorcycle ride and a bake sale. She said Taco Bueno has offered 10 percent of its profits to the Bandas for one night of business.
A service dog could help Raya, Banda said, by acting as a social buffer. The dog will be tethered to Raya and will be able to track her if she wanders off. A service dog will also work with Raya when she has a “meltdown,” Banda said.
Banda said last week, she dropped Raya off at Children’s Hope, but Raya got mad and ran out the front door. The staff had to chase her, she said. A service dog would help keep that from happening, Banda said.
“Anything that helps, at this point, we’re willing to do,” Banda said. “Her behaviors are just so bad.”
Another Lubbock-area mother who adopted a child with fetal alcohol syndrome wrote a book about her experiences. Jennifer Poss Taylor wrote “Forfeiting All Sanity: A Mother’s Story of Raising a Child with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.”
Taylor said raising a child with FAS is very difficult.
“It’s not for the weak at heart, or for the parents that think they’ll just buy cute clothes and be the mommy that they’ve dreamed of,” Taylor said. “It’s not something they’ve ever dreamed of.”
Taylor said her own daughter was 5 when she was diagnosed, and at that age, it was particularly trying to work with her. Things have gotten better in the past year, she said, thanks to medication and therapy.
“I think there were three days in a six-month period that I did not cry,” Taylor said of the time when her own daughter was 5.
Taylor said FAS is a broad spectrum disorder like autism, and can range from mild to severe problems. It can cause brain and nervous system problems, but it can also cause heart problems and other issues, she said.
“It’s the number one preventable birth defect. And the only way to cause fetal alcohol syndrome is to drink during pregnancy, and the only way to prevent it is not to drink during pregnancy,” Taylor said.
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